Reddit has just relaunched its popular social experiment Place – AKA r/place – but what is Reddit’s Place and how does it work?
Reddit is continually changing and evolving its platform, adding new features, and removing older ones. But one of the most significant changes to occur inside Reddit recently was the revival of r/place – or Reddit Place, as it is also known.
What is Reddit Place?
Reddit Place is a collaborative project, a social experiment if you will. Reddit first launched r/place way back in 2017. But it was recently reactivated on April 1, 2022. The “project” is basically a blank online canvas that is located on a subreddit called r/place. Users can join this community and make changes to the canvas on a pixel-by-pixel basis which updates in real-time, creating an ever-changing piece of digital, community-created art.
Once you’re a member of r/place, you can change the color of the canvas palette – you have 16 color options to choose from. Each user can only place and/or edit one pixel. Once they’ve done this, a timer kicks in which prevents them from making any further changes. And the purpose? I have no idea. Reddit says it did it first as a way to show off Reddit’s culture and spirit of collaboration.
The Revival of Reddit’s r/place
On March 28, Reddit confirmed that it was bringing back r/place for a limited time. The new r/place launched on April 1, 2022, and was scheduled to run for four days, so r/place will be closed from April 4, 2022. During its first incarnation, over 1 million users edited the r/place canvasand when it was taken down there were over 90,000 users actively editing the canvas.
How Does Reddit’s r/place Work?
Basically, r/place is a massive online canvas; when it launched it was empty, but there was plenty of space for Reddit users to make their mark. The r/place canvas contained one million pixels, and each user was able to edit a single, individual pixel. In the end, what we got was a chaotic mix of ever-changing colors. But there were attempts to create something meaningful inside r/place.
As the popularity of r/place developed, brands and online communities attempted to drum together their supporters to create meaningful images and branding inside r/place. The theory went like this: if you have millions of people in your subreddit, you can get them ALL to start creating and editing inside r/place with a view to taking over the canvas with a user-generated image of your choosing.
Before r/place closed its doors the first time, several works of pixel art were created by warring communities, ranging from things like fictional characters and internet memes to patriotic flags, LGBT flags, and recreations of famous pieces of artwork like the Mona Lisa and The Starry Night. And all of these were created using the power of Reddit’s communities. Pretty impressive, right?
What’s The Point of All This?
The over-arching theme – or point – or r/place was fairly simple: what happens when you give millions of people control over something that can be edited and augmented in real-time? What will be created? And how long will it take? Will people work together to realize a collaborative effort, or will human single-mindedness win out? As social experiments go, r/place was pretty damn interesting when viewed from this perspective.
Place is what happens when you give the internet a blank canvas, a hive mind spewing its collective conscience onto a pixelated piece of Reddit real estate. Studying the mesmerizing timelapse of its creation offers a lesson in diplomacy and democracy, in creation and destruction, in war and peace. And of course, no representation of web culture would be complete without a Rickroll: If you look closely you will find a QR code in the top-left corner, which leads to the video for Rick Astley’s 1987 hit Never Gonna Give You Up.
The images inside r/place changed constantly too; you could spend hours looking at it, seeing how it was evolving. It was actually really cool, even if it did start out life as a kind of April fool’s joke. The success of the OG r/place, however, was undeniable, so it was only a matter of time before r/place was relaunched. This happened in 2022, on April 1.
Out of all the social experiments that have taken place on the internet, I think r/place is one of the coolest. I cannot think of another social experiment that demonstrated so visually what the hell would happen if you gave millions of people complete access to a blank canvas? The results speak for themselves.
For instance, thousands of people worked together to recreate some of the world’s most famous pieces of artwork, other groups – like LGBTQ campaigners – used r/place to raise awareness about their causes. In the end, r/place proved that people, even in large groups, could work together to create something in unison. Of course, being Reddit, there was also plenty of arguing and trolling. But that’s to be expected.
Richard Goodwin has been working as a tech journalist for over 10 years. He is the publisher and owner of KnowYourMobile.