Photo Credit: Eric Trautmann at 4th of Juplaya 2021, another non-organized gathering on the playa

Holon Village

Making co-created experiences at Burning Man accessible

We have a once-a-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build something amazing together. This labor day weekend, for the first time in decades, tens of thousands of people will gather at Black Rock Desert without a sanctioned Burning Man event occurring. There will be art cars but no Department of Mutant Vehicles (DMV). There will be a city but no Department of Public Works (DPW). There will be a gathering but no tickets. We are seizing this rare opportunity to make the magic of the playa accessible to people who might have gone in prior years if not for the difficulty involved in going to Burning Man.

Normally, the barrier to entry for Burning Man is incredibly high. The nine day event requires a significant time investment, which can be difficult to justify for people with limited vacation days, especially if they haven’t experienced the burn before. Tickets alone go for $475 (note: this is if you’re lucky and get one of the extremely rare “direct sale” tickets. Many people get their tickets on the secondary market, where they often go for over $1000 a piece), and that’s not including a $140 vehicle pass, camp dues, and all of the equipment and setup that people want in order to be able to have an enjoyable burn experience. Time-cost, money-cost, not to mention the cult-like fanaticism of some Burning Man evangelists, makes attending Burning Man an unattractive option for many people who would benefit from the experience.

And what is that experience, exactly? If Burning Man was just another festival — centrally planned, organized, and executed — we wouldn’t really care whether it was accessible or not. But the intense fanaticism around the burn is a product of its fundamentally decentralized and participatory nature. It is many people’s first experience with feeling empowered to go beyond their comfort zone as observers and consumers and instead jump into the experience of being participants and co-creators. At Burning Man, there is no “cast and crew” building the experience and controlling every aspect of it. There is instead a creative chaos which gives rise to countless opportunities to contribute to others’ experiences. Whether by building a structure for others to lounge on, participating in a performance for others to enjoy, or organizing the logistics of transporting humans and gear into the desert, attendees are empowered to contribute to the experiences of others.

We have experienced the power of co-created experiences first-hand and have been deeply affected by them. Being empowered to do more than just consume at Burning Man translates into enabling a deeper engagement with our daily lives in the “default”, the world outside of Burning Man. We now feel that we are not just passive motes floating down the river of life, being swept up in flows and eddies beyond our control. We are strong, decisive, self-reliant members and leaders of our communities. And we want our friends to be the same.

The vision of “Holon Village” is to enable this co-created experience for people who were previously interested in Burning Man but have found it intimidating or inaccessible. We are taking advantage of the fact that there are no ticket limitations or prices this year to make the experience accessible to people who can’t afford the hundreds (or thousands) of dollars that it would cost to attend a big burn most years. We are taking advantage of the fact that RV rentals in the Bay Area are less than a quarter of what they would be most years to make the experience comfortable for those who would otherwise be put off by the “roughing it” nature of the extremely harsh conditions of the playa. We are facilitating a participatory camp experience by creating a highly decentralized camp structure, where every participant has an opportunity to step up and lead their pod.

The term “holon” refers to the philosophical concept of “a thing that is both a part of something else and a whole in and of itself”. Our usage of the nomenclature “holons” is inspired by the organizing structure of “holacracy”. Holacracy is an unconventional organizational governance whose essential principle is a structure of concentric self-organizing circles, each contained within a larger circle. Our holons are:

Humans: Humans are autonomous, self-contained agents, each of whom operates as a single entity. They are part of pods. We currently have 38 humans in our village.

Pods: Pods are collections of generally 2–7 humans. Pods are self-organizing and self-sufficient (aka radically self-reliant). They take advantage of economies of scale to handle logistics like transportation of human and gear, waste disposal (including human waste, since there are no public porta potties this year), and coordinating water and food. Pods can be themed and are part of camps. We currently have 8 pods in our village.

Camps: Camps are collections of generally 3–4 pods. These pods are grouped by social connections to strengthen the intra-camp relationships between members of different pods. Camps provide communal resources such as shade, activity spaces, and sound equipment. Camps are part of the village. We currently have 2 camps in our village.

The Village: Our village is a collection of all of the camps which share its organizing principles. The village provides placement and coordinates inter-camp activities to ensure strong cohesion between villagers, even if they are from different camps. Although the village is geographically distributed, in line with BLM restrictions, we are attempting to create a sense of community between the camps of our village.

If the vision of making co-created experiences accessible to people resonates with you or if you would like to participate in the co-creation of experiences out on the playa this labor day weekend, please don’t hesitate about reaching out and joining Holon Village. We are committed to making the experience enjoyable to those willing to put in the work to join us on the playa.

Data Specialist, Reading Enthusiast, Amateur Adventurer