The Center For Missed Connections
The Center for Missed Connections (CMC) is a body of work comprised of multiple parts: beautiful infographics, maps, “citizen’s field guide”, and installation. These pieces are all visual manifestations of data pulled from Craigslist’s Missed Connections (MC) section. Though Ingrid Burrington created versions for 5 cities, her most widely known and viewed dataset was collected from the 5 boroughs of New York City. Burrington has worked on the project for two years, pulling information from Craigslist daily to create her visualizations. Her data visualizations are broken into five categories: the superlatives, taxonomy, distance, location, and who is seeking whom (e.g. w4m, m4m, m4w, or w4w).
Superlatives are depicted by a colorful pie chart. Segments include descriptors such as handsome, pretty, sexy, and cool. The segments of the chart are further broken into categories like ‘fucking beautiful’, ‘hot as hell’, or ‘seem cool’.
The Taxonomy of Missed Connections is shown as one would generally see classification of species in a scientific text. These groups are categorized by ‘Relations of Missed Connections Posters to Subjects,’ followed by strangers, not strangers, and other. The flow of the chart continues on to show where the missed connection took place, like a concert, strip club, or sporting event. Burrington makes sure that the data represented reflects the specific nature of the Missed Connections posts; the chart lists specific types of grocery stores: bodega, “organic”, and all others. The viewer is also shown the ‘Degrees of Missed Connection’ as well as ‘Reason Connection [was] Missed.’
Distance, location, and who is seeking whom are all depicted by various maps of the given city, with specifically colored pins to denote what each indicates. For the installation of this work, Burrington utilizes the ‘seeking’ map of New York City. Pins in pink (w4w), orange (w4m), blue (m4m), and green (m4w) are used to show where the MCs have taken place. The map is drawn directly onto the museum wall with graphite and colored pencil. Specific sites are highlighted with diagrammatic text bubbles that hold the MC post that corresponds to that pin.
This body of work starts with the question “what is the loneliest place in any given city and how can I measure it?” Doll, Jenn (2011, Nov. 11). To find the answer, Burrington turns to Craigslist and dives into the lonely, horny, sad, romantic world that is the Missed Connections section. At this point, the project turns from pinpointing where the loneliest place in the city might be, to where the most missed connections occur; though it is arguable that these are not mutually exclusive locations. She looks to highlight what causes people to be posters to Missed Connections:
“Burrington has created an untraditional piece of work that experiments with and questions our understanding of illusion and reality, blurring the two, while also offering an honest commentary on this phenomenon of communal loneliness and need for human connection in our country. This “outreach initiative” provides a critique of the way in which we communicate, date, relate, and experience loneliness and one another.” Zinn, Madeleine (2010, Mar. 27).
“You are in the world, in a city, somewhere crowded and vibrant, full of people. And you are alert with an awareness tempered by the wonderful, unspeakable loneliness of being among strangers… Missed Connections are the embodiment of one of the major lures of cities and urban centers: they are a temporary engagement with a total stranger in uncertain, finite intimacy.” Burrington, Ingrid (2010, Mar. 27).
“CMC is a critical look at this delusional approach to interaction, and acknowledges the irony in our attempts to establish contact via Missed Connections with those we wish to engage in reality, but actively choose not to.” Zinn, Madeleine (2010, Mar. 27)
This work is an important survey of how members of society choose to deal with loneliness, and how the internet plays a major role in the search for connectivity. Though these people are ultimately seeking the physical company of another person, their first step is to turn to an internet resource to bring them together with that other person. It is an interesting way to view how we depend on the network. The Center for Missed Connections also reveals who is relying on this method the most: young men seeking women, aging from their late 20’s to early 30’s, mostly traveling by train. Burrington, Ingrid via Jenn Doll (2011, Nov. 11). It is curious that this is the demographic that uses MC in New York City the most. It is also intriguing that only 1% of the posters were women seeking women, particularly out of the ~1000 posts Burrington sifted through per week. This information leads to more questions regarding how the lonely sector of society operates.
In a few interviews, Burrington has mentioned that the point of this piece was not to single out the demographic of “conscientious, overeducated, excessively groomed, well-to-do young urban professionals,” Burrington, Ingrid (No date). a group which Burrington admits she probably fits into. It is important that, though this work focuses on a particular element of the internet, heavily utilized by the above demographic, that it is not specifically tailored to those people. It is about all of the lonely people of the area of study. “It's this crazy mishmash of people. It's not really meant to be satirizing any one group.” Burrington, Ingrid, via Jenn Doll (2011, Nov. 11). A lot of art created tends to be polarizing, leaving out one group or another, yet the CMC is inclusive of everyone; loneliness affects everyone.
During 2009, another artist in NYC was working on a project focused on the city’s Missed Connections; Sophie Blackall began illustrating the content she found scrolling through the MC posts. Unlike Burrington, Blackall is interested in connecting people through her work. Burrington compares her work to Blackall:
I'm not really that interested in being a matchmaker or a detective. I think the posts are a symptom, not a cause, and once you start engaging with the posters, it gets tricky. To me, this is predominantly a geography project. One of the comparisons that comes up is to Sophie Blackall's illustrations of Missed Connections project. She's interested in the stories, and she's awesome, and I'm more interested in the sum of those moments. Burrington, Ingrid via Jenn Doll (2011, Nov. 11).
Burrington comes at the project from a scientific, analytical perspective: where is the loneliest place in the city? Whereas Blackall is interested in the humanitarian aspect of these posts; she wishes to share the love, loss, regret, and hope present in these posts through her illustration.
Another work that can be compared to the CMC is ThanksCraig.net. In this work, three Los Angeles-based artists, Kate Balug, Christopher Reynolds, and Melanie Wider, collaborate to create largely blank posters which they paste in various locations around the city. These posters ask the passer-bys “What has Craigslist done for you?”
Though many of them were left blank or torn down, some of them gathered comments along the lines of “Thanks for the shitty jobs and the crazy roommate,” and “Thanks for the high-quality ridiculous cheap shit.” Anonymous Poster, via Skye Rhode (2008, July 30). This collaboration was inspired by the ubiquitous usage of Craigslist in Los Angeles and the artists’ intrigue regarding how communications that take place on this online platform lead to face-to-face interaction, which is not the case with most online interactions. This relates and differs to the CMC; both are concerned with people utilizing the online resource, Craigslist. Though one focuses on the fact that people are brought together by this, the other casts its gaze on those that long for that interaction yet they have missed out on it.
The Center for Missed Connections was part of the following exhibitions:
- Pratt Manhattan Gallery, 2010.
More about Ingrid: