How to recognize a Black Rock City Census volunteer


Census Volunteers after sampling traffic in 2013

Hint: It’s the lab coat


As we get ready for the playa, our sampling pencils ready, our data entry fingers limber and our lab hosting notes perfected, we must remember one of the most important components of being a Census Lab volunteer…


Census Volunteer Ruby Laser Jules at the Tuesday dawn sampler shift in 2012



Traditional white lab coats are our uniform! White lab coats are how everyone on the Playa knows we are traffickers in important data; scientists busy at work in the laboratory of the demographic; Burners on a mission to learn the who, what and why of BRC residents.


Census Volunteer Annelise sampling in 2013



Indiana sporting the traditional Census Sampler fashions in 2013

In the spirit of radical self expression, this is also an opportunity for Census Lab volunteers to augment their own white lab coat with some personality. Each coat gets the always classic, BRC Census iron-on patch. But for the truly creative, our guidelines are simply that it must be, at its core, a white lab coat. Hot pink and black are acceptable colors for accents. No other hue is allowed.


Anna accessorizing with eyewear and a fetching cap in 2013








Look out for us in the entry lanes at this years event.  Or swing by the Census Lab to see data from prior years.


Scribble after a dusty sampling shift in 2012

Scribble after a dusty sampling shift in 2012

Or volunteer by filling out a Burning Man Volunteer Questionnaire and check the box for “Census.” We still have a few slots left for Random Sampler’s, Fun Interactors, Data Entry Wizards and Lab Hosts. If you like data, if you like helping out Burning Man, if you like interacting with arriving participants, if you like freaky-geeking your style, come join us on the Playa!


Core Crew shows off 2013 fashions

Core Crew shows off 2013 fashions


2013 Analog Census Survey Needs Data Entry Volunteers

Detail of Book 1's Cover for 2013 Census Lab's Cargo Cult project

Detail of Book 1’s Cover for 2013 Analog Census 


Looking for volunteers for BRC Census Lab Cargo Cult Book Data Entry Parties:

  • Saturday, December 7th, 11am-3pm – Burning Man HQ in SF, CA
  • more dates to be added as needed

Hi Hearty Census Fans!

One of the biggest innovations to the 2013 Black Rock City Census was to go online. The reason we did this was that it took us well over 1000 volunteer hours to sort and enter the thousands of forms burners filled out on the Playa in 2012 taking us well into May 2013 to start processing the data. By doing the survey online in 2013, we were able to by-pass all that work. Even better, we have had at least as much participation in the 2013 Online Black Rock City Census as we did with the 2012 on-Playa paper forms. The sad thing was that we knew that expressing oneself on the paper forms on-Playa was an important part of some burners experience.

In the spirit of the 2013 theme, Countess and Scribble conceived of a 2013 Census Lab Cargo Cult Project, the Analog Census. We brought 19 sketchbooks and notebooks to the Playa. Gwendolyn and her mighty mignons decorated them. In each book we had a set of different questions concerning Burning Man, Life, Happiness, Culture and more. These 19 books were then placed in locations that use to be common spots for the Census Form Kiosks, like The Census Lab, Center Cafe,  and elsewhere around the Playa. Each book had a specific set of questions for that book and Burners being Burners, answered both inside and outside the boxes of those questions.

2013 Census Lab Cargo Cult Books

2013 Analog Census Books, part of Census Lab’s Cargo Cult  project

The result has been enlightening and amazing. Our objectives with these books are two fold:

  1. We want to enter the responses to the survey questions to try to capture, quantitatively as well as qualitatively, the entries as data for possible summary and analysis.
  2. We also want to capture the art of what people wrote and drew, the humanity of their individual entries, to preserve and share with people as a record beyond the confines of the Burning Man headquarters where the books themselves will be stored.
Example pages in 2013 Census Lab's Cargo Cult project

Example pages in 2013 Analog Census 

Example page from 2013 Census Cargo Cult Project

Example page from 2013 Analog Census 

Summary, we are scheduling a data-entry, scanning party in the Burning Man Headquarters, Saturday December 7th, 11am to 3pm. We will be opening up shifts in shift board and sending out emails to our volunteer lists. If you are interested and are already a Census Volunteer, signup through Shiftboard. If you aren’t already a Census Volunteer, enter the Volunteer Questionaire through Burning Man website and specify Census.

Books that were part of the Census Lab's Cargo Cult Project

Books that were part of the Census Lab’s Analog Census

If you have questions or want to volunteer in other ways send email to