Reflection: Philosophy, Preservation, and Polandball

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started out in this class.  Most of what I’d dealt with before in the digital preservation world revolved around the digitization and preservation of historical assets, and much of that work dealt primarily with the mechanics of preservation rather than the theory and philosophy behind the field.  I’m not sure I even realized there was so much depth to digital preservation, though that seems silly to say now. I’ve been truly engaged and excited about the conversations that took place both in class and on our blog. The course has pushed me to rethink how I perceive not just our field, but also evolving digital culture.


Perhaps the most surprising element of this course was discovering the flexible, evolutionary quality of digital art and mediums.  It is exceptionally common for archival students to approach digital curation with a traditional mindset.  That attitude can be useful at times.  However, it impairs the way that we conceptualize born digital files, and I learned that is especially true about digital art. Unwittingly, I’d become accustomed to the idea that file integrity was everything and, while not always perfectly ‘static,’ the goal was to maintain the file as closely to the original as possible. While we’ve certainly looked at that issue inside and out, I’ve also taken away the idea that preservation of these born digital materials is much less rigid than I’d believed.  Instead, files can be manipulated to create beautiful new masterpieces.  These same files can transcend their own platforms to live on in other formats using new mediums for their evolution.  Perhaps the greatest question we pondered was- what is the preservation copy, and do we really care about it anyways?  Is the original file so important to begin with?  Sure; if we can save everything.  But if we can’t (and won’t), what is more important: the origin of a piece or the final product?  I don’t know about you, but it’s a very liberating way to view digital curation.  Instead of obsessing about the purity or authenticity of an item, its meaning and context becomes paramount.  

Preservation Polandball Poster
Preservation Polandball Poster

As others have already mentioned here, context is everything.  Early on, when I read articles on preserving gaming worlds and communities, I had a really difficult time understanding the importance.  It didn’t seem like art to me, and it felt silly…juvenile even.  So, naturally I went on to preserving Polandball (insert a giant, hardy LOL here).  What I found was that digital art is assigned meaning by its community.  It’s in the conversations that blossom from the catalyst of the art.  If one seeks to preserve digital art, they would be amiss to pass over the community behind that art.  


Preservation without context is meaningless.


Another reassuring and helpful tidbit I took from the class was the art of capturing representative samples.  The AIP assignment pushed us to recognize the practical limits of digital curation. We can’t save everything.  If you’re like me, you’ve heard that a thousand times while in our program.  We know it intellectually, but it’s an entirely different thing in practice.  When dealing with physical objects, it’s fairly apparent when you don’t have enough storage to accommodate a collection or when an item is severely damaged past the point of reasonable preservation.  Yet, I think we often don’t “see” the same kinds of limitations in digital curation despite the fact that we talk about it on a regular basis.  I know I frequently fell into the kind of assumption that because we can grab so much more with digital preservation that selection and acquisition is not as difficult a task. Not so true after all.  While we can certainly push the limits of preservation to new places, we are still not capable of saving everything (I’ll keep repeating it to myself for retention).  Instead, the AIP forced me to make educated decisions about what was realistic to keep and how I should go about doing so – both tasks equally challenging. I had to balance grabbing enough of the art to demonstrate the reason behind a community’s existence and enough of the community to demonstrate the importance of the art.  Furthermore, I had to choose tools which were capable of sufficiently grabbing the material, preserving context, and guessing as to how well those tools could survive long term preservation and future conversion.  What a great challenge!


As far as things that I now question after having taken the course, I’d like to better understand the technical aspects of digital preservation.  There were moments where I felt my “techie” skills were not deep enough to make educated decisions independently.  While we’ve talked about the importance of collaboration with information technology professionals, I think it’s important for digital curators to have a strong grasp on what’s technologically possible.  Furthermore, I would really enjoy delving into public surveying in order to better evaluate and serve a user community.  This could be an extremely useful tool in our field which I haven’t seen discussed much before this class.
All in all, I’m delighted I took this course!  I am confident I’m a better information professional for it, and I know way more about inappropriate national stereotypes than I did before!


Preservation Polandball: Archival Information Package

Herein lies the obscenity laden banter of Germanyball, Swedenball, Americaball (‘MURICA!), and all your other favorite national stereotypes. With the understanding that I would never be able to capture and preserve Polandball in its entirety, this AIP is an attempt to preserve just a small sliver of Polandball materials and culture.  The aim was to grab enough documentation from major Polandball sites, including the structure of the sites, the guidelines surrounding Polandball creation, and discussion amongst Polandball users to accurately represent its culture.  Additionally, I wanted to preserve the comics which in many ways become supplementary to the actual discussions that take place.  

The file structure of my AIP is fairly self apparent.  My AIP contains three top level folders (Webrecorded Sites, Supplemental Materials, and Selected Comics) with an introductory “read me” file containing several additional documents describing Polandball (using items such as Wikipedia’s Polandball page for a more popular descriptive source)  and the preservation intent for the collection.  In doing so, I hope that the user will understand the significance of the collection as well as its organization.  

Preservation Polandball File Structure 1

Webrecorded Sites

As indicated in the Preservation Intent Statement, I decided to use Rhizome’s webrecording tool to capture the structure of Polandball’s three major community sites: Reddit, Facebook, and Wikia.  I also saved PDFs, PNGs, JPEGs, etc. of the sites as a way of maintaining some quality assurance.  Should the code not render properly, the static images of site will help interpret the material more accurately.  As part of preserving the sites that have been recorded via, I’ve included the webarchive player so that the code can be rendered using the necessary tool.  Obviously, this could become a problem in the future as the tools and platforms evolve, but for now, at least the player is included. One major note on the utilization of the webrecorder tool: the idea behind using this tool would be to browse each page captured as much as possible in order to record the most material.  Otherwise, it’d be just as worthwhile to simply save the webpage as html.  However, the examples included in this AIP are limited given the time constraints of the project.  They stand as a prototype of what would exist in the full AIP.

Initially, I planned on using an annotation tool (Hypothesis) to add context to the material recorded.  However, Hypothesis annotation did not work well on images, and did not seem to download well as part of webrecorder.  My notes did not appear to display correctly.  If I were to have saved PDFs or JPEGs (or PNGs) of the annotation, it would have distracted from the item to be preserved as it would dramatically alter the presentation of the item. I would have to save the annotated PDFs separately from the material already being preserved.  This is a great issue to tackle in future Polandball preservation efforts as there could be tremendous value in describing the historical/political context for the conversations happening on Polandball.  However, the annotation tool didn’t seem to flow well with the overall AIP for this particular project as my goal was to capture pieces of the Polandball world instead of augmenting them.  Furthermore, in order to sufficiently annotate the conversations happening through the Polandball community would take an enormous amount of time and scholarly research which was outside the scope of this project.    


Supplemental Materials

One of the most important items to preserve from the world of Polandball were the rules and boundaries as defined by its users and moderators.  The most elaborate and well defined set of standards was outlined on Reddit and has been included in the section.  This also includes the FAQ, the statistics of use, as well as the “joke life preserve” which documents punchlines, themes, and techniques which have either been banned or temporarily retired due to overuse.   As was done in the previous file, the pages have been recorded and the code stored.  PDFs have been included for quality assurance.

The conversations that I’ve had with Polandball users have been of immense importance to this project.  With every interaction, users have emphasized the critical nature of the Polandball community conversation.  In this file, I saved some of those conversations between myself and the users as well as PDFs of the activity in chat rooms.  Because these were conversations that took place outside of direction relationship to the comics, I’ve saved them in supplemental materials rather than inclusion with the comic materials.

In addition to materials produced by the user community itself, I wanted to add external commentary and the reception of Polandball in popular society.  For this reason, I included articles written by unaffiliated journalists about Polandball.  Of all the pieces in my AIP, this is the section I would likely remove for copyright purposes.  I’m not certain as to how preservation copyright would operate on an international level.  Given that some of this material is through international magazines/newspapers, I suspect the rights to preservation would be limited.  Nevertheless, I’ve included them here until further action is taken with the AIP.  To preserve these articles, I took my now standard approach: storing the WARC and creating control images of the article.


Selected Comics

The goal of this section of the AIP was two-fold: preserve the comics in order to retain the artwork itself but also to capture the community conversation in its natural environment.  The substantial conversations between Polandball users do not happen in a void.  Rather, they develop following the spark a comic ignites.  Preserving these conversations is no easy task as hundreds of comments can springboard off a single comic based on its content.  Furthermore, preserving the comics in their entirety would literally be an impossible task as no one knows precisely how many exist.

