Burning Man and associated Regional Events base themselves on some fundamental guidelines, or the 10 Principles. In this series over the next 10 weeks we will focus on each Principle in detail.
This week features Principle 3: Decommodification
This idea is based in part on the idea behind Principle 2, Gifting. For participants to truly preserve the spirit of gift giving, there needs to be a disassociation with all things commercial, such as sponsorships, transactions, or advertising.
In the spirit of gifting, these everyday ideas we are subjected to in our “normal” lives are considered exploitation in Burner culture as they take away from the gift (whatever that may be) and potentially seek to attach some arbitrary value to it, or attempt to differentiate it from any other gift. Full adherence to this Principle is surprisingly hard as its generally taken to mean that no logo, label, brand name or product can be associated with a Burn, whether as part of a gift or not. Tents will inevitably display the makers brand, clothing may well be quite distinguishable, that welcome squirt of suntan lotion will originate from a bottle featuring the brand logo, there are vehicles abound which are obviously one thing or another. Burning Man itself is a brand ironically dependent on promoting its own image.
It is true that advertising or commercial elements can distort the value of something. Attaching a well-known brand can easily elevate an item above another very similar thing that has no such association. At it’s heart, this Principle seeks to ensure that consumption does not happen for any other reason that the participatory experience, and that we are not swayed by a fake value for something that is supposed to not have any monetary meaning at all.