Burning Man’s Big Hangup: Cellphones

A microcosm of what is happening to society writ large, and the inherent limitations of libertarianism’s response. Burning Man’s “immediacy of experience” ethos is being inundated with the likes of our generation’s most annoying social ‘enhancement’ (aka handicap)… the cellphone:

“It’s one more thing that contaminates the purity of the event,” says Kevin Rolly, a photographer from Los Angeles who has attended the festival every year since 1996. If phone access increases, Rolly says, “Burning Man slowly starts looking like the world that we’re trying to get away from.”

Event founder Larry Harvey isn’t as gently philosophical; he’s been quoted lumping cellphone use at the event in with defecation and copulation — something that should be done only in private. Of course, Burning Man’s organizers are not about to go around making rules. The festival has famously been compared to a “physical manifestation of the Internet,” because top-down structures are minimal to nonexistent, and most of its content is user-created.

Technology is rapidly eliminating any and all private spaces, increasingly making unobstructed social interaction impossible.

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