I took a practical approach to the task.  Ideally, a series of ten comics would be selected from the opinions of Polandball users using a survey.  Given the time constraints of the project, I selected ten myself from comics mentioned in conversations with individual users and from those highlighted on Reddit and Wikia (the two sites of the three I’ve preserved that are most focused on the original intent of Polandball itself).

Preservation Polandball File Structure 2

In order to preserve the comics and their commentary, I took a three pronged approach.  I wanted to grab the conversation as it developed alongside the comic.  The most likely site to find well organized and thriving conversation was the Polandball Reddit.  Therefore, I once again used webrecorder to capture the code for each of the ten comics’ pages along with control PDFs.  In addition to this, however, I also saved the comics by themselves.  Where the WARC and the PDFs will help preserve the conversation, the images of the comics are rather small unless expanded through a link.  Because I wanted to maintain the selected comics just as much as the comment threads, I saved the larger versions of the comics separate from the commentary.



Despite the fact that this AIP contains such a small slice of the Polandball world, it’s enough to capture the essence of Polandball as it currently exists.  The comics and the culture continue to evolve, but these few files are a snapshot of this moment in time.  If given the opportunity, I’d like to see Preservation Polandball grow and refine.  In order for the AIP to be archived in something like the Internet Archive, I’d want to explore annotation with scholarly sources and description attached, permissions granted from all journalists and news outlets whose articles are included in the AIP, and a true survey done to collect the most important Polandball comics (hopefully a larger sampling!) according to the community.  Yet, heretofore no efforts have been made to preserve Polandball at all, so we made progress.

Polandball can into archive, but still cannot into space

Preservation Intent: Polandball

The Polandball community is far more than just a set of juvenile cartoon fanatics doling out racist jibes for a few giggles.  Behind the crude little bouncing balls and their foul mouthed banter is a conversation that extends to the most difficult of current affairs.  A perusal of Polandball’s Reddit threads will demonstrate this point clearly.  In one of Polandball’s latest featured comics, “ISIS makes a bomb,” the comments quickly turn to a discussion on America’s current election cycle, the appeal of Canada to Americans given the tone of current affairs, policy towards ISIS, and who should be responsible for the destruction of the terrorist group.  The comic features ISIS building a bomb before being blown up by the device due to excrement landing on a trigger button from an American bald eagle flying overhead.  The rudimentary comic which could easily be dismissed as arcane and immature is a launch pad for users who embrace irreverence in the face of what are often terrifying world affairs.

What to Preserve?

Polandball users are the first to acknowledge the potential for incivility.  This is evidenced by the header for the comment threads on Reddit (the most active of Polandball user sites) which is “Flair up before commenting, don’t take Polandball seriously, sit up straight and eat your vegetables.”  Surprisingly, users seem to take these words to heart…well, I don’t know about the vegetables part.  The vast majority of the conversations on Polandball threads remain calm and often evolve into a respectful dialogue.  This open conversation is the heart of the offbeat community, and something which die hard Polandball fans will highlight as one of the most important things to preserve.  As Polandball moderator ‘CupBeEmpty’ said when asked about preserving the comic,


“Obviously the comics are hugely important, the characters, the jokes, the inside jokes that you have to ‘be part of the community’ to get, etc. However, a lot of people are really drawn in by the comment sections. They appreciate the international flavor and getting to joke about national stereotypes and politics without it being bigoted or hateful. Also, a lot of our ‘tropes’ and jokes about countries arise in the comment threads and sometimes make it into actual comics later and some jokes from a specific comic become tropes in comment threads over and over.

We have a lot of very well known commenters that don’t submit comics and some very well known artists that don’t comment that much.”


Bearing this in mind, it is essential to capture both the comics as well as the comment threads which accompany them.  In a perfect world, we could gather up all of the comics and comments to preserve the essence of the Polandball community.  However, with an unknown amount of Polandball comics, this would prove to be a difficult, if not impossible, task.  Another important element to capture are the aforementioned rules surrounding Polandball.  Believe it or not, there are in fact a firm set of canonized rules   governing the Polandball community. Additionally, items such as the “Joke Life Preserve,” which archives a list of jokes that are banned, are important in order to capture the boundaries of this world in which the users operate.  These ground rules are almost exclusively enforced on Reddit, but that is where the majority of the community participates in Polandball culture.

