A Blaze of Inspiration: the power of "transformational festivals" (like Burning Man)

Are festivals in themselves a new kind of politics - a way for people to collectively transform themselves, and their sense of community, in directly felt and joyful ways?

This is the basis of Blaze of Inspiration: The Impact of Festivals 'from another planet' on our society, backed by social big data, which is a marketing report on Burning Man (the US West Coast nomadic festival which many of you may kn0w).  It's big bucks to get access to that report, but the author, Alessia Clusini, has been open-sourcing her researches on Medium.

This particular article condenses a huge amount of her learning and findings. Here's some choice extracts:

...Utopian festival experiences can be a platform for broader social change: As we are transformed by festival experiences, we in turn transform the society we inhabit. Festivals are social laboratories in which normal daily social rules can be tested, rewritten, or discarded temporarily. [See also Fred Turner's essay on Burning Man and Google culture]

...Burning Man is perhaps one of these early post-capitalist utopias, where design intervenes to bridge the gap between the real and the utopia. Design plays this instrumental role of shaping the world according an idea, a desire, a plan. In the case of Black Rock City [the temporary town that is built each year at Burning Man, pictured], the leading ‘architect’ would be Larry Harvey and his team, but ultimately every participant designs. It is by enabling this creativity that Burning Man attracts more than 50,000 people every year. Harvey is confident about the Project’s future; he believes that “there is a way that all of us can be together."

..."Culture and meaning should be something we create through our interactions with one another as we take part in the shared life of a community. But modern society discourages active participation and encourages us to be passive consumers. Instead of a community, we’ve become a mass. As a mass, we don’t participate in culture, we consume it. We live together in isolated stalls. The context of community, the vital interplay of human beings, has been forgotten. What we consume has no inherent meaning or transcendent value to us. It is no surprise we thirst for thrills. Consumption doesn’t lead to satisfaction, only more consumption. If we’re to break this cycle, we must somehow reclaim community and create culture out of that experience." [Larry Harvey, 1993 Burning Man newsletter]

More here

PLUS: A TEDXVancouver video from Jeet Kei Leung on the power of transformational festivals: