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May 13: Carnegie Mellon Professors Launch Billboard Featuring Overheard Conversations

Contact:

Eric Sloss                   
412-268-5765                
ecs@andrew.cmu.edu

Carnegie Mellon Professors Launch Billboard
Featuring Overheard Conversations

billboardPITTSBURGH—The long-defunct billboard structure on top of the Waffle Shop building has been redesigned into a large, analog Twitter account, presenting overheard conversations from the restaurant and art space below. Instead of seeing a typical commercial advertisement, passers-by now see a set of custom-made letters with only the sky as the background, creating a live marquee that can change on demand. The concept is the brainchild of Carnegie Mellon University professors Jon Rubin, an associate professor of art, and Pablo Garcia, the Lucian and Rita Caste Chair and an assistant teaching professor of architecture.
      
The Waffle Shop, a performance space of Carnegie Mellon's School of Art, is in the East Liberty section of Pittsburgh at the corner of Baum Boulevard and S. Highland Avenue.
      
"The billboard functions as one more way of broadcasting the conversations and ideas that are catalyzed by the Waffle Shop's open talk show format. It's almost like a thought bubble for the building," Rubin said. "The new design takes the 'board' away from the billboard and the visual form seemed to nicely reflect the more poetic and personal nature of the statements it will support."
    
Instead of seeing a typical commercial advertisement, passers-by will now see a set of custom-made, hand-cut letters that float on rails with only the sky as the background, creating a live marquee that can change on demand.
    
The billboard's first message, taken from an eight-year-old guest on the Waffle Shop talk show, reads: "People think I'm a ghost. I don't know, it's really hard to tell. I'm kind of like a ghost, and I might be invisible."
    
The first several messages will feature overheard conversations from customers visiting the Waffle Shop, while future billboard posts will include 120 character biographies, micro-resumes of locals looking for work or conversations overheard at area businesses. Messages will change on a regular basis.
    
"The billboard is an interesting twist on our current preoccupation with the digital broadcasts of a person's thoughts," Garcia said. "It seems familiar in its Twitter-like format, but is inserted into the public realm disguised as a familiar advertising venue."  
    
The billboard is made possible by generous support from East Liberty Development Inc., Sota Construction Services Inc. and We Do Property Inc.

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Pictured above is the long-defunct billboard structure on