An interactive map and media-archeology project comprised of “Missed Connections” animations based on stories posted anonymously to the Craigslist subforum.
In 2020 the Missed Connections section of Craigslist feels like a vestige of a more quaint era of the internet. The subforum, setup by Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster, is extremely popular even in the modern era which has seen a proliferation of online dating sites.
On the subforum users are encouraged to create personal ads in response to fleeting encounters with another anonymous party whom they are hoping to establish contact with. The ads are often posted by individuals who may have had a brief conversation on a subway platform, or interaction in some public space: often one party may have simply noticed the other and is hoping that they were recognized too. The posts are often sexual in nature, and alternate between romantic, pathetic, creepy, and propositioning. Additionally, there are many ads posted by people who believed they were wronged in some way, and are hoping that the offending party sees and reads their post, against all odds, and that the disagreement is thereby made right in some cosmic sense.
I view this project in the vein of media archeology, preserving some of the more interesting and candid personal ads for posterity, as the ads are removed from the site after a short period of time and do not remain archived in even the most basic sense. Creating an interactive map of these stories allows an audience to explore their city and see what type of stories unfold in which neighborhoods. I envisioned this as an ongoing project that archives the fleeting, typically one-sided relationships of the anonymous subway riders and dog-walkers across the city, thereby documenting the evolving community of users to one of the more endearing artifacts of the early web.
The interactive map was created using the Google Map API, and the animation assets were created as vector art and animated in After Effects, Adobe Animate, and Character Animator, utilizing text-to-speech software for the voices. Visitors to the site are able to click on map markers and an animation is viewable in a pop-up window. Visitors to the site are likely to encounter the project by virtue of residing in an area where personal ads have been mapped, but hopefully others will find the material compelling as well.
There have been modern apps which have attempted to monetize “missed connection” types of encounters based on GPS data, but for a variety of cultural reasons none of these have secured a wide audience, and none are poised to retain the lasting legacy of Missed Connections. To date there have been several adaptations of the Missed Connections section of Craigslist, including Missed Connection themed comedy club nights and even a live-action film, but I don’t feel that any preceding mediums have interpreted the material in a readily accessible catalog such as an interactive map, nor do they offer the absurdist context that animation can provide. Beyond that, these are ultimately brief postings, and the nuanced sentiment can easily be lost in a complex production which might seek to highlight them in a format incapable of retaining their simplicity, which is where I feel this project excels.