r / place and battle pixel

Suspension

Since Friday, millions of Reddit users have come together to create a massive collaborative artwork that has gone viral.

Reddit’s r/Place is a subsite that acts as an open canvas, where each user can post one small colored pixel every five minutes. The project started as an April Fools’ Day experiment in 2017, and in its first year over a million Reddit users placed around 16 million tiles on the shared, blank digital canvas. Five years later, he’s back again, and those numbers have gone up dramatically. As of Sunday night, nearly 72 million tiles were placed by more than 6 million users, at a rate of over 2.5 million tiles per hour.

Since each user can only place one small tile every five minutes, it is impossible to build alone. The five-minute wait time stifles anyone’s ability to control the canvas. Instead, users are forced to work together and build curated communities to produce collective works of pixel art.

Huge subreddits like r/tree and r/ukraine started campaigning early on, filling the space en masse with big marijuana leaves and the Ukrainian flag respectively. Users from r/starwars have recreated an entire movie poster. The trans community put a huge flag on display.

The end result is a huge collage of images and words pixelated. Aesthetically, it reminds us of the Million Dollar Homepage, a website created by Alex Teo, a 21-year-old entrepreneur who hoped to make his way in college by selling a million pixels of online ad space for $1 per homepage in 2005 But unlike the homepage, r/Place is constantly renewed.

Audiences unite to beat pictures of other communities or compete for space on the board. Some users are bent on destruction. In 2017, a large amorphous black dot called “Void” appeared and tried to accommodate the project. It reappeared this year as well, but only momentarily. Some people tried to sabotage another group’s creations with streams of purple pixels.

“R/Place activates some tribalism in people which makes them scramble to get any code that gives them a source of identity and stick it on a big, meaningless map,” writer Annie Rorda wrote in Input. The board hosts a growing ecosystem of memes, cultural references, and niche community icons.

Although Place is a Reddit phenomenon (started by Josh Wardle, who went on to create the viral word game Wordle, when he was at Reddit), the success of this year’s project was largely driven by the rise of other community-oriented platforms like Discord and Twitch.

Users have built custom Discord servers to plan acquisitions for specific corners of the board, including “Embassy” channels where different groups can collaborate and form alliances. There are many college logos and flags represented from different countries. Purdue University and a group seeking to keep the Irish flag on canvas formed an alliance. “We put a little heart between the two, and that represents the alliances between adjacent factions,” said Ian Jones, a software engineer in Chicago.

Big streaming companies have also contributed to Place’s growth, directing its thousands of fans to mark the canvas with their favorite streaming devices’ logos or icons. Twitch creators xQc, Mizkif, Sodapoppin, Pokimane, Hasan Piker, Myth, and Asmongold tuned people out to watch tile placement and to help create new images. Jack Manifold, a British YouTube and Twitch user, encouraged his fans to use their pixels Enter 3D glasses On pictures of people and animals in the place, Leads to temporary confusion.

If Place says anything about the internet, it’s a testament to the rising power of online communities. Since the last iteration, online platforms have experienced significant fragmentation.

“People have become more interested in online communities since covid is a thing,” said Casey Holmes, a Twitch user in Austin. “Social media is in a different place than it was before the place was last seen.”

More users, especially younger ones, are now seeking to connect with others in closed communities or online groups such as Discord or a similar platform called Geneva, rather than the large, open social networking sites.

But this trend towards groups and more social experiences contained within the Internet can also leave people eager to engage with the masses. Brian Lynch, an attorney and Reddit manager in San Diego, said the venue has turned into a de facto public square on Reddit over the past few days. “Even though the Internet is going through this divide with communities, I think these groups are still looking for the central city hall or that central space,” he said.

It’s worth noting that Place is never about all users working together, but more space for communities to exercise their influence. Eugene Wei, a tech entrepreneur in San Francisco, sees place as the perfect metaphor for the modern internet, where the power of individuals to shape discourse or exert influence online is no less than the power of the group they are part of.

“Everyone needs a religious sect in the age of the Internet, everyone needs a group,” Wei said. Part of the reason you need these cults is the social media scene. You need soldiers in your army to fight and defend against things. The Internet allows groups of people to amplify their influence through coordination. In this way, Place is a pure version of that.” In other words, if you don’t have a group to format and amplify your message, your pixel or voice will be inverted and erased.

The Internet’s hope was to connect humanity in a way that would allow everyone to coordinate and build things on a large scale, but in reality, while huge networks of bubbles and groups sometimes form alliances to create, they also compete and fight. “Perhaps the disappointment of the Internet is that there are no more examples that people can point to of large-scale human coordination to create something,” Wei said.

Christopher Torres, pixel artist and founder of Nyan Cat, has made many contributions to Place. “It’s kind of addictive trying to protect the piece you’re building,” he said. “It’s like turf war, but it’s a social statement too. Like, we need to defend this little penguin right here in the corner from this guy throwing purple spots at him.”

Many of the images featured in the Place reflect the values ​​of the participating communities. The Ukrainian flag was looming large on the canvas throughout Saturday, as did the mutant flag and various LGBT flags. People use place to express Anti-NFT . sentiment; Others, such as Wall Street Beats, pumped MIM shares. Fans of groups like BTS And anime and other video games quickly took up space on the canvas. Some users have created a “bike lane” surrounding the road created on the canvas.

Alexa Jakob, a senior at Cooper Union who is part of a subreddit dedicated to raising awareness about the environmental impact of cars, helped create a massive parking lot at the Place. “We chose to do this parking lot to show why the subreddit exists,” she said. “We wanted to show that parking lots are really a huge waste of space and cars are incredibly wasteful. The venue is a way for different communities to show what they value.”

The fact that Place has not been completely overrun with trolls spreading symbols of hate is a testament to the dedicated communities focused on keeping extremist factions in check. In 2017, many small swastikas were quickly crushed by other communities. (One was instantly converted to the Windows 95 logo.) “I’m really surprised there aren’t so many pictures of the far right,” Jacob said. Perhaps while these are loud online, they are eventually dulled by the masses and other large groups that have dominated the canvas.

Part of the project’s popularity is the sense of community that seems increasingly rare as the internet becomes increasingly divided and polarized. To keep up with the growing demand this year, Reddit is expanding the digital palette and adding more color options to the palette every day. The project ends at 9 PM PT on Monday.

“It really brings people together,” said Ava Babi, a high school student in Northern Virginia. There is a lot of international and national upheaval with politics, but you see a lot of people give it up for a second. You go to lay a tile or make a joke out of something or make a piece of artwork, and you are there with a lot of other people. You might not go check these people’s accounts to see who they are, but you still work with them just to create.”

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