Religion, Media, and the Marketplace

By Lynn Schofield Clark | Go to book overview

10

"Media Mecca":
Tensions, Tropes, and Techno-Pagans
at the Burning Man Festival

LEE GILMORE

As one of the most recent ongoing religio-cultural "happenings" in U.S. history,
the Burning Man festival provides festival-goers with opportunities for radical
self-expression and an alternative to the consumer lifestyle of contemporary
American society. In this chapter, Lee Gilmore traces the ways in which event
organizers and participants have come to understand the event in a self-
reflexive process involving its emergence as, at once, a countercultural, spiritual,
counter-consumerist, and yet deeply mediated spectacle. A former volunteer
member of the event's Media Team, Gilmore offers insights into how the event
organizers interacted with media professionals in these professionals' ongoing
interest in covering this colorful and offbeat event. She notes the ways in which
the organizers intentionally sought to challenge the objective stance that jour-
nalists often assume in relation to such events, encouraging instead a "new
journalism": an ethnographically oriented approach to coverage, much more
suited to the norms of the event itself. She also traces the ways in which cover-
age of the event was made to fit certain norms, or "frames," of news storytelling,
particularly in relation to the popular frames of the "sex, drugs, and rock and
roll" storyline and the "techno-pagan" and "spiritual" characterization of the
event and its participants. In addition to these frames, however, Gilmore argues
that other interpretations of the event, usually much more personal in nature,
appear regularly in the realm of cyberspace as participants find one another and
extend their self-expressions into the realm of new media.

-247-

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