Black Rock City excludes buying and selling by definition.
Rising from the Nevada desert for the annual Burning Man festival, it’s a temporary community where rental van logos are covered to avoid commercialism and where a bike ride might net you a free dance lesson or a grilled cheese sandwich from a billionaire, but no shopping.
So what is a cryptocurrency camp doing at Burning Man, an event where even bartering is deemed too capitalistic?
Relax. It’s dogecoin.
Late-model burgundy caravan
In the official Burning Man database, the camp is registered as Camp Bitcoin. But after hatching a plan for a bitcoin-themed camp early this year, its organisers began dropping out: one is getting married, one has a new baby and another ended up under house arrest.
Just a couple of weeks before ‘burners’ (the term for Burning Man attendees) were to converge in the Nevada desert, Gary Lachance and a handful of other dogecoin enthusiasts, most of them from Vancouver, British Columbia, picked up the mantle and ran with it. Now Camp Bitcoin has been rechristened Camp Dogecoin.
Lachance said in an email that he and friends are driving a "late-model burgundy doge caravan" that was bought on credit especially for the trip. It should be hard to miss.
"We'll be strapping a giant red rocket to the roof, slapping a doge head on the hood, and overloading the van with crazy people and unlikely items and diminishing our odds of getting across the border. That's how we roll."
Another contingent is heading south in more low-key style, driving a rented recreational vehicle.
Unpredictable and illogical
Wendell Davis, of bitcoin wallet maker Hive, originally conceived the camp with Satoshi Square founder Josh Rossi and other friends. Davis said he approves of the shift from Camp Bitcoin to Camp Dogecoin.
“That's totally in line with Burning Man itself. It's totally unpredictable and illogical. If Camp Bitcoin’s destiny was to become Camp Dogecoin, then so be it,” said Davis, who opted to stay home for health reasons.
Lachance, whose life is devoted to decentralization, predicted that dogecoin’s absurd aesthetic will be a better cryptocurrency ambassador to Black Rock City than bitcoin would have been.
“People see bitcoin and they think in terms of money laundering and drugs. But they see this dog and that's just like [chuckles] the last thing on their minds. The subversity of it is definitely awesome.”
Camp Dogecoin will be part of Anahasana Village, an established Burning Man locale with plenty of infrastructure to share with the dogecoin crew, which, having come together in a couple of weeks, is light on preparation and funding.
Wallets, buttons and a dance party
Organizers think 20 or more burners will stay in camp, but no one is really sure. They are broadcasting their plans to the 200 recipients of the original Camp Bitcoin mailing list, so it could turn out to be more.
Participant Cameron Gray plans to print out paper wallets with a few dogecoin in each to give away free. Kyle MacDonald will bring a button-making machine, which he will use to create buttons with a dogecoin theme or any other kind of button that the moment calls for.
Lachance, who propagates a phenomenon known as the Decentralized Dance Party year-round, hopes to throw such a party on the playa, and will also be recruiting folks who want to run Decentralized Dance Parties in their home cities.
The organizers say the loosely planned events all revolve around helping burners understand the intersection between cryptocurrency and decentralization with the annual gathering’s guiding principles, like radical inclusion, decommodification and self-reliance.
“The mission [will be] helping people get into crypto to understand why it's a good thing, even though it's money at Burning Man. How it connects with open source, how it connects with radical inclusiveness, how it connects with justice, transparency, openness. Yeah.”
This is not the first time cryptocurrency will be mentioned at Burning Man.
For the past three years, there has been a gathering where 50 or more people showed up to learn about bitcoin for about 90 minutes, said Darrell Duane, mayor of Anahasana Village and a bitcoin enthusiast who has been helping make Camp Bitcoin/Camp Dogecoin a reality.
Some camps have used bitcoin to raise funds, and some people have urged Burning Man organizers to accept bitcoin for tickets.
In online discussions, a common thread has been the concern that any currency-themed camp might contradict Burning Man’s non-commercial ethos.
One of the Ten Principles of Burning Man is ‘decommodification’ with the explanation: “our community seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising.” In that spirit, camps do not put up corporate logos, and many burners even cover or change the logos on their vehicles.
Lachance and the other organizers feel that Camp Dogecoin is in line with Burning Man’s principles, since it will not be advertising a company, and any logo that they end up displaying will not be a corporate one.
“Dogecoin is not an organization, it’s basically a protocol. It’s like having Camp Email.”
Veteran burner Duane acknowledged that other burners may question how a crypto-camp is appropriate given the aversion to advertising and commerce. His response is that cryptocurrency essentially decommodifies banking, making it very relevant to the burn.
“Some people will say, ‘You can't do this, you can't sponsor this camp.’ We'll be educating them.”
The shift to dogecoin will probably eliminate some of the controversy that may have arisen around bitcoin.
Bitcoin is used by major corporations and has spawned slew of startups; it's big business. It's hard to feel as threatened by a currency with a big grinning shiba inu mascot that likes to say "such wow".
But one controversy is sure to arise in the desert as enthusiasts who have only communicated in type meet in person for the first time: how to pronounce dogecoin.
But as many, if not most, people use the latter pronunciation, commenters on the page quickly took issue with Lachance's edict. In a phone interview, Lachance stood by the ban on 'doje'.
"We're totally against that," he said.