Millions of people go to Craigslist in search of all kinds of things: a futon, an apartment, concert tickets, a job, new love.
Now, in Los Angeles â€” often described as a city with no center â€” three artists are using it to create a sense of community.
Kate Balug says she and her collaborators are interested in examining how Craigslist â€” as ubiquitous in L.A. as cars and smog and cell phones â€” uncovers the shared interests of people who, on the surface, have little more in common than geography.
"Typically people don't talk about Craigslist, because it's almost like breathing," Balug says. "You need something, you go online."
That common behavior, Balug says, brings Angelenos together in a virtual give-and-take, where wants and needs are met with the click of a mouse.
Balug and her colleagues, Melanie Wider and Chris Reynolds, set up ThanksCraig.net in part as a way to highlight their work. And to a certain extent, the site is still a means of self-promotion.
But it's also an experiment aimed at reintroducing the "virtual neighorhood" that's grown up at Craigslist to the physical landscape of the city.
Three Projects And A Frame
Each artist created a project â€” Balug's Walk a Mile, Wider's Imâ€¢migrant and Reynolds' The Fortune Cookie Project â€” involving "virtual communication leading to physical meetings with Craigslist users."
Simultaneously, the artists created big, handmade posters that they've been pasting up around Los Angeles. Each has one question on it: "What has Craigslist done for you?"
The point? Simple, really. There's blank space. The artists want people to fill it up. They want to see how L.A. residents react, given the opportunity to say anything.
Sometimes, the posters get torn down. And the contributions on those that remain aren't always PG-rated.
"Thanks for the sh***y jobs and the crazy roommate," Wider read one morning. "Thanks for the high-quality ridiculous cheap s***."
The profanity didn't faze Reynolds.
"It's also very interesting to see no one signed their name," he says. "It's just like Craigslist!"
Craigslist creator Craig Newmark appreciates how the artists are using his site to bring people together.
"We need a lot more of that in our culture, because we've grown apart from each other as people," Newmark says.
So can Craigslist be that center that so many people say L.A. lacks? It just might get people thinking about what the word "community" means to them. And that, the artists say, is a crucial first step.