r/Place: The Battle of Pixels

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r/Place in the last few minutes before its destruction.

Claire Fiedler, Staff Writer

Since April 1st, millions of Reddit users have banded together to form a digital artwork that is representative of modern internet culture. The digital canvas exploded in popularity over the four day duration.

Reddit’s r/place was a subreddit that functioned as an open canvas that anybody on the website could contribute to. Anybody with a Reddit account was able to place one tiny colored pixel every five minutes. Large groups joined together and organized to make large, beautiful pieces of art.

The project originally started in 2017, with large contributions made by Josh Wardle (who is now known as the creator of Wordle). Five years ago, users placed over 16 million pixels. This year, that number exceeded over 72 million. Over 6 million Reddit users contributed to the digital canvas.

The success of Place was largely driven by live streamers on Twitch, as well as groups collaborating through Discord and other similar platforms. Groups with niche interests banded together and coordinated to make their mark on the canvas. Alliances were formed and broken at the drop of a hat.

I think it’s really cool to see how people are working together. It’s a cool social experiment.”

— Andy Georgiev

Sophomore Andy Georgiev says, “I think it’s really cool to see how people are working together. It’s a cool social experiment. There was a group trying to black everything out, which was interesting.” 

Place was a place for groups and causes to show what they value and support. A large Ukrainian flag stood strong throughout Saturday April 2, in support of the ongoing conflict. Along with that flag was a large trans flag and various other LGBTQ+ flags. A subreddit dedicated to raising awareness about the environmental impact of cars and parking lots made a large parking lot symbol that lasted for over two days. While it was a Reddit based phenomenon, there was far less far-right imagery than would be expected.

“It was kinda funny to have people be upset about all the flags that spread.  [Place] was a hub for memes. There were lots of groups that dedicated time to make a spot on r/place, you got to see everybody’s participation,” says Sophomore Jayna Cole.

A group of people dedicated to preserving the final art piece created an atlas. Roland Rytz created the code, and Stefano Haagmans manages the website. The atlas can be found here: https://place-atlas.stefanocoding.me/

Place was a memorable collaboration of all the things that make the internet the internet. It was, as the name suggests, a place for communities and memes, and it will be remembered.