Challenge 9: Burning Man Headphones

by post_author

The counter culture we are choosing to emulate through our headphones is Burning Man. We curated a playlist to match specific art installations. The vision for the headphones is that the user would reach greater immersion and understanding about the piece while listening to the playlist. The playlist matches a certain experience surrounding an art piece. The feelings that are evoked in the art are continued through the playlist. Everyone using the headphones will be listening to the same playlist, allowing for them to connect without having to communicate vocally. The headphones and the playlist promote self-discovery, as the wearer is provided an opportunity to ruminate about the art and the overall experience.

The playlist is comprised of Playa Tech, which was created at Burning Man. The reception of Playa Tech is controversial; some burners believe that the sound pollution is counter-productive. The playlist will not be complete, it is meant to be a collaboration of different people at Burning Man. This connects to the principle of gifting. The people that will give out various songs will be near the art installation that the song is meant to embody. The act of gift giving instills a feeling of thoughtfulness within the receiver, pushing them to think deeply about the song and reflect on the experience of both receiving the gift and viewing the art while listening to the song. The Playa Tech sound is described as a subgenre of house music, but with more spiritual vibes. Therefore, the use of the headphones allow people to experience the music without infringing on the experience of others.

The excessive decoration on the headphones connects to the tradition of wearing ornate and detailed costumes. The decoration on the headphones provides for a sensory overload- there are many components that go into the final product. This embodies the somewhat chaotic, yet unified nature of Burning Man. The headphones will be a part of the user’s costume on the Playa. The mirror effect on the sides of the headphones reflect the Burning Man principle of community and radical inclusion. The festival is built on collaboration and connections with each other, therefore the mirroring allows for this connection to be expressed visually. Additionally, listening to music with headphone can be an isolating activity; the mirrors allow the user to maintain connection with the outside world while also being self-reflective.

The various colors on the headphones reflect the fun nature and playfulness with which people tend to conduct themselves with on the Playa. The antlers on the headphones highlight the idea of escaping from the city and a strict set of societal expectations. The headphones will have no branding, due to the de-commodification principle of Burning Man. The decoration will spur conversations as other burners are drawn to the product, spurring new opportunities for people to make connections and meet each other.

Eventually, as the headphones increase in popularity, there will be a similar event to a Silent Disco. People will be listening to the same song, yet they be listening with headphones, which allows for easy conversation when the headphones are taken off. The shared experience of the song and the visual art sculpture allows for connections to be made with new people, and the aspect of using headphones also allows for internal reflection. Collaboration with the community and self-reliance can be difficult to meld together, yet the headphones allow for this to occur.

A user journey of one attendees’ use of the headphones reflect this: Marie is 25 year old graduate student, attending Burning Man for the first year. Hoping to enjoy the festival to the fullest extent possible, she invests in the designed countercultural headphones and downloads the Burning Man playlist in advance.

On her first day at Burning Man, she visits HYBYCOZO’s “Heart of Gold,” a series of geometric sculptures that emulate Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings. There, using the playlist, she listens to Goldcap’s “Mirage – Original” and Guerilla Toss’s “Eraser Stargazer Forever.” Later in the night, she witnesses Michael Gard’s “Dreams of Flight” flown around, while hearing Todd Terje’s disco-inspired “Delorean Dynamite” and the more muted, but still electronic “Easy Flight” by Crying.

The next day, arriving at Dave Gertler’s “Hands,” Marie turns to her headphones to listen to Maceo Plex remix of WhoMadeWho’s “Heads Above” and :papercutz’s “Trust/Surrender.”

Later during the festival, she sees the iconic Burning Man. There, she and other festivalgoers dance to the same playlist through their headphones, in a moment of isolation and togetherness. The songs are Patrick Chardonnet’s “Aim” and Jamie Antonelli’s “Divine.”

The next day, she decides to see the Temple. As she meditates, she listens to Grimes’s “Genesis” and “Is This Love Montmartre” by Bob Marley & The Wailers. After completing the two songs, she lingers a bit longer to appreciate the installation. Samuel, a regular Burner who has volunteered to provide additional songs, approaches Marie and shares two other songs to add to her playlist. This has been a regular occurrence throughout the festival, as Marie is habitually stopped by various Burners who give her new songs to enjoy the different installations further. Her last stop at the festival is the Black Rock Bookmobile, where she closes the festival to the sounds of Kishi Bashi’s “This Must be the Place” and Pedro Mercado’s “You Take Me There.”


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