The Communications department has many tentacles, all of them engaged in the act of talking about Burning Man – either to its participants through its publications, newsletters, website, and other media, or to the outside world, through the media and other so-called “real world” relationships. 2007 was a year of perfecting old mechanisms and experimenting with the new, and of learning to be nimble and fast on our feet in the face of the unexpected, such as the arson of the Burning Man during the event.
The Web Team posted the 2007 “Green Man” theme the day after the ’06 Man had burned – the theme had never been released this early before, and this team continued to forge new ground all year long. Thwarting Brazilian hackers, creating new sections such as the Environment section and a series of new blogs, and the challenge of finally perfecting the long-bedeviled ticket launch process were the perfect proving ground for the skills of Burning Man’s best geeks. Though some projects, like the Afterburn report, still proved challenging due to various external issues, it wasn’t for lack of effort or experience from this hardworking team. Ever reaching out to increase its volunteer base, the Web Team recruited some very dedicated technical minds in 2007, and set to work improving and perfecting the incredibly large and detailed Burning Man website on many fronts; even on the playa, when normally the team would be relaxing in relative hibernation, they sprung to action at 4 AM to help disseminate news of the arson on the home page for Burners who had not yet left home.
The Regional Network, always expanding, moved forward by leaps and bounds during the ‘07 event cycle. Ending the year with 133 contacts in 93 locations, over 99 interviews were conducted with potential contacts, in all, and 60 of those went on to become Regional Contacts. The transition of a staff member to a full time support position enabled Burning Man to better serve the needs of the Network, and her dedicating one hundred percent of her time to their needs enabled personal relationships and improved communication to make great leaps forward.
The first-ever Regional Network Summit held at Burning Man’s San Francisco Headquarters brought together over 70 Regional Contacts for their first multi-day opportunity to connect, share ideas, and interact with the Burning Man staff and each other. Widely hailed by attendees as a tremendous success, the inspiration reported by many participants was in no small part a product of the simple opportunity to share stories with one another, face to face. With more regional groups getting involved with creating and nurturing Burners Without Borders projects and other civic acts in their local areas, the Regional Network is helping to evolve Burner connectivity far beyond the desert event into a true year-round network of shared ethics and civic responsibility. The Ten Principles are on the rise, and the Regional Network is a major catalyst to sharing them with a larger population who may never visit Black Rock City.
The Print Production team navigated some updates to its many printed documents, and added a new Acculturation Postcard to send to what was projected to be a record number of newcomers. The team’s most frustrating experience translated into a frustrating experience for participants too – the What, Where, When’s highly compacted production schedule resulted in the exclusion of a crucial set of information that made for a somewhat challenging navigation, and during the post-event feedback period, Burners made no secret of their dissatisfaction with this document, resulting in many suggestions for improvement in ‘08. Lessons were learned, and this team of designers, production managers, printers, artists and content wranglers still had much to be proud of in 2007, and will take those lessons forward into the future.
Along with the aforementioned teams, the Communications Department also supports Burning Man in many other areas, including the annual Census, staff training and internal communications, Burners Without Borders, Black Rock Solar, and other outreach efforts. As Burning Man evolves, the Communications Department – the “voice of Burning Man” – continues to evolve along with it.