The Burning Man community thrives year-round and across the earth by working and playing together using all sorts of communications tools. Visual, print, and online media combine to maintain a steady flow of information, created and coordinated through the efforts of staff and volunteers.

The print production team took up our content creation, design, and ringmaster duties for 2003 immediately after the Decompression Party for the previous year’s event. Through the fall, we created tickets and the announcement postcard based on selections from an array of beautiful, weird, and freakish art offered by participants across the United States. The Survival Guide added new information for 2003 that everyone needed to read, so we made it as visually fresh and stimulating as we could to reward taking time for this essential reading. Producing the summer newsletter, Burning Man Journal, was probably our most challenging and time-consuming project for 2003. It combined vibrant, stunning images of the most stimulating art pieces from 2002 with valuable text about regional reps, art press coverage, and theft on the playa as well as a philosophically oriented piece on self-realization. We also generated and collated gate materials for all 32,000 participants who entered the city.

In addition to the gate edition included with the collated materials, the Black Rock Gazette produced editions on-site, bringing a new reporting model, eschewing naked-truth journalism for an infotainment approach. Distribution efforts missed some of the city, forcing some people to make that lonely trek downtown to pick up the paper. Plans for 2004 will avoid the need to haunt the production trailer until 2 a.m. and for all-day editor shifts.

Throughout the year, the Media Team works hard to share news of our community by helping visiting reporters plug in to the community and have their own uniquely personal experiences in Black Rock City during the event. This orientation typically leads to interesting, personal, and creative coverage that presents our event in a positive light. The team fielded a dramatic increase in video proposals by first-time videographers this year, possibly due in part to the decreasing cost of cameras and editing software. Due to camera tagging and education of professional videographers at Media Mecca, the team fielded only a handful of complaints about videographers this year. We also worked to protect against trademark violations that commodify the Burning Man name and to ensure responsible use of images posted to photo-sharing sites. Finally, we worked with filmmakers creating a new documentary of the complete process for bringing the event to reality: “Beyond Black Rock: Documenting a Year with Burning Man.”

Our own Video Documentation team has produced more than 70 hours of footage, with 15 hours of artist interviews. During the event, we faced several setbacks, including equipment failure, a very sick team member, and tardy and inconsistent transportation for the team. We plan to add to our group of experienced shooters and production assistants, both to spread out the on-site workload and to give options in case of technical difficulties.

For 2003, the Web Team also changed relationships with contributors, increasing remote volunteerism as part of a collaborative, multi-continent effort that gave a complete visual redesign. The site gained an impressive collection of functional upgrades and enhancements along with the visual changes. We were disappointed to post the 2002 AfterBurn Report much later in the year than we had hoped. For the future, we will be moving our growing site to a content management framework/system that will allow improved collaborative updates for all the owners of web content.

The expanded Regional Network continued its exciting growth, extending the playa vibe to local communities everywhere. The relationship between Burning Man and the Regional Contacts became more formalized in 2003, beginning at a Regional Summit attended by nearly 40 participants in the program where Larry Harvey presented his Open Letter to the Regionals. A new Letter of Agreement will form a legal relationship between each Regional Contact and the Project.

Information fuels the fire of our far-flung community, and we plan to build on these successes to share the burn.

Submitted by
David Talley aka Booker