Episode 20
E20
Burning Man Live | Episode 20 | 10|14|2020

Dr Heikkilä and the Science of Participatory Culture

Guests: Doctor Jukka-Pekka Heikkilä

If you found a “hippie-proof” story-cube at a festival or in a war-zone, would you share your story with it?

Stuart and Andie talk with Finnish scholar Jukka-Pekka Heikkilä, about the Burning Stories project, the qualitative research of hope and anger, the innovation at Burning Man Regional events in Europe, and teaching entrepreneurialism in Lebanon and North Korea.

What more can we learn about Burning Man culture by studying it academically?

How do randomly assembled project teams knit themselves into longer-term collaborative and creative relationships? Why does it matter?

In a world with an unpredictable future, what more can we learn about participatory culture, psychological safety, and communal resilience?

www.jukkapekka.com

Burning Stories

Burning Stories Forum

Jukka-Pekka Heikkilä, Ph.D

Aalto University & Academy of Finland Postdoctoral Fellow

Stanford & Harvard University Visiting Scholar

The Royal Society & British Academy Newton Fellow

Burning Man LIVE

Transcript

Coming to you from the many worlds of the multiverse it’s the podcast that’s never the same twice and always two things at once.

JUKKA: “So that’s how it started as many things do, as an adventure.” This is Burning Man LIVE.

STUART: Welcome back to another episode of the itch, the yen, the craving, the irresistible urge that is Burning Man Live. I’m Stuart Mangrum and I’m here with my friend, Andy Grace,

ANDIE: Hi everybody. Hi Stuart.

STUART: Hi. I am super psyched about today’s show because

ANDIE: Yeah, I’ve been very excited about this one. Haven’t you?

STUART: I just love nerding out with people. People who are smarter than me about things I don’t know much about is really my sweet spot. And today this will be the first of hopefully several those talking to academic scholars, people who have studied Burning Man in interesting ways. We were going to call it nerdy November, but we couldn’t wait.mSo I guess this is nerd-tober.

ANDIE: I think we’re just going to keep talking to nerds cause we like them.

STUART: That sounds fair. Um, so you’ve been talking to nerds for a long time. I was looking back at the history of scholarship involving Burning Man. It’s at least a couple of decades old, but uh, a lot of it happened on your watch when you were leading the communications team for Burning Man. And so what were some of the first projects that you remember that were actual legit academic projects related to Burning Man?

ANDIE: That’s right. Some of them were from people who volunteered within the organization or otherwise embedded with us to spend the time and look at the organization Catherine Chin studied the organizational theory of how Burning Man works together.

Lee Gilmore published a book, an anthropological study that we were looking at, and that was 2005 or so. Professor Duane Hoover at Texas Tech has studied the management and organizational theory. Really there’s hundreds of papers and dozens of books. And we started organizing both, just putting a list together so these people could be in touch with each other and share best practices or what else one might need to know about studying in such a crazy environment. But also got people together on the playa for gatherings that we did call the Burning Nerds and would put them under one roof and sparks would fly and different collaborations would evolve. It’s always been an exciting part of it ‘cause it validates that there’s more than meets the eye about Burning Man.

STUART: Yeah, that group is still somewhat active. Last time I checked there was 740 members on the Google Group Burning Nerds and just an astonishing range of disciplines too. You know, I could see it as intuitive for people to go out and study the art or the city planning. But we’ve got psychologists, urban planners, people in religious studies, economics, psychedelic studies, performance, architecture. It’s really mind blowing how many different disciplines have found an angle into the Burning Man world.

ANDIE: Yep. Absolutely. And there’s been at least one lfull blown academic conference, right?

STUART: Oh, right. Yeah.

ANDIE: The Burning Progeny. Yeah.

STUART: Yeah. That was in the university of Freiburg in Switzerland, back at the end of 2018. It was two full days of people presenting, talking, discussing a lot of those subjects that I just reeled off and mentioned. So it’s definitely a thing. There was another academic conference scheduled to take place at Aalto university in Helsinki back in the spring, which tragically was postponed due to COVID. We’ll talk a little bit about that because there’s been a lot of interesting work.

Well, I mean, to begin with there’s a lot of coursework that takes place on the playa too. If you can imagine somebody taking their college class out to the desert to actually do a class, I’m thinking of Arthur Mamou-Mani, who was on our show a while back, he’s a lecturer at the university of Manchester. He brought out his group of architecture students and they built stuff.

ANDIE: Yeah. Yeah. Alright. Caroline Cook at the California Institute of Integral Studies. They brought a performance group out to put on shows out there.

STUART: Right. And Mark van Prion over at Art Academy brought a bunch of art students out. So that takes a special type of grit, I think, to actually to not just stucy Burning Man from a distance, but to jump right in and do it, do it live, which is the approach that a lot of the folks out of Aalto have taken.

It started with some projects on Playa. Aalto University is the premier, if not one of the premier universities in Finland, which by the way, is known for probably having the best educational system in the world. So they are the real deal. But they started coming out and doing projects on playa and then kind of studying the fallout from those, things like how randomly gathered groups of collaborators might continue to network and grow into long term collaborations.

So a lot of interesting things out of that. Our guest today Doctor Jukka-Pekka Heikkilä. He holds a PhD in economics from Aalto university. He’s been studying Burning Man since at least 2013. He’s a postdoctoral fellow at Aalto school of business. And if that’s not enough, he’s a visiting scholar at both Stanford and Harvard here in the US joining us live from Helsinki.
Welcome Jukka.

JUKKA: Thanks. Thank you, Stewart. Thank you. And thank you everyone for the invite. It’s a true pleasure to be part of this and share a lot of exciting insight and also about what the communities seem to be up and simply have a nice family type of fireside chat with you.

ANDIE: My favorite kind.

STUART: I am so looking forward to that. Well, let’s start though with, I mean, I’m sure there are a lot of people listening who are still scratching their heads over what people are studying Burning Man, and actually getting academic credence for it? I just want to start with why: why study Burning Man? What’s there to learn?

JUKKA: Why tends to be the, by far the best question. In this particular case, why it’s as simple that it’s a perfect experimental platform for either the phenomenon, either trying out different methods that I’m happy to share as we go forward and also trying out different roles as a scholar, as a scholar activist and not being a scholar and also.

When it’s doing research during the event. That’s where really one’s skills as a field researcher, it’s a prime occupational school in that. And obviously then going from the individual level to up towards a bit, like why it’s interesting is that it’s part of the phenomenon called participatory cultures.

Where the participants of a given community don’t act as consumers, but as contributors, and it’s going so exponentially that it’s about time to study it. It has been studied by mostly from a religious perspective. And now we are seeing the emergence of organizational scholars and a variety of disciplines pulling in, which is simply fantastic.

That’s why. And finally, the best thing, there is no better platform to plan arts and science and in different methods, dissemination everything

STUART: Well. Yes, I would love to hear more about that. I’m just wondering if you ever meet any resistance within academia to doing this type of work. How do you explain it to your Dean, to grantmaking authorities, that this is a legitimate field of study?

JUKKA: Yeah, very good question. First of all, the project itself, it’s called Burning Stories, and now it has about five different sub streams with a bit about team of 15 people, scholars and techhies. The best thing in Burning Stories is that it’s not funded.

And out of all the projects that has been the best one biggest, then there is it’s really, that manifests the experimental nature of it, that usually when something is funded, you kind of need to deliver. Then on then you can have play and fun at the same time. Then bringing it to the academia.

It hasn’t been exactly popular. If you think about the concept of business school, and then you have a project where there are really good scholars, really good all this time. And it’s as a business school where people are really seriously studying economics, and then you have a project that is looking the [not clear].

So, and then also, basically now the understanding is developing a bit forward we are getting first publications out and we are really blending science and art. But it has been quite a struggle for the last three years to make the argument, like, “Hey, this, this is a new type of thing, and I’m going to share an example of one workshop.

So the survey data we collect, we share it before we publish it at the Burning Stories forum. Then there became a dialogue. I was directly told by two famous professors, “You cannot do that. You cannot share the data before you publish it. Then it goes forward like: Where’s the law? Who says so? Because we want to support the community as we go forward.

And so it’s, it’s this type of thinking that it, it touches the nerve of the system in a good way and publishes valid science as we go forward.

STUART: The approach of the Aalto business school is a little different from other business colleges in the US isn’t it? As far as the scope?

JUKKA: Yeah. Aalto University based in Helsinki is a combination of business school and three engineering schools and school of arts, all of them that were the prime schools as individual schools, still a 2010 and then government decided to put out this wild experiment that is sometimes referred as permanent Burning Man, because it’s full of surprises when you combine all the disciplines.

And now after 10 years, it is really starting to spin off. And that’s why Burning Stories, it’s a good home home for that. The plan was to host the conference on prosperity cultures and capitalism, which would be ideating a bit future directions. And that, that hopefully happens in our door next spring at the second Burning Man academic conference.

ANDIE: The thing I find really exciting about this project is the way that you collected the stories. Working in stories normally you’d send someone to do interviews, but you didn’t do individual interviews like that. You have these Story Cubes that were created. Will you tell us about those?

JUKKA: Oh pleasure.

One of the methods has been using this kind of special method called the Story Sharing Cube. Um, there are 10 cubes which have one button inside, which we call hippie proof user interface. So that basically you express a one button and it records. And they’ve been testing it out in five different burns.

And now we have first iteration coming out and it is the size of a 10 centimeter slash 10 centimeters. And now we have a master thesis. On the design, that it would be a flower where you pass it on. And it’s very simple question setting. Share the most meaningful story. And we are developing that as well.

And here comes the kind of personally, the, the beauty of it is that now when we know how to use the method it can be applied in the toughest environments, like in Syria, in the Middle East where it could be quite dangerous to conduct interviews. So that in this case it was very successful.

ANDIE: Oh, that’s amazing. It’s amazing.

STUART: What happens to the data once it is collected, do you parse it out by human, by AI? What sort of analytical tools do you plan to, or are you currently applying to all this, all these great stories that are coming in.

JUKKA: We are collecting stories, both on the website. And then we have the survival survey that I’m going to talk about also later, the fresh findings, but on this, the cubes data, we already shared that particular pilot data in the Burning Stories forum, and it’s fully anonymized in a text format.

And there is one example. That artist made a song. From one story and we simply share it back. At this stage, the data is so diverse that we are really focusing on framing the questions further and also like fine tuning the method. Originally, the cubes were funded because in many cases, the foundation funders have indicated that this is too hippy, um, which they can’t see how it is. But, um, it was funded by Borderland. It has a grant system that everybody who buys a membership access can also give their share to a project. And so these cubes they are funded by the Borderland community.

STUART: Oh, super exciting. Borderlands is a Burning Man Regional Event in the Nordic countries, right?

JUKKA: Yeah. So it’s 4,000-participant strong in Denmark. And it’s seen as a Northern village, like a thing. And the difference is that it doesn’t have basically a central leadership and it’s fully self organized, extremely radical organization form, which has its benefits and downsides. And it’s very beautiful in that sense that it’s deeply co-created and now the community in Sweden was canceled. The community decided to buy land there from those who wanted to donate the ticket. Because they don’t have any, there is no one on the payroll for example, then it’s a small event. It’s highly recommended once traveling is possible again.

ANDIE: Well, I’m curious about the data. Are there any top level commonalities that you can say that a lot of people did talk about that you could describe? Like how do you get empirical information out of a story?

JUKKA: Yeah, so we have now maybe a couple of hundred stories. And also on the website, which is open three weeks after Black Rock City. We’ll need about four to five thousand and then we’ll put machine learning into it.
And on that one, we are really looking after is, we all know that the word transformation is talked a lot. Yet we know very little; we all have some form of experience on that, with that burn experience, but the categorization is really in its infancy. So we are trying to map out that on three levels: what’s the impact of these events and communities to the society; and how do individuals then contribute to the communities; and then how do individuals perceive the change and what it is? Is it, what we are seeing early evidence of, increased morals? I really liked the study from Yale, where they basically claimed they had a big data set of 3000 people. Yeah. That, uh, when you go to a burn, you, it seems that you become a better person and it was academics who said it. And of course you need to define the morals, but still, so this is a very exciting time to study the phenomenon.

STUART: Is any of that work been published out of Yale psychology? I remember Daniel Yudkin presented on it at the forum and Freiburg, and I was super fascinated. Have they published yet? Do you know?

JUKKA: I’ve seen… I had a chat almost a year ago with Daniel and it seems they only looked at one data set they have. Then publishing that type of piece, which aims for major impact… it can, some of my pieces have taken two years, three rounds of reviews. It’s very slow, but once it’s out there, it can have quite an impact. And I know that they are, I mean, really high with that project.

STUART: Yeah, academic research, the publishing cycle is really long. Two years actually sounds kind of short compared to what a lot of folks have told me. Particularly, if you want to go for a major journal, right?

JUKKA: Yeah. Like Burning Stories was found it two years ago and I factored it takes at least three to four years on the major publications.

Now we just published a one on a Phoenix Burning Man project that we found extremely high levels of psychological safety within a team of 50 people who came and built a structure to playa. And what caused people to feel safe? And by safe, meaning that they felt safe to try out new things. They felt it was fine also to fail. And it basically came down to a couple of things. There was openness on roles that anyone could take any role if you then give basically guarantee that you will try your best. And always the community, then if something went wrong, then the community support. Which is very interesting because it was a voluntary build. The main architect said: “Hey, if any of us in the project group would be paid a penny, this wouldn’t happen.” Because that enabled sharing a common goal. And the vision was so strong that we are going to build this 120 square meter wooden dome with a satellite ground station on it. That was really the groundbreaking success factor.

JUKKA: And because everybody thought that this project is so nuts. And that was the third driver, was the study was so challenging that it brought on — as a reverence Google’s success is based on high levels of psychological safety. So that’s quite a finding and we are definitely tuning it more.

STUART: That was what, the second or third project that the group of y’all had done? I think honestly, Laura started doing some other stuff before that. And then, then of course, because you’re Finns, you built a giant sauna in Black Rock City.

JUKKA: Yeah. So the, uh, shortly the, the track record and, and obviously the main times causes Regional Contact [undecipherable] it was 2015, there was a pipe, a wooden pipe where there was a big traditional Finnish instrument inside, and then second was [Coolu], the school, which was basically giving a teacher education within 15 minutes. And after it was piloted in Black Rock City, it was taken to Jordan and Nepal because it worked in that environment and then came the Space on Fire. Yeah. And last year, of course, things Finns do, they built a sauna.

STUART: Those are all amazingly interesting projects. I was a huge fan of the [Coolu]. I think that’s an amazing model for collaborative co-learning. That’s basically based on the idea that you can teach anybody to teach in about 20 minutes to a half hour. Everybody’s good at something. And then just kind of scheduling it as a unconferency kind of an approach, right?

JUKKA: That’s exactly the approach. And you can think about the feedback from some institutions in this country, when it’s a country known for its education education, and then suddenly comes a project that summarizes everything in 20 minutes, and you are a qualified teacher.

STUART: Why did I bother getting my master’s in education?

ANDIE: I’m curious what you would say about the process of keeping… you’ve mentioned, play and art. How do you translate that into the scientific world along with the data? Do you have any examples of that?

JUKKA: Surely there is quite a variety of things, how art can be used. First thing: there is, for example, a Burning Stories animation, which is used for people like it’s really a snapshot 90 seconds that tells in a sense what the project is about. So it’s easily to digest and it’s done by Burners so that it really reflects with the intention. So that’s one use of art. Then the second is we have a plan for an installation that has multiple forms of sound art and visuals that is also going off, setting the stage for data collection. And then moving on to data dissemination is that art can be used in multiple forms. There is one song that has been made out of one story and also the data itself when it’s shared out, it can be used for multiple… let’s say there is a plan from the Borderland data to do a short movie. And so academia has been known to basically sit on the data, but once that door is given up, and that’s my Burning Stories is an association, so that it gives the freedom to share out the data is that then it can be used with the art. And then what it does to scholars is that scholars also become a bit of an artist, which I think talking about personal views, it’s simply amazing. It’s yeah.

ANDIE: Neat. That’s really cool. How did you get to Burning Man in the first place? How’d you come? Who brought you? How’d you find out about it?

JUKKA: Oh, it was time of exploring, living in China. And then it was the first visit to North Korea was behind. And I had no idea what I would do after my PhD. So then a trio of three friends, we bought a one-way ticket to Iran, and then we landed in Iran and we bought bicycles. And then we started to cycle and ended up in Armenia. And the secret police or somebody didn’t exactly like it because they only stopped us and then they asked, like, “What’s your plan?”

“We don’t have a plan, we don’t have a plan for life.”

Yeah. If you think about three guys cycling in the middle of nowhere, then it’s the country. It’s not exactly used to tourists. But it’s a lovely country with the people, like the Persian culture. And then we ended up in Armenia. And then the winter came and then we do what Finns do in addition to building a sauna, we didn’t know what to do next, so we got very wasted and we bought tickets to Israel.

We were told like, “Hey guys, you know what stamps you have in your passport? There’s no way you are going there.”
We go “Okay, yeah, we go.” It was a bit tricky to get there. But then, and then we ended up here in Egypt and then we wanted to go home after that.

And then a friend asked: “Hey, have you heard about Burning Man in the US? I said, “No, I have not, but tell me more.” And it took me during the week in Black Rock City, it was Thursday when it kind of hit like, “Okay, this is. I’ve come to something else. But people are just having fun.” And then it kind of hit like, okay, this is phenomenal. Like what’s the level of studying this? What type of studies there are? And it’s an endless template. So that’s how it started, as many things do, as an adventure.

ANDIE: Maybe my favorite answer to that question, at least the most adventurous…

STUART: That’s great and life without adventure is not worth living.

ANDIE: You’ve done some work in North Korea that’s quite unique. Tell us about North Korea. What’d you do there?

JUKKA: So North Korea, I used to live there between 2012 and 2017, and I was teaching entrepreneurship between 2014 and 2017 before the international tensions went so high and entrepreneurship being illegal there. So that was the first lecture, I always remember it, but the surprising thing is, and this is where the Burning Man experience that there are always surprises was, that it was fine, and that it was kind of blended, the concept of entrepreneurship with the local setting. And you always try to develop the countryside problems, that would focus on that.
And I’m quite happy I don’t work there anymore. I left directly from Black Rock City to Pyongyang. It’s kind of like, Ooh,

ANDIE: Culture shock.

JUKKA: It’s quite intense when you leave San Francisco and you wake up in Pyongyang. I’m like, “Okay, what just happened?”
And the biggest learning is, and I had talks in Berkeley, Princeton, and other universities about it of course, the reality we know, that’s a fact. It’s a horrible country, no question about it, with its known issues. But at the same time they’re people. And what I mean by people: same worries. They worry about love, money…

So always we have a paper coming up, highly likely, on that aspect of coping. And we found play and humor, and the topic of love. No matter how extreme an environment you have, these seem to be universal. It’s something we share. And it kind of makes sense that yeah, people like jokes and then people embrace love.

So, um, yeah, it is in every place, no matter how suppressed the society is.

STUART: I’m pretty certain you’re the only person I will ever meet who has taught entrepreneurship in Pyongyang. Did you say that it’s actually illegal? How did that even work? How did you get the visas and the approval from the government to go to North Korea and teach a subject that’s technically illegal? That just blows my mind.

JUKKA: Yeah. So it started by actually first experiences with the Burner culture before Black Rock City played a role in that. It was a period in life that I was in a very experimental mode and sent a CV to Pyongyang and they replied, “Yeah, you can come. We are not paying, that it’s pro bono work.

I was, “Okay. That’s fine.” I still have a PSA <indecipherable> for a flight ticket. And then I went. And I wasn’t told at the border they take your passport. Nobody told me that. But then I get my passport and then I was told the next day, “You teach.” And I started to teach. Basically it’s very straightforward.

And I guess this applies to any given environment, is that in the classroom there is no discussion on politics or religion. I didn’t have any of those agendas, and I always kept the commitment. And then suddenly the entrepreneurship teaching was possible, and then startup events were possible, then lecturing at the university was possible.

So it’s kind of trying out new models. That’s how it evolved. If things were like that, I think the country could open up bit by bit, not like China, but in a very different way. And there was even a management course planned that was applying some of the borderline methods, which then connects you to Burning Man quite a bit. Hopefully the opportunities are still there but… there is always hope.

ANDIE: Wow.

STUART: What about Lebanon? You’ve done some work over there too. Speaking of hope and its opposite. What was that all about? And what’s the status now?

JUKKA: In Lebanon then, and there is a connecting factor to this, also in Lebanon we had a project that was giving entrepreneurship education to the most talented, early stage women entrepreneurs in the country. And the plan was to expand it to the whole Middle East, and it had a big momentum and then the country collapsed. And also my apartment I stayed in was 400 meters of where the explosion was, and it’s gone. And so it’s a very tragic story for those who are still in the country. And at the pilot event, we had 20 volunteers from Finland, which 15 were Burners. What’s in it, and this is very interesting, is the trust, like once you went through a project and where basically the week in Black Rock City or an event in Europe is simply the highlight of the whole year long group. And the trust is built to a level that when something then outside these events happens, it’s so small to work. I loved it. It’s. It’s very…

But Lebanon itself, it looks bad. It surely does. But the result they say is rock bottom, hopefully it’s now. And then the moment to miss there. And especially in women, empowerment in equality, it’s surely there. And Lebanese, they have amazing stamina, so I don’t have doubts on that.

STUART: How did it feel to you to lose your place there, to lose your apartment?

JUKKA: I was in Finland at the time. And it’s the same thing that happened with North Korea is that you always think that things cannot go worse, and then you go… And then when the news hits the explosion, then “Oh no.” And then it’s the sadness. And it’s, it’s not about the, basically the place, where I got angry was like, “Okay, I’ve been living next to it.”
But there were plans to bring tens and even hundreds of volunteers to that particular street, next to the explosive, but that people inside, it’s really difficult to live.

So at the moment, and especially now all the embassies are closed. Nobody’s moving anywhere. And imagine this, that you’re back from now, you’ve lost 90% of the value of the money and everything is imported. So that’s the reality.
Then when the request for help came, and there was also a small Burner community there, when the requests for healthcare then comes the difficult part — who to trust? Everything is top down corrupt. But luckily Red Cross and those organizations are there.

So yeah, it didn’t feel good.I was very emotionally attached to it and attached to the people as well. But nobody died from the people we know and surely the country will be rebuilt.

Let’s go back to the Burning Stories project. You got some new stuff queued up. There’s a couple of papers that are poised to launch. And tell us a little bit about the survival survey.

JUKKA: Yep. So we launched the survey. Um, it was around early May, basically asking people coping what’s the effect of a community and how do people perceive the future?

We are going to run it in roughly four rounds. And now with the first round, we got more than 500 answers. Which is a really nice, nice number to start with. I’m happy to share a short summary. Overall, the participants feel there is a lot of hope and yet they feel the hope even they are consuming 15 to 30 minutes per day news. We wanted to ask how is the media.

By default, and this applies to all the countries, is that people are under strong stress. It’s quite a factor in here. Many participants are perceiving that work is an unstable environment. Yet there is a lot of care, a lot of care for others. And that’s something that me and the team of three scholars in this particular survey were like, “Okay, the community is coping because they went through an approach, that they’ve been to Black Rock City, there’s probably something. And the caring stands out. Contrary to the care there were high levels of anger, we didn’t specify that, but I guess that’s towards the system. Participants feel that they are really well prepared to what’s going on. At least that was self reflection. And everyone sees the experience of burns as helpful in coping. 30% see the 10 Principles as extremely important in their coping. And then it’s: what are the communities doing? They are doing basically two things: they are sharing virtual coping spaces between each other; and then the main activity is that they are supporting local businesses.

How do participants and communities perceive the future? It was a very simple question, and the frightening fact is, and luckily it’s under discussion, is that we are heading towards a surveillance society, increased surveillance. The second highest ranked answer is that there will be more cat videos, so you can see that.

STUART: That’s like predicting the sun will come up tomorrow. There’s no cat video apocalypse coming anytime soon.

JUKKA: Exactly. I’m coming towards the end: How participants then see the future system is that the main defining factor is that the communities and the participatory communities are going to evolve as the main main driver in the change of the society.

Like not many people believe in the impact of or the power of governments. And then we had one question on brands, as we have one brand expert. Surprisingly, participants were really positive on brands, and how do brands stand and how they keep meaning. And all this is shared. There are a lot of quotes as well, and a lot of coping advice is going to be shared at the Burning Stories forum. So it’s all available then.

STUART: And you have some, some publishing coming up too, right? Have some papers?

JUKKA: So basically the first one was on, on what I described, the psychological safety in radical projects, which is where we found the increasing levels. And then the second one is on the cubes as a method and what’s their application in other environments. And also then we are building, it reflects to the conference as well. It’s very little discussed because there is so much talk about the system change, but nobody seems to know what are the next steps — which is fair enough like we know the future for a week ahead — is that the notion of participatory culture is more inclusive in decision making, in everything because we are not going to just get rid of them, another system like that. It would be anarchy. So that’s something we are surely building. And hopefully the conference that blends art and community leaders and scholars, and, and also some business entities to seek ways what could be next tangible ways ahead.

And how do we do the programming? Again, we post topics to the Burning Stories Forum, and then [unclear] map the topics map those topics that are mostly discussed and then the topics of the conference. Keynotes are very short, five minutes because otherwise they would speaking to each other and that’s not the purpose. And then the end result, ideally is a 3D model of future capitalism.

STUART: Only three dimensions. Okay. That’s good. Well, I’d love to talk more about that because it seems like capitalism took us serious fork a while back and there are a couple of different flavors of it. But I’m looking forward to that conference. There’s hoping knocking wood that I can come and visit you in Finland. And we’re going to go fishing right.

JUKKA: We are going to go fishing. And we are going to go, it’s in spring, it’s still a good season for ice fishing.

STUART: Well it’ll be a first for me, particularly if I have to wear a dry suit to go fishing. That’s that’s never happened before.
So let’s talk more about what’s happening in Europe. You’re connected with the Borderlands community. I’ve been observing what’s going on. What are the Burning Man Regional groups out in your part of the world? How are they responding to all this madness?

JUKKA: As a result, obviously all the national communities had events planned. And then when everything was canceled, a couple of interesting things happened.

Of course, there is no data on the reasoning of this. But there is, for example, in Germany, there were so many smaller events. It’s really like mushrooming. Aligned with the local regulations. So it’s keeping the culture really rich in that sense. And this is nothing new, but what’s going on in increasing pace is that the communities — either because people have more time or it’s conscious or subconscious activity — to buy land, to buy permanent land and do farming there.

In many countries when the faith has gone towards the government, so it’s, it’s communities are stepping on this. And I thought there is definitely a light, a good side on that it’s a one year break, at least from the event and that it transforms to something not only focusing on basically one thing and yeah, it’s fascinating times in that sense.

And I also, I, what I’m sensing is that, and I can only talk about personal views, is that we seem to be in so deep shit, or everything is growing so fast, that something that three years ago, for example, was not taken seriously is now taken more seriously. That co-creation is not like, “Okay, you hippies are doing something that doesn’t make any sense.”

Well, it seems to empower people quite a lot then. And the password at the moment is resilience. Like these are example communities on that. So in that sense it’s a big momentum. And at the same time, of course, those who are in power, people really want to keep that out, which is on the hierarchical structure. But that’s what I can see. Surely there are some surveys going on, but that’s observed activities going on.

ANDIE: Yeah, it’s a, it’s an interesting moment because crowds generally want to get bigger. Next year you want to invite that friend to come with you, right? And these kinds of events tend to grow if they’re successful in creating that feeling of psychological safety and participation and cooperation.

But that tension is going to be huge because we have to just make more events that are smaller to baby step back into that world. And we’re all going to have to really look at: how do you decide who gets to come to that limited event based on what the regulations are and what the safety of doing so is. Does that mean that other events are going to squirt out all the sides and we’re going to have way more than we’ve ever had? It’s kind of fascinating when you think about it.

JUKKA: It is. And the reason is for example, a community and event called Fusion in Germany, the 70,000 strong band, and they already made the decision for the next summer that there will be two events, 35 35. I’m not sure if 35,000 people still gave the social distancing, but at least they are holding the events a bit smaller.

In Finland we talk about the number of 50. And we had one, it was very small, there. There we draw in the sand, it was by the sea, a map of Black Rock City, which was perfect for social distancing, like that.
You have your space at three o’clock and then at six o’clock and yeah, it worked really, really nicely. But that’s, the events are wide ranging and smaller.

STUART: I’m going to keep my eye on a fusion in Germany. Because that gives me hope that if they can figure out a way to do a socially responsible, health responsible 35,000 person event, who knows, maybe we could do a — that’s about half of our population. So if we were to cut our event in half, what might that look like? I don’t know.

JUKKA: How about having a one month or two month long Black Rock City, but of course people leave in between.

STUART: That’s the tough part.

ANDIE: I think that’s what they had to do at night at the Oregon country. Fair. Right? All the people who were allowed to be there in the evening would literally like link, arms and sweep you out. If you didn’t have the right wristband. That sounds like a big job. I don’t know. That sounds like social contact. So maybe not.

STUART: It’s a good idea. All right. I think we’re kind of coming to the end of our time together, Jukka. Thank you so much for joining us. It’s always a pleasure. To chat with you, my friend.

ANDIE: Yeah. Thank you. Lots of interesting, interesting things you’re working on.

JUKKA: Yeah. Well, this opportunity, like it’s, I really, I really enjoyed the chat and sharing my views. And for the listeners Burning-Stories.org, and there you find the forum and you will find data that hopefully supports you and gives you insight. Then it’s our pleasure to support everyone at the moment.

STUART: Thank you so much. Yeah, that is burning-stories.org, but I recommend everybody go take a look.
Oh, Oh. But before we leave, I wanted to play an example of what you were talking about earlier about mixing the data with a little bit of creativity. What’s this clip that we’re going to listen to at the end?

JUKKA: In August called [unclear], who specialized in the combination of Siberian throat singing and really deep melodic beats. This particular piece is about love. And it’s a love story shared at Borderlands. And I’m looking forward to hearing it.

STUART: Alright, Vav. Cue up the cut.

Mikko Heikinpoika (2019) Music piece from a Cubes story in Borderland”
♩ ♪ ♫ ♬ It’s just very apparent when you realize like this person is actually really your soulmate, someone with you you’ve shared so much already before this life, when you just realize like this person’s half of your soul … just to come to God again.♩ ♪ ♫ ♬

STUART: Burning Man live is a production of the Philosophical Center of Burning Man Project. Our web address is Burningman.org/live. Our email is live@burningman.org, and we’re on all the socials as @burningmanlive. And in case you didn’t already write it down, you can make a quite possibly tax deductible donation to Burning Man Project at donate.burningman.org.

Thank you for helping us keep the lights on and the show live.

A big appreciation to our technical producer and story editor. Michael Vav, our producers, Andy Grace and Logan Merto, our promotions manager, the mysterious Darrel van Ray and our super friends Tanner Boeger. Devin from the Internet and Jay Kanizzle.

And finally, a quick shout out to all of the wonderful people and volunteers who have supported academic research at Burning

Man for a long, long time. I can’t list you all, but I just want to mention Lauren Chanel, Christos RoseLee barns, Caveat and the whole Census team y’all are Burning Nerds, and we love you.

Thank you so much. That’s it for now. And thanks Larry.


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