Laptop stickers are a means of subtle differentiationFlickr - Steven Cooper

It’s not uncommon for a stint in the library to involve almost anything other than the actual task at hand. At Sidgwick Site, whether you’re spending hours gazing out at the CUCFS dress-rehearsal that apparently takes place at 9am every day, planning your avoidance of the Buttery queue, or engaging in our trusty, undefinable friend, ‘admin’, there is always something to do to justify the not-doing. 

A method of procrastination that I’ve taken to recently is pondering the myriad ways in which my fellow library-dwellers choose to decorate their laptops. People make a conscious choice to adorn this essential accessory with something that will inevitably attract many a wandering eye, and yet these stickers often go undiscussed. What’s more, the sheer number of glowing apples that light up the library in the winter months seems to be an impetus for people to distinguish themselves from the crowd. The laptop can be turned from corporate symbol or practical work tool into an expression of the self. ‘It’s not that deep’, I hear you cry. Determined to prove the opposite, I took to annoying every sticker-clad laptop user I could find to discover the story behind the stick.

“I’m kind of a Star Trek fan”Matilda Strachan

“I have some from random places that I’ve been: Venice, Jackson Hole, Wyoming…it’s a totally random assortment of locations, stickers…Cambridge obviously. I’m actually a student from the University of Chicago, so I’m here for a year, and I got the Cambridge sticker so that when I go back it’ll be a reminder of my year here. I’m a philosophy student, so I have dumb philosophy jokes. And I’m kind of a Star Trek fan. Oh, and the American political humour as well – you can tell by the accent that that’s relevant. I don’t really have much of a selection mechanism for my stickers, I just kind of find ones that are funny and amuse me. I guess [using stickers] is like wearing a clever t-shirt or something. You’re wearing it in a kind of manner that asks for attention but you’re also not soliciting any kind of conversation about it.”

“It’s just a statement of my fandom for Radiohead”Matilda Strachan

“Radiohead are my favourite band. I think I bought the CD of In Rainbows pretty much when it came out, and just sort of had it lying around for a long time. It’s just a statement of my fandom for Radiohead, really. They’re very important to me, I’ve seen them four times. I guess [people use stickers] because it’s a very corporate thing in itself, like, a laptop…there’s not much expression in it. Like, how people put blue-tac over their webcams and stuff, it’s almost anti-authoritarian. But that’s not really why I have a Radiohead sticker on my laptop.

[More of a homage to your favourite band?] A homage, yes.”

“Women in comedy is quite an issue in Cambridge, so that’s kind of just a pride thing”Matilda Strachan

“So, these two [left] are from a show I did at the ADC, it’s an hour of female character comedy – I think it’s just a brilliant idea. Obviously, women in comedy is quite an issue in Cambridge, so that’s kind of just a pride thing. It was also publicity at the time, just getting everyone to slap everything with stickers. It’s a similar thing with this one, for FNTM arts festival: we just got given stickers to slap everywhere so that everyone knows about it. I think laptops are a great way to do it because people look up in the library, and I know I get really nosy about people’s stickers. [My laptop] is quite a small little guy so he was quite boring – I don’t know why I’m calling it a he. I’ve never done that before. These two [top] I got from an art gallery in Brussels during ETG [bottom right, European Theatre Group], it was this unmarked art gallery, and we had no idea what was going on there. It was actually quite scary. But when we left they gave us these stickers, so I was like, fair. The rest of them are just little decorative things I got from my college wife, just to make bright.”

“It’s tongue in cheek, but it makes me laugh”Matilda Strachan

“I got this one [top left] for signing a petition for change.org to go to the Houses of Parliament about the UK’s responsibility for child migrants and refugees. I think it’s quite a good thing to be hated by the Daily Mail, because I kind of hate them. This [bottom left] is just a sticker I got doing this coding course, I just put it on so I didn’t lose it. And then this [bottom right] is a record store in New York, and the sticker always makes me laugh, cause it reminds me of when your parents get really cross when you’re playing loads of music in your room, and the store kind of rides on that, playing stuff that should be making your parents cross. So it’s tongue in cheek, but it makes me laugh.”

“It’s Death Wish Coffee. It’s very good coffee. It’s supposed to be the strongest in the world. But, it’s just really nice coffee.” 

You can’t win them all.

With thanks to everyone who took the time to speak to me

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