How the Burning Man and Transformational Networks Evolved and Map of the Crowds

The Global Eclipse Gathering has been an epic gathering and incredible experience, and the first time ever of this kind of unity in the world of transformation.

We described the gathering around the Oregon Eclipse here, and followed it up in the social big data conversational territories.

It came out that the most impactful cluster in the festival field is a decentralized network, connecting far and diverse tribes from all over the world yet giving them the power to create one unique body, aligned for the first time with the sun, the moon and the earth.

While some of the tribes are still buzzing around Burning Man 2017, we now analyze the NETWORK topic across the whole transformational festivals world. By doing so, we’ll dig into the very structure of the Burning Man itself.

1989: the first network that gave birth to the Burning Man

The underground movement Cacophony Society, the one that originated Burning Man as we know it, was fostered by the rise of the internet, which at that point was becoming a common tool among the San Francisco crowds, as also mentioned by John Law. The newsletter, “Rough Draft” consisted in an open thread of online communication within the members; it was an email version of a forum, open to ideas and creative expressions. When Burning Man’s co-founder Michael Mikel aka Danger Ranger publicized the 1989 event in the Cacophony Society newsletter, Burning Man attendees doubled and the crowd had to leave San Francisco’s Baker Beach, pushed by police, finding space of actions and freedom from rules in the desert.

Cacophony […] was an experiment in urban exploration, street art, pranking, psychogeography […] It spread around the country with the assistance of the burgeoning Internet and thrived into the late ’90s.


Now, the global network of Burning Man

The official regional network that now represents the Burning Man around the world, spreading its ten principle across different social and physical environments, is taking BM to the global level.

“Everywhere in a Box!” shows how Burning Man has grown beyond Black Rock City and is bringing the special things we do to the whole world. It highlights the work of Black Rock Solar, Burners Without Borders, and Burning Man Arts, and it shows how all that work grows naturally out of (and back into) Black Rock City.

It’s a centralized network. It guarantees the control of the corporate brand and spreads the word in an official way, beyond all the user generated tribes and conversations.

Now, as our job is to make complexity accessible, we tried to represent the transformational ecosystem from the Burning man perspective in a visual map.

Ecosystem crowds map. Communities, groups, tribes, influencers, brands, organizations, events, official and unofficial channels that constitute the ecosystem of Burning Man and transformational festivals.

The Burning Man and Transformational Festivals Crowds Ecosystem Map follows the patterns of transformation and change across the social ecosystem, from the brand/corporate area of action to the tribes of Burners and the new events, communities and brands born from BM or amplified in that, going far beyond the institutional power.

The strongly participatory attitude of transformational festivals allows a continuous, almost unmanageable reshaping of their map, seeing every day the born of new festivals, services, communities or even trends in the mainstream society (see also the focus on Silicon Valley)

Communication and influence flow across the crowds in a system that, even if centralized, can’t control the branding and the communication of the values, mainly because of the evident co-creation of it. Burning Man is by far the biggest brand in the ecosystem, as the presence of BM crowds is the biggest in the field, reporting the diffusion of the event across the globe and the massive communication effort.

But, being so massive, it constantly inspires and generates smaller and more underground forms of crowds, so that the crowds ecosystem map is almost unpredictable and unmanageable.

Because of the importance of this huge and ever-changing community, we’re going to publish in the next future a focus produced during the qualitative analysis of the Burners’ tribes: Tribe of Burners. Who are the citizens of Black Rock City?

By BLM Nevada (Burning Man 2014: Caravansary) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

A more tangible prove of the impact — as opposed to the branding — triggered by the Burning Man official network is represented by the Burning Man Global Leadership Conference. The GLC shows on which extent a network of community leaders could bring the vision of BM all over the world. The main goal would be bringing to humanity the cultural change ignited by Black Rock City, giving a new shape to society that differs from conventional contemporary values.

The power of a networked state of mind — Sonic Bloom Festival founder ‎Jamie Janover

Sonic Bloom Festival founder ‎Jamie Janover, interviewed by Dr. Kelly Neff, social psychologist and transformational world influencer, talks about how collective consciousness is now taken to another level by technology in this evidently networked society. He explores in simple words the power of real connections around a vision or a state of mind, even more empowered by the web connection.

KN: Do you think that there’s some kind of collective consciousness that’s being manifested in the way that people are seeking out these festivals, really in higher numbers than ever before?
JJ: Absolutely, there’s a collective consciousness in general on the planet. Some people call it the “noosphere”, kind of a kin to the biosphere and the atmosphere, except that it’s more like the collective sphere of consciousness. And so that manifest itself in many different things — cultures, festivals and celebrations [are] absolutely some of those things. And of course since the beginning of human culture we’ve been doing the celebration thing, and the festival thing, and the gathering thing, since we were tribes hunting and gatheringand now it has of course been incorporated into modern society, and using technologies, combining ways of celebrating the Earth, cutting edge that could have only been done recently due to the changes in technology.
KN: I’m really glad you’ve brought that up too, because even your bio talks about using techniques with these modern technologies. Can you go a little bit more into how festivals are actually doing that?
JJ: For a long time, the only way we could gather was physically going to the same place and being maybe around a fire. And today we can physically gather and at the same time do a live stream, so that the people around the world can do things like synchronized global meditation during a festival, something like world dance, or do coordinated festivals in countries around the world, and everybody, all at the same time, does a ceremony or puts on the same track and dances to the same song. That stuff can’t be done until you have satellite networks and stuff like this. So just the physical aspect of how the information gets shared is changing, ’cause it’s not just [that] you have to speak loudly around the campfire, you can speak at whatever volume you want and have it transmitted around the planet simultaneously. So the options and the possibilities for celebration are exponentially more than they were before of the advent of these more recent technologies.
KN: I love that idea, it’s very inspiring, because we talked about how technology fragments us, and how it can create distance between us, but it can also be utilized to create this proximity and closeness between people, and simultaneously connecting them to these tribal ancient roots, which is kind of our legacy as humans, to unite under the moon, dancing together. You know, how the shaman says: “Free the feet to free the head”. […]


Another early sign of unity and networked power was a very interesting discussion panel at Boom 2014 with the theme:

Leading the Way of Global Transformation through the Artswith Diogo Ruivo (Boom Festival co-Founder), Eule (Fusion Festival Co-Founder), Harley K. DuBois (Burning Man co-Founder)

In the past decades a curious global syncronicity led to the foundation of three very special events. They were born from very different tribes, amidst very different cultural, political and social scenarios, but with a common denominator: the willingness to create a different reality, far from the rules and conventions of mainstream society, with the help of art, music, creativity and solidarity.
More than 20 years later these three events have blossomed beyond any expectations, becoming three major lighthouses of sanity in the insanity of the global state of affairs. Hundreds of thousands of people have had their lives transformed after attending one (or more) of these events and their hope restored that a different world is possible. Independent funding, radical participation, creativity, oneness are just some of the values that have inspired the evolution of these three events over the years.
In this discussion panel moderator Chris Dekker, founder of Earthdance and Uplift Festival will guide us through an open discussion with representatives of Boom, Fusion and Burning Man, to discover the history, values, dynamics and possible future synergies among three events that have the potential to contribute to a global cultural shift.


But what was the first officially networked event in the transformational ecosystem?

It wasn’t (yet) a transformational experience.

The only example of “no boundaries” collective and highly networked event, until the Oregon Eclipse 2017, was coming from the pop edge of the field we analyzed.

Unite Tomorrowland claims to be the ultimate connector and common vision (payoff: music will unite us forever) and facilitates the experience with the Official Tomorrowland Travel program:

Travel, together with the People of Tomorrow, from every corner of the world, all united in a once in a lifetime travel experience that brings you to Tomorrowland.


But, just like Coachella, Tomorrowland is present in the ecosystem but not classified as a transformational festival per se.

Recap: state of networks in the transformational ecosystem

Occasionally, like in the case of Sonic Bloom Festival founder’s interview or the Boom’s panel, insiders and influencers would agree on the potential power of unity and alignment of a counter culture that aims to global change.

Other than that, the transformational ecosystem seemed to appear fragmented and spread out, polarized by the Burning Man centralized network — that is becoming more of a brand experience than an experience of change.

Until August 2017, when a new cluster constituted by some of the most renowned transformational festivals around the world officially gathered around a one off epic event, the Oregon Eclipse.

Now the question is:

Is it better to be branded and centralized for the impact of a counter-culture in the society?

This content is part of the first research in the transformational festivals field: Blaze of Inspiration. The Impact of Festivals ‘from another planet’ on our society, backed by social big data.

Please let us know your thoughts, and what’s your experience in the transformational world.

Alessia Clusini, Martina Faralli.