Consumption: The Future of Digital Collaborative Art
With the development of the internet, many of our everyday hobbies and even our jobs become accomplishable through the internet. Sometimes, these transitions make sense, such as the fact that setting up a meeting through the internet is more convenient compared to meeting in-person. However, sometimes, they could be very surprising or unexpected. One example of this is within art, specifically collaborative art. Art itself has been around for millennials. Some of the most well-known artworks created by famous artists have been displayed in museums or have been auctioned for millions of dollars. Thus, fifty years ago, it would be very difficult to believe that one with little to no experience in art could create magnificent art pieces through the internet. Even today, we are amazed by what art could become once artificial intelligence has been added along with it, such as when an AI-generated artwork ended up winning an art contest, thus sparking debates on what constitutes art.
Although making virtual art individually is already impressive, what shocks me the most is the existence of collaborative art projects done on the internet. One of the most popular examples of this is the creation of r/place, which is a crowdsourced art project hosted on a social media site called Reddit. Within this project, users are able to place a pixel on the screen every few minutes, creating different types of artwork on a single canvas. This project originally started off as a social experiment as well as a joke, since it was launched on April Fool’s day. However, the project became so successful that it was relaunched a second time in 2022 and multiple influencers have attempted to recreate this project as spinoffs.
Especially since this very successful project started off as a joke and is very simplistic, there are many improvements that could be made as well as many downsides of it. This could be best seen through the circuit of culture, which is a study that focuses on the representation, identity, production, consumption, and regulation of artifacts in relation to their culture. In this specific context, it is very valuable to analyze the consumption which emphasizes who the consumers are, how the artifact is accessed, how the artifact is being used, and the meanings behind the artifact.
As mentioned earlier, r/place was originally designed as a social experiment, thus the creator produced this artifact for the purpose of analyzing how users interact to create art online. Part of the reason why the consumption for this project is so high is because of its accessibility. In order to participate in this project, a Reddit account is needed, which is not only free but almost anyone could make one, as long as you follow the website’s terms of service. Thus, as long as someone is 13 years or older as well as having access to a computer and the internet, they could place pixels down. Additionally, the cooldown timer between placing pixels allows users to continuously participate in the project without significant destruction by online trolls.
Despite the regulations in place and the high consumption of this project, it also comes with many setbacks. Since this project is held on Reddit, a site that is more popular for the younger population, it does not capture the full representation of art. For example, a very large portion of the artwork is composed of memes or images that teenagers would be more familiar with. Thus, the elderly or any population groups that are not as active on Reddit do not get a significant amount of representation. Furthermore, many individuals have realized the importance of “strength in numbers,” leading to the largest communities getting more representation compared to the smaller communities. In some cases, these large communities, such as those following a particular Twitch streamer, may purposely demolish artworks for fun. As a result, the project that could have resulted in different styles of artwork that represented many different communities may be subjected to internet griefing.
Nevertheless, r/place displays the potential of collaborative art on the internet and gives groups a way to represent themselves. Artists no longer have to physically meet with other artists to create paintings that limited people could see. People from around the world can bond together and create stunning pieces of art which anyone can see. There are so many ways in which this project could be developed further. Not only could its user interface develop, such as adding more colors, expanding the canvas to even more pixels, or moving to a site that is accessible to an even greater population, but it could change its complete functionality, thus transforming internet art. For example, rather than creating pictures on the screen, the project could eventually lead to collaborative game development or collaborative film development once these pixels become animated. The possibilities could be endless. Furthermore, the creation of these paintings, games, and films could become much cheaper, faster, gain more visibility, and offer the perspectives of many different passionate individuals, even if they are not artists. This is not only advantageous for the producers, but it would be advantageous to the impatient audience as well, leading to even greater consumption.
Even though the continued development of these projects in art, games, and film could ultimately reduce the need for real artists who enjoy working with physical supplies and canvas, it will not completely replace these artists. At least for now, it is much easier for artists to paint exactly what they want and add different elements (such as texture) through a physical environment rather than a virtual environment.
In all, the futuristic internet does not have to be entirely made up of novel ideas. Instead, we could also base new internet projects off pre-made internet projects, and make them even better or more applicable to the real world. If a simplistic project turned online collaboration into an art masterpiece on a digital canvas, who knows what online collaboration could accomplish in regard to upcoming movies or game graphics in fifty more years?
Childs, Andrew. 2022. “How R/Place – a Massive and Chaotic Collaborative Art Project on Reddit – Showcased the Best and Worst of Online Spaces.” The Conversation, April 4, 2022. https://theconversation.com/how-r-place-a-massive-and-chaotic-collaborative-art-project-on-reddit-showcased-the-best-and-worst-of-online-spaces-180662.
Gay, Paul Du. 2003. “Introduction.” In Doing Cultural Studies: The Story of the Sony Walkman, 1–5. Los Angeles Calif., etc.: Sage, 2003.
Lorenz, Taylor. 2022. “Internet Communities Are Battling over Pixels.” The Washington Post, April 4, 2022. https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2022/04/04/reddit-place-internet-communities/.
Stewart, Jessica. 2022. “AI-Generated Artwork Wins Contest and Sparks Fierce Online Debate.” My Modern Met, September 8, 2022. https://mymodernmet.com/ai-generated-artwork-win/.