The Polandball community is not isolated to one website.  Instead, users frequently bounce (pardon the pun) from one site to the next.  Sometimes these sites feature the same comics, but not necessarily and not always at the same time.  When asking Polandball users about important sources to capture for preservation, they mentioned Polandball’s Reddit and Facebook pages as well as Polandball Wikia.  However, a Google search of Polandball will yield results not only including the aforementioned Reddit, Facebook, and Wikia, but also active pages on Imgur, Tumblr, Know Your Meme, Funny Junk, and its very own website.  There are approximately 12,000 results for Polandball on YouTube despite the fact that animation of the comics is explicitly verboten according to the almighty rules.  To put the icing on the pop culture craze, there is even a site for purchasing Polandball plush toys (…my birthday is in November).  

photo-original.png (1536×1152)

As no one in the Polandball community mentioned the store specifically, I think we can put the plushies aside a moment when we look at preserving the comic.  Furthermore, as animation of the balls is outside of the canon accepted by the most cohesive body of users, we can discount preserving the bounty of YouTube videos as well.  Since the current stakeholders are the Polandball users, it is appropriate to defer to their already chosen outlets.  Besides the few users with whom I exchanged messages, the most commentary and submissions occur on the Reddit page; perhaps the best live chat can be found on the Wikia along with a vibrant flurry of activity; Facebook provides familiar and direct interaction with the community at a level where commentary is less likely to be buried.  Each of these outlets has certain peculiarities which are valuable for documentation as well.  I must admit that I would not preserve the Facebook account if I were archiving for myself as they permit submissions outside the perimeters set forth by the majority of Polandball contributors.  That being said, the stakeholders are the ones guiding the preservation process.

Preserving Comic & Commentary

Ideally, each identified website hosting Polandball materials would be fully documented, captured, and saved. However, this is nearly impossible to do. Likewise, given the size of Polandball’s collection, future users may not have the ability to sort through each comic and commentary. Also, how does the digital curator attempt to continually preserve such a vast and complex amount of files?

Instead, I recommend taking a tactical approach. Web documenting tools such as ArchiveIt can be really useful for grabbing content from an entire website at one moment in time. However, these tools can also be cost prohibitive. For Polandball, I’m going to test out Webrecorder, an open source tool recommended by Dragan Espenschied with the Digital Art Conservation Program at Rhizome. Webrecorder is a fairly new tool which makes the task a little more challenging. The goal is for Webrecorder to do essentially what it’s name indicates- run through the websites and record every detail down to live links. Webrecorder then packs the data for the site into WARC code for preservation.

Sounds neat and easy, right? Yes, but no. The data from Webrecorder is dependent on a platform existing which can still read and render the code. There’s no guarantee that the code will display in the original arrangement in the future either. Furthermore, Webrecorder offers no context or value to the preserved material. There’s no explanation of why any of it’s important or how the jokes fit into the larger political context. Also, there’s no curated content representative of the essence of Polandball.

That’s where the need for screenshots comes in. It is, of course, possible to grab the images and commentary on their own individually, but I believe it’s important to capture the environment in which Polandball thrives. By screen capturing the threads, chats, and conversations alongside the image, I believe future users will better be able to gather relevance from the art.

Lastly, Espenschied also suggested using an annotation tool to highlight specific items in the collection and create context for future users who might need to orient themselves within the Polandball world. While hesitant to inject too much of myself into the preservation and description, I believe there’s value in this if documentation can be added regarding the events to which the comics are referring or relevance as described by users.

The Plan

Moving forward, the task to preserve Polandball consists of:

  1. Use Webrecorder to capture Polandball’s Reddit, Facebook, and Wikia. Save WARC with additional file describing what the code is and from where it originated.
  2. Screen capture 10 of the most significant Polandball comics and conversations as defined by users and media outlets. These will be saved in a separate file with descriptors as well.  As the majority of Polandball is licensed under creative commons, there should be no issue when it comes to preserving the comics in the face of copyright laws.
  3. Annotation will be added to the screen shot material to give additional context and insight.

These techniques will effectively capture the core of Polandball as it stands today. Naturally, the comics and user base continue to evolve. However, its current users are very excited at the prospect of saving the material and are eager to share opinions on the topic. Because of this, I believe we’re well on our way to a cost- effective preservation plan for the fundamental pieces of Polandball.


Shaping Our World Through Digital Photos

I took my five year old twins to the park the other day, and we had a blast.  As Lennon climbed atop the playset (cast and all), she shouted down to me, “Take my picture, mommy!”  Each time I rounded a corner, camera in hand, my other twin, Carys would stop and strike a dramatic pose.  My children have been trained by the digital camera.



Then again, I suppose I have been too.  Within moments of snapping my girls’ photos, I slap a few Instagram filters on them and upload to Facebook.  Accordingly, the photos receive another 35 ‘likes’ in a matter of minutes.  It’s my way (and much of society’s way) of saying ‘look how adorable/great/smart/special my kids are!’  Facebook and other forms of social media have become the new wallet from which we pull our kids’ photos to brag.  As Elizabeth Losh explains in “Feminism Reads Big Data: “Social Physics,” Atomism, and Selfiecity,” digital photos and social media have allowed us to continue the analog scrapbooking tradition into a new digital era.


Digital Photos in Society

The ways in which society interacts with and participates in digital photo culture extend beyond mere scrapbooking, however.  J. Good’s article “How many photos have ever been taken?” indicated that by 2011, humans had taken over 3.5 trillion photos.  The number of photos has risen exponentially since the evolution of inexpensive and easily accessible digital cameras.  Digital photos have become an integral part of our social experience in the 21st century.


Silly Girls


Losh examined the phenomena of selfies through the Selfiecity project which aggregated approximately 3,200 images and compared them for similarities and emotional connections.  While Losh had some criticisms of the project especially when it came to gender considerations and time limitations of the study, Selfiecity allows for a provocative conversation on the culture of selfies and its ubiquity in society.  Can you estimate how many selfies you’ve taken or been apart of?  I know I can’t.  Just as taking pictures of my little ones on my cellphone is a natural part of my routine, I don’t often think about snapping a selfie (or more likely an “us-ie”).  It’s part of our common cultural expression.  And it’s not just Millennials creating and propagating this culture.  Losh also points to the use of selfie expressions across popular culture, even permeating into the political sphere.  Not only do these examples grant some sort of legitimacy to the practice of taking selfies, they cement the notion that this form of self expression isn’t going anywhere.  


So why is the digital self portrait so undeniable?  Just as my five year olds love cheesing it up for the camera, the human race loves to have our story captured.  We also love to be able to portray our story in a manner we control and shape.  Selfies grant us the ability to literally frame our stories just as we want them.  We choose what we want the world to see.  We choose what the message is when we snap the selfie and say “I was here!”    


Digital Photos as Artwork

Perhaps the most important part of our obsession with the digital image is the idea that we can manipulate the image to make it uniquely ours.  Digital photography, editing, and sharing is a participatory act which makes the image malleable.  Analog photography always allowed for manipulation of a photo in the editing room.  However, editing tools such as Photoshop and MS Paint have permanently changed the way we interact with the image.  L. Manioch in “Inside Photoshop and the artists in Is Photoshop Remixing the World?  Argue that Photoshop is the evolution of the paint brush.  An image can be transformed and recreated again and again, giving birth to new worlds out of previously static images rooted in reality.  


The artists and designers in The Rise of Webcomics harness both the idea of digital image creation along with interactivity, pulling in users for their contributions as well.  One of the most profound points in the video is the idea that these webcomics are given life and released in a digital ecosystem that has no gatekeeper.  Because of this, the webcomics and artwork are intensely unique and personal, just as the flood of selfies we take are.  This intimacy between the artist, their work, and the users allow for the formations of communities around oddball, cult favorites that might not have found an outlet in traditional print (POLANDBALL!).    




