My personal Web 1.0 experience was not enlightening until it was in retrospect. At the time it was mostly centered around a community of hidden hangouts for dark hearts and lonely kids. Livejournals of poetry and webrings full of quotes and references to art we identified with and were secretly hoping like hell that others did too. Geocities and Angelfire sites were proof that people like me existed, and I was allowed to join them in any way I wanted to. That said, it's not much of a surprise that I find myself in the boat with those who are trying to sail away from their digital closet at full steam.
As the web expanded and shined a light into all of our little corners standards were set and the grit and grime of persistance towards half-working out-dated bits was cast off. The thought that a project could be "under construction" indefinitely was replaced with uniform visuals, templates that allowed you to start and finish a representation of yourself with just a few words. With this need to streamline and integrate I found myself forgetting that I was once more than a pre-determined format. As the network du jour created automatic links between myself and everyone I'd ever known IRL I stopped looking for others. I accepted the community I was told was mine, and watched it passively as it become increasingly similar to every other community. My friends in real life were my friends on Facebook were my friends on Instagram and Twitter and Youtube.
And then I moved 2,000 miles away. The digital environment I had so carefully constructed and handed over to automatic maintenance no longer reflected my life. Everything was backwards. I didn't recognize anyone in person and everything familiar was online. To manage my anxiety due to constantly being surrounded by strangers I looked at faces less. I started to notice stickers on the backs of signs and in tiny spaces. Characters that I'd see again later in another colorway or neighborhood. As I started to recognize these characters, it became comforting. I found myself looking for them, getting excited to see them interact with each other as artists collaborated and mixed designs. I have always been interested in traditional graffiti and street art, but stickers offered something more. Like basic DIY websites, they put the power of having a message heard back in anyone's hands. For me, our static websites similarly offered a place to make a personal statement publicly. Anyone could dare to take up space out in the open, and by customizing the estethitic of that message we in turn lended ourselves to the very fabric of our environment.
I recognize that by allowing myself to stand in my uniqueness and start a conversation with others about it I healed in ways that someone like me might not have ever been able to otherwise. An intangible community is no less a resource for encouragement, inspiration, and collaboration as any other. That's how I feel about street art, and stickers in particular. Stickers allow artists to get back to the root of graffiti, replicating a message and weaving it into their lives whereever they are able to reach. Sticker artists are afforded the time to craft a message, or create an image, and utilize an almost infinite number of resources before turning it over to the collective conscious of their community without ever signing their name.