Enabling Creative Chaos: The Organization Behind the Burning Man Event

Paperback | September 1, 2009

byKatherine K. Chen

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In the summer of 2008, nearly fifty thousand people traveled to Nevada’s Black Rock Desert to participate in the countercultural arts event Burning Man. Founded on a commitment to expression and community, the annual weeklong festival presents unique challenges to its organizers. Over four years Katherine K. Chen regularly participated in organizing efforts to safely and successfully create a temporary community in the middle of the desert under the hot August sun.

Enabling Creative Chaos tracks how a small, underfunded group of organizers transformed into an unconventional corporation with a ten-million-dollar budget and two thousand volunteers. Over the years, Burning Man’s organizers have experimented with different management models; learned how to recruit, motivate, and retain volunteers; and developed strategies to handle regulatory agencies and respond to media coverage. This remarkable evolution, Chen reveals, offers important lessons for managers in any organization, particularly in uncertain times.

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In the summer of 2008, nearly fifty thousand people traveled to Nevada’s Black Rock Desert to participate in the countercultural arts event Burning Man. Founded on a commitment to expression and community, the annual weeklong festival presents unique challenges to its organizers. Over four years Katherine K. Chen regularly participated...

Katherine K. Chen is assistant professor of sociology at The City College of New York and the Graduate Center, City University of New York.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:272 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.8 inPublished:September 1, 2009Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0226102386

ISBN - 13:9780226102382

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Table of Contents

            List of Illustrations        

            Preface

            Acknowledgments       

1          Introduction: The Perils of Under- and Overorganizing  

2          Context: The Development of the Burning Man Event and Organization 

3          “Do-ocracy”: Acting on Suggestions and Criticisms      

4          “Radical Inclusion”: Attracting and Placing Members    

5          “No Spectators”: Motivating Members to Contribute    

6          “Immerse Yourself”: Managing Relations in the Pursuit of Legitimacy     

7          Conclusion: Sustaining Creative Chaos 

            Appendix 1. Ethnography and Qualitative Research      

            Appendix 2. Interview Protocols          

            Notes  

            Reference List 

            Index