Pointing Out Something Personal

by Alyssa Geisler

Blogs and vlogs (or video blogs, sometimes called v-blogs) have not been a staple of the media for very long, but no one can deny their stronghold in communication today. As this line of easily accessible self-expression continues, what will evolve next?

The subsequent form is a movement described as “a kind of geographical blogging” by the Washington Post called Yellow Arrow. According to the web site, yellowarrow.net, Yellow Arrow is “a global creative community making a new M.A.A.P. of the world.” The movement’s version of the word map stands for Massively Authorized Artistic Publication.

Members of Yellow Arrow, called MAAPmakers, purchase yellow arrow stickers on the website, each with a specific code that can be sent by text message to Yellow Arrow’s number in New York. Arrows point out locations where the MAAPmaker wants to share a hidden detail, a secret, a story, or a thought. They set a message to go with their sticker on the website, and those who find the arrow and text the code will receive that message. The system creates a sort of ever-growing alternative tour of a city or town created by people who want to share something personal with strangers through their arrow. (This is sometimes called a mob blog or a mobile blog.)

The movement has now expanded to include what Yellow Arrow calls TXTshirts. These are trendy looking cotton t-shirts with a design featuring the yellow arrow. Each t-shirt has its own individual hand-drawn code on it. The TXTshirts work in the same way the stickers do. The idea is for the wearer to change the message that goes with his t-shirt’s code through yellowarrow.net every time he wears it.

Yellow Arrow even has extended projects in some cities, such as New York, Berlin, Copenhagen, and Helsinki. For example, in New York City, large 3D arrows were set up in some locations, and if you sent the code, the arrows actually played an audio recording about the place where they were left. Some have been left up since the summer ended.

Yellow Arrow’s message isn’t one about cities or tours though. MAAPmakers want to express themselves, as the M.A.A.P. acronym suggests. The t-shirts and stickers emphasize the arrow poster and their message more than the location. And the relationship of the anonymous writer to the anonymous reader is intriguing. Who knows, maybe you will read a message from one of my arrows someday, and neither of us will ever know.

(Photo courtesy of Martin Wisniowski from his blog "thinking on digital tools.")

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