A phenomenon of Reddit’s r/Place

Reddit’s r/Place shows that you must be a member of a group to have a voice online.

Since April 1st, millions of Reddit users have joined their forces to create a massive, collaborative piece of artwork that has gone viral.

Over 6 million users had placed nearly 72 million tiles by Sunday night, at a rate of more than 2.5 million tiles per hour.

The four-day experiment that was r/place has come to an end, but those unfamiliar with Reddit culture may have been perplexed by seeing “r/place” pop up in their Twitter feeds and as trending hashtags for a while.

This event is a social experiment, a game, a prank, and a microcosm of one of the strangest, but most common, websites on the internet. Anyone who is interested in the event can watch it unfold in time-lapse, but they may want to understand some key points.

R/place is not a new phenomenon, and 2022 marked the event’s second occurrence. R/place was first introduced to Reddit on April Fool’s Day in 2017 and looked nearly identical when it reopened in 2022, except that it quadrupled in size.

reddit r/place
reddit r/place

How to get involved with r/Place?

You don’t need a Reddit account to view the canvas, but you do need to be logged in to lay your own tile.

Any single person’s ability to dominate the canvas is hampered by the five-minute wait time. Users collaborated and formed coordinated communities in order to create collective works of pixel art on a 4 million pixel square grid by changing its color to whatever they wanted.

Christopher Torres, the creator of the Nyan Cat and a pixel artist, has made several contributions to Place.

It’s kind of addicting to try to protect the piece you’re building. It’s like a turf war, but it’s a social statement, too. Like, we need to defend this little penguin here in the corner from this guy throwing purple spots at it.

Users can now add anything they want – memes, pictures, icons, and logos – instead of just changing the color of a pixel.

To make the larger image into anything legible, Redditors will need to work together, which they’ve done in the past to create complex collages of varying icons, flags, and other works.

reddit r/place
reddit r/place

There were a lot of flags taking up space on the r/place canvas for a website that has many more subreddits than just those dedicated to individual countries. Massive subreddits like r/trees and r/ukraine started their campaigns early, collectively filling the space with a large marijuana leaf and Ukrainian flag respectively. R/starwars users recreated an entire movie poster. 

R/Place activates a certain tribalism in people that makes them scramble for any symbol that gives them a source of identity and plaster it onto a big, meaningless map.

Annie Rauwerda, writer, Input Magazine

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