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Forgot Password? Already Subscribed? Create a now. Christine Rosen. C lassified advertisements are a catalogue of our quotidian desires. As such, they offer a unique glimpse into our culture — and an affirmation of the complexity of human interaction.

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In her book Strange Red Cow and Other Curious Classified from the PastSara Bader examined classified from the eighteenth century through the present, and found that although circumstances change you might forget your spectacles on the stagecoach rather than the local bus, for examplethe human need to buy, sell, barter, and connect through advertisements is of long standing. The title of her book comes from one of the more unusual she found in the Pennsylvania Gazette :.

The owner may have her again, on proving his property, and paying charges. Classified even have spawned their own scholarly studies, with fittingly turgid titles such as The Discourse of Classified Advertising: Exploring the Nature of Linguistic Simplicity. The most popular online ad site is Craigslist, which grew out of an e-mail list of local events started by San Franciscan Craig Newmark in Craigslist now hosts classified for more than one hundred cities in the United States, as well as cities in Latin America, Canada, Europe, Asia, and Africa.

The de of the site is starkly utilitarian, reminiscent of the earliest days of the Web, with straightforward lists of links for users to peruse, free of any apparent graphic de or glitter. Because Craigslist is free, it also seems to be undermining the traditional revenue stream for print newspapers from their Classifieds sections — something that, in media interviews, Newmark seems intermittently tortured about.

Like traditional classifiedthe listings on Craigslist showcase a wildly diverse range of needs and wants. The site is organized into and sub — Community with sub for Childcare, Lost and Found, and Events, for example ; For Sale; Housing; Jobs; and Discussion Forums covering everything from haiku to politics. The site even hosts a bartering section, where people trade everything imaginable. Craigslist includes traditional personal — men seeking women, women seeking men, and so forth. You usually get on or off on 49th Street. Does anyone know the girl with the pink iPod????

The fact that thousands of timid people pine away online while hoping that, serendipitously, the objects of their interest are themselves sufficiently lonely to troll around on Craigslist looking for themis a great and sad testament to the power of hope.

Another subcategory of the Craigslist personals section is for bolder individuals. This part of the site has recently received attention for facilitating prostitution. Internet surfing is fast replacing streetwalking as the preferred method of finding customers, and tech-savvy prostitutes now regularly advertise their wares online. Law enforcement officers across the country frequently place false on Craigslist to catch johns seeking sex, and numerous local law enforcement agencies have broken up prostitution rings by answering on the site.

Delving into Craigslist would keep a sociologist or perhaps a behavioral psychologist busy for years. A recent documentary film, 24 Hours on Craigslisttracked down the people behind Craigslist postings in San Francisco on a randomly selected day. A suburban professional woman assembles a diabetic cat support group. A couple seeks the perfect rabbi for their marriage. A would-be mother finds her ideal sperm donor.

Doors for sale, one night stands, compulsive roommates, transsexual erotic services. Judging by the majority of the postings on Craigslist, what users most want and need is great real estate and lots of sex. Erotic services aside, Craigslist is something of an anomaly in the dot-com world. It pours money into a Craigslist Foundation that trains leaders for work in the non-profit sector. Even its address bar icon — a purple peace — als a distinct point of view. The people on our site expect other people to be trustworthy and good, and that works out really well.

But online communities face peculiar challenges. Communities, after all, can only thrive when trust is a shared value among members and when violations of trust are not widespread, or are effectively penalized. Unlike other online sites such as eBay, Craigslist has no reputation-ranking system to assess the trustworthiness, let alone the identity, of its users. Anyone can pretend to be anyone and sell just about anything.

Since Craigslist is not legally liable for the misrepresentations of those who place on the site, and since it has fewer than thirty employees monitoring millions of advertisements, users assume a certain level of risk with every one of their transactions.

Examples of fraud on Craigslist abound. In a few notorious cases, the risk has Personals ads me off while i Sandy you far beyond swindling. A nineteen-year-old man had placed the ad, and when Olson arrived for an interview, he killed her and stuffed her body in the trunk of her car.

She pled guilty to burglary and malicious mischief, but claimed the whole thing was a misunderstanding. Still, as appalling as these sinister but thankfully rare examples are, there are Personals ads me off while i Sandy you many people who take solace in the sense of community they find in their interactions on Craigslist. Craigslist is less a genuine community than simply a new kind of counterintuitive brand. It is a hive of micro-capitalism, with people buying and selling from each other — and scamming each other, too.

But until we understand more about how social behavior is altered by the medium of online technology, a better mantra might be caveat emptor. Fall Projects Journal Blogs Books. About Subscribe Search in.

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About Us Contact Praise Donate. About Us. Subscribe today for early access to new articles and subscriber-only content. Subscribe Today. Unclassifiable Commerce, Community, and Crime on Craigslist. in or Subscribe Now for audio version.

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