Digital Photos, Authenticity, and Copies…so many copies…

Until I read Catherine C. Marshall’s “Digital Copies and a Distributed Notion of Reference in Personal Archives,” I don’t believe that I gave the replication of my selfies and children’s photos much thought.  I didn’t question which copy was the authentic version because the main purpose for the exercise is to create and share the photos as quickly as possible.  What do I personally rely on to back up my reference copy?  I back everything up in the cloud, of course.  Yet, Marshall reminded us that we shouldn’t be so confident in the integrity and infallibility of the Cloud.  What happens when these files are corrupted or lost altogether?  What version of the photo do we then consider to be the authentic or even the most valuable?  Thanks to digital photo editing, our images can be tweaked and transformed countless times each time it’s replicated.  As alluded to in Is Photoshop Remixing the World?, there is no true authenticity when it comes to digital art and photos (wouldn’t Lowood be delighted?).  Marshall concurs in that we should focus on what version of the file we’d like to reference and perhaps save in perpetuity rather than the idea that the original file carries some sort of mystical quality.  It isn’t necessarily true in the brand new digital world.  Instead, we continue to mold and shape our vision of the world from the moment we click the camera to the editing decisions made through every iteration of the file.


So, here are some questions as we move forward:

Losh discussed women in relation to selfie culture.  Is it empowering for women, or is it another culture based around exploitation?  

Based on Marshall’s article, what can/should digital preservation professionals do to guide users on making sound decisions when it comes to their personal archives?  Is this a responsibility that we owe as a field to the greater community?

Polandball: Preserving Profane Squiggly Balls?

“Polandball is about wiggly mouse-drawn comics where balls represent different countries. They poke fun at national stereotypes and the “international drama” of their diplomatic relations. Polandball combines history, geography, Engrish, and an inferiority complex.” -


Polandball is anything but refined and polite art.  With its crudely drawn lines and fractured English, the comic is a flurry of political incorrectness on an international level.  Reading through the insensitive dialog assigned to these bouncing balls representing classic stereotypes of various nationalities, one is reminded of South Park or Beavis and Butthead, cartoons which thrived in a similar manner.  Just as South Park has been derided throughout its run as a juvenile and thoroughly offensive cartoon, on the surface Polandball seems to appeal to an audience bent on the utilization of obscenity and low brow humor.  

Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones by MisterWhizzo, 3/19/2016
Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones by MisterWhizzo

Created in 2009, Polandball began as a pointed jab following a disagreement between German users of the site towards Poles in the same space.  One of the popular original cartoons mocked Poland’s absence in the international space coalition, a smack in the face for Poles emphasizing the nation’s greatness and proud history.  The joke carried forward until there were balls representing most nations interacting with one another in common stereotypes as they navigate current international relations as well as history.  There are many subreddits dedicated to individual nation balls now. Much to my delight, there is even a subreddit solely focused on the relationship between the states in the US (my Reddit logo is actually a Virginia ball).,100):origin()/pre01/95d4/th/pre/f/2016/033/0/9/virginiaball_by_propagandastamps-d9qa7d3.png

Polandball in no way veils its offensive quality.  The creators and users of the comics make no apologies for its deliberate racism and insensitive jokes ranging from Poles depicted as inferior in both language and intellect to the nuclear bombing of Japan to America as a megalomaniac sociopath.   Yet many within the Polandball community express an affinity for the comic that transcends the apparent foul mouthed simplicity of the cartoon.  For the 187,692 users, Polandball represents an opportunity to discuss international relations without the censorship of political correctness.  The comic substitutes laughter and levity for fear and anger.  To be sure, there is a measure of aggression beneath the jibes.  Yet as the comic expanded to include a plethora of nation balls, users also engage in regular national self-deprecation.  Though not a contributor or real member of the Polandball community, I can’t pretend as though the American comics aren’t my favorite in the series.  Why?  Because for so many, it’s a healthy release valve to laugh at oneself and the chaotic nature of national/international politics.  Additionally, because the community allows for active participation and creation, users can engage with these sensitive topics in a manner which is palatable, understandable, meaningful, and humorous way.  In other words, Polandball remains a personal expression of international angst using humor as the vehicle for uncertainty and helplessness.

You might think to yourself- Polandball must start uncontrolled fire fights within and without the community.  That’s what I thought as well.  Naturally, there is a fair measure of controversy regarding the foul little nation balls.  Initially, there was a fair number of Polish journalists such as Wojciech Oleksiak who found the comics to be a little bruising to the ego.

“Polandball is the story of one guy creating a worldwide phenomenon by making fun of another guy, creating a new format of expressing one’s views on nationality, race, language and recent history along the way. Why did it become so successful? Maybe because the basic rules that apply to Polandball offer every creator a good basis for developing a funny story, yet offering very few restrictions. The stories can be rude, impolite, racist, abusive, or just plain dumb. Their disrespectful stance towards political correctness makes much of their attractiveness. They are the embodiment of the Internet par excellence.”- Wojciech Oleksiak  

However, other media commentators enthusiastically took the side of the user community noting the cathartic nature of the comics.  Popular opinion outside the community has gone back and forth over the value and relevance of Polandball.  The users themselves seem to enjoy the humor of the comics instead of railing against the impolitic nature of its content.  It might surprise outsiders when they venture into the Reddit world of Polandball to view the comments on each comic.  Firstly, the variety of nations represented in the user base demonstrates the aforementioned catharsis of self deprecation.  Individuals from countries being portrayed frequently comment in positive tones on their country’s representation in a given comic.  Secondly, many users will contribute advice and praise to the creator of a given Polandball comic.  Ways to improve the representation of a nation or how to tweak dialogue are common lines of discussion.  

However, more meaningful conversations emerge from the silliness as well.  For example, in the popular trending comic “Surf Around the World,” the Japan ball is depicted unenthusiastically surfing past a radioactive sign while other nation balls gleefully hit the waves.  This reference to the 2011 Fukushima radiation leak which polluted much of the water surrounding Japan and its neighbors provoked a much more thoughtful thread of comments in the midst of wisecracks.  User ‘vanderZwan’ wrote “Apologies for going “actually”, because it’s a good joke, but it sincerely bothers me people still freak out over Fukushima, yet everyone forgets the part of the tsunami disaster that actually killed people” and linked to an article in the UK newspaper The Telegraph which talked about the apparent short sightedness of the world’s sympathies.  In too many posts to list, a submission will spawn a lengthy discussion amongst users on the historical precedence for a post opening up threads on everything from the fall of Rome to the evolution of world languages through time.  One need only peruse the comment threads for a short while before realizing that Polandball holds much more significance for its user community than a few short chuckles following racist quips.  


“Obviously the comics are hugely important, the characters, the jokes, the inside jokes that you have to ‘be part of the community’ to get, etc. However, a lot of people are really drawn in by the comment sections. They appreciate the international flavor and getting to joke about national stereotypes and politics without it being bigoted or hateful. Also, a lot of our “tropes” and jokes about countries arise in the comment threads and sometimes make it into actual comics later and some jokes from a specific comic become tropes in comment threads over and over.

We have a lot of very well known commenters that don’t submit comics and some very well known artists that don’t comment that much.” -Polandball Moderator ‘CupBeEmpty’ on preserving Polandball

So why preserve Polandball or the user community around it?  Since 2009, the world has seen the mass upheaval of governments in the middle east, the rise of ISIS, increased aggression from former superpowers such as Russia, a plethora of man made and natural disasters, and game changing elections across the western world.  The status quo which many took for granted has been at least questioned or wiped away entirely.  Polandball captures commentary on these moments outside of the cacophony of mass media reports and mainstream dialog.  The cartoons allow for comic relief on these subjects while the embedded discussion permits users from around the world to voice their opinions on what is happening on the world stage and what brought human history to this point.  The Polandball world is characterized by the juxtaposition of irreverent mockery and thoughtful inquiry.  It’s importance to the user community is immediately apparent as one explores the comments stretching across the 7 years of its existence.  This is one of the places where those who do not have a voice in the mainstream go to discuss the world’s most frightening and mind boggling events in a safe environment amongst their counterparts across the globe.  Furthermore, the importance of preserving this world for those beyond the community is evident as well for similar reasons.  In 100 years, historians searching for the “every person’s” take on the early years of the 21st century will not look to Politico or The Huffington Post.  Instead, they will comb the archives of social media outlets such as Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit.  These are the forums of the world’s inhabitants.  It is where our voices are captured bit by bit.  What seems like poorly drawn lines with crude captions might be easily dismissed from afar, but for its users and for future historians, Polandball is an essential time capsule of the international human experience in the 21st century.