AFTERBURN REPORT 2006
THEME CAMP PLACEMENT
The Placement team experienced one of its most challenging years in 2006. The team expanded with enthusiastic and energetic volunteers who hit the ground running. More camps filed questionnaires, and more camps were placed, than ever before.
A software upgrade resulted in the corruption of the Placement database, a disaster considering that the history of any camp captured in the database figures prominently into the placement process. Other technical glitches increased pre-playa workload, but Placement persevered, and new team members acquired skills and learned from experience.
The pipeline to the theme camp community, questions to themecamps(at)burningman(dot)com are received by a Placement dispatcher, and dispatched to members of the team. This allows team members to become acquainted with camps early in the process. The dispatch system and its archive had been hosted on a volunteer's server for years but in May, the Burning Man Project switched to an email management software that accommodates the dispatch system (too late to transfer our data, but the road has been paved for a 2007 migration).
Historically, theme camp mapping has been an intensive two-week process, without relief, for a few team members. For 2006, mapping was divided among more volunteer team members and staff. Also, Placement had stellar support from two volunteers from the theme camp community. Further, a new Community Service Department (CSD) manager stepped up to a greater role mapping this year.
Placing camps requires multiple reviews of the questionnaire database and camp layout plans. Follow-up phone calls to camps are frequently necessary. Placement finished mapping early and then began the tedious task of re-checking each placement and updating the database. One volunteer had the daunting task of receiving and organizing thousands of names for potential early arrival.
Like every year, approximately ten theme camp email newsletters went out to all theme camp registrants with important information, ranging from fire safety to grey water evaporation techniques. Limited early arrival may be permitted for camps that have a legitimate need to have a small setup crew on site pre-event. Although three separate announcements regarding changes to our early arrival process were sent, many participants showed up pre-event, only to be held at the Gate. This delayed entry for pre-approved participants who were on the early arrival list and stressed the Gate staff, who remained supreme in their efforts (it's always a pleasure to work with the Gate). The 2007 early arrival process will be reviewed and revised for better efficiency.
The design of Black Rock City evolved in 2006. Placement moved reserved space for large communities off theme camp avenues of the 4:30 and 7:30 radial streets. This increased the number and variety of interactive camp frontages. For the first time, these avenues also had their own small plazas, deep in the city. Art installations here were problematic, as the small plazas were still perceived as roads. This needs to be addressed. We are pleased that theme camps received the new avenues with enthusiasm, throwing block parties, and raising a spirit of friendly competition between opposing avenues.
The city survey crew arrives on-site in early August. For the second consecutive year a Placement representative joined the city survey team, resulting in improved communication. After survey, Placement flagging crew follows to stake out the camp plan for the year. New flag crew members excelled at the task at hand. Departments, staff, volunteers, and artists fully understood the "early placement" process first introduced in 2005, and things when smoothly and peacefully. Simply, cooperation could not have been better.
Deep city blocks and a spike in population resulted in the false appearance of a full city mid-week. A full "curb" frontage gives the illusion of more occupancy deep in the block, and the antithetical "fencing" off of space with caution tape, rope, and other materials compounded the problem. Unprecedented, the Placement team had to stay on task through Saturday of the event, ferreting out camping space that was hidden within blocks and filling it with campers needing space. With the population growth, the Placement team also experienced a very sharp increase in conflicts, ranging from border disputes to sabotages (mostly generators). Placement encourages heightened participant awareness on these issues.
The stage has been set for changes to the Placement process in 2007. The database needs nursing, and the Placement questionnaire needs revising. City redesign needs to address the under-used block interiors, and all must prepare for contingent extra street usage, to accommodate population increases. More team members, taking on mapping earlier in the year, a less taxing and more efficient early arrival process are called for.
Manager, Community Service Departments