May 5th, 2022, 08:00 AM

r/place and the Charming Chaos of Internet Culture

By Liam Williams
Source: Reddit, public domain
Individually, you can create something. Together, you can create something more.

From its beginning, the internet has been a wild invention. The ability to interact with people all over the world is something new generations take for granted. Children born now have never known a world without the internet and probably never will, and thus it is now a part of our own culture.

But what would it look like to visualize this magic? Could it be done? This is what Reddit set out to do in 2017.

Image credit: Unsplash/Austin Distel 

Reddit is a social media website home to over three-million communities and 52 million daily users. The unique benefit a website like Reddit offers in the potential to create this visualization is that, in the style of the popular forum websites of the early internet, each user-run subreddit is dedicated to a specific topic. 

So what did Reddit do? They created a blank canvas. It started as 1000x1000  pixels, or one million pixels. Users could place a pixel with a color of their choosing. There was a catch though; users could only place a pixel every five minutes for verified accounts and 20 minutes for most others. 

So, the only way to effectively represent something  be it  video games, sports teams, and more recently, Twitch streamers, was to coordinate with other people.

Image credit: Sukhi Borse 

Place then became a bizarre work of art filled with flags and other community identifiers. The 2017 version was popular, but 2022 is when it fully cemented itself into internet culture, and thus, in a way, our own.

The multiday canvas project started on April 1 and resulted in some hilarious moments due to the fact that users can also cover up other people’s pixels. Streamers quickly became the enemy due to their large followings that could quickly and in one place organize raids and new projects. 

France, who had organized several flags, tried to negotiate a truce with Canadian streamer XQC. They had been warring as the streamer organized his viewers to construct a portrait of Hasbullah, a 19-year-old Dagestani fighter. 

r/Place 2022 Timelapse

The video game OSU was attacked several times but managed to maintain a strong defense. While it all seems kind of silly, when zooming out from each of these individual battles and projects, there's an incredible image that can be looked at and analyzed for hours.

One thing that the internet does well is providing an expansive world of content and community, and Place as a project is a perfect reflection of this. 

Scroll around the finished canvas for a couple minutes and you will be sure to gain a new appreciation for the internet and its ability to represent our own culture.