Mapping Burning Man

nym | 06:55 AM


I've been very busy recently with my yearly pet project surrounding the Burning Man festival in the Nevada Black Rock Desert. This year, I'm seeing more and more people come together with their interest in cartography than ever before. The sponsored mapping group, PlayaInfo is also expanding their geographic reach by supporting a GPSDrive friendsd server so that participants with art cars can broadcast their location to the main map. Seems like a perfect fit for cyborgs and technomads alike!

"We plan to support GPSdrive this year. That includes running a friendsd server (which is perhaps what you meant?). For anybody not already familiar, GPSDrive is a program that displays your GPS location on a calibrated raster map - and it can share your location with others (and receive theirs) via WiFi. The friendsd server is the program that collects position reports via WiFi and broadcasts them again on the same medium." -Zhahai (PlayaInfo Techie)

Here's a screenshot from the detailed maps made by the PlayaInfo team:


And here's a GPS based map from someone named Zorro:


My work directly involves the use of GPS units. I'm helping the art placement team, the ARTery, keep track of all the artwork on the open playa. The following is a Flash based map that has all of last year's artwork loaded, and will be used on site this year to visualise all the data collected by the ARTery, and citizen cartographers alike:


Like last year, I'll be providing this map, along with PlayaInfo's Digital Directory map on our camp's public access PC. Here's a picture of it from last year:


Finally, I just got done contributing to my 2nd O'Reilly book, Google Map Hacks, and of course, I used pictures from last year's burn as an example for my Google Maps Slideshow Hack.


So there it is, a quick roundup of cartography at Burning Man, Black Rock City. I plan to blog from the event on igargoyle, detailing some of the cooler art and technology I see on the desert dry lake bed. In the mean time, I'm going to be really busy, so please submit links and descriptions to keep the site going!

If you are going to Burning Man, and would like to hear more about cartography and cool things to do with your GPS, we're holding an event on Thursday at 4:00 in camp ROAMnet in the Brane village (Cathersis & 8:00). Also there is the online tribe, PlayaMaps, and BRC_GPS the mailing list.


Burn baby, burn.


Hi Nym,

Would VERY much like to ge the map for 2005 like the screen shot of the Playa Info team. (I see it's available for 2004).
I totally understand that things change, but it would be nice to get a map with that level of detail.
But, heck, this is the first year I've been able to get the gate map online before the event.


Posted by: Bertrum at August 18, 2005 11:54 AM

Unfortunately, the data that PlayaInfo recieves is currently not available to the public, but we're making progress in this area. If you want to help, go join http://tribes.tribe.net/playamaps and post
something along the lines of what you wrote me. Explain what you would like to do with the data.

If there are enough people who want to do interesting things with the data, it will help get it out into the open for everyone to benefit


Posted by: nym at August 18, 2005 09:52 PM

Hi there,

I'm interested in your Google Map Hacks book - when is it coming out?


Posted by: Morpeth at August 19, 2005 07:40 AM

Any wardrivers going? While I can't be there in person, I will certainly be watching from above.

Posted by: Drew from Zhrodague at August 19, 2005 01:17 PM

No idea when the book will come out, and I'm still unclear if anyone is wardriving. I hope someone will! That would make some great mapping data for the city, and encourage others to utilize the network next year for radical self-expression.

Posted by: nym at August 21, 2005 09:45 AM

hi, i'm matt a long time admirer. i've benefited a lot from your blog. This article came up very randomly tonight. I love what gps, good maps, and garmin rinoes have done for burning the man.

i'm interested in what you've done with wearable electronics and cyberhumans.

Posted by: spacehippy matt at January 30, 2008 09:19 PM

Thanks Matt. I'm personally interested in the original, humanistic, homeostatic definition of Cyborg. Accordingly, wearable, or even implanted electronics don't make a human a Cyborg unless they augment the unconscious processes of life.

Posted by: RoBo at February 1, 2008 01:58 PM
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