Burning Man at Google
Every August for more than a decade, thousands of information technologists and other knowledge workers have trekked out into a barren stretch of alkali desert and built a temporary city devoted to art, technology and communal living: Burning Man. Drawing on extensive archival research, participant observation, and interviews, this talk will explore the ways that Burning Man's bohemian ethos supports new forms of production emerging in Silicon Valley and especially at Google. It will show how elements of the Burning Man world — including the building of a socio-technical commons, participation in project-based artistic labor, and the fusion of social and professional interaction — help shape and legitimate the collaborative manufacturing processes driving the growth of Google and other firms. The talk will thus develop the notion that Burning Man serves as a key cultural infrastructure for the Bay Area's new media industries.
Fred Turner is an Assistant Professor of Communication at Stanford University. He is the author of From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism (Univ. of Chicago Pr., 2006), which the Association of American Publishers recently named the Best Book in Communication and Cultural Studies for 2006. He is also the author of Echoes of Combat: The Vietnam War in American Memory (Anchor/Doubleday, 1996; 2nd ed., Univ. of Minnesota Pr., 2001). Before coming to Stanford, he taught Communication at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government and MIT's Sloan School of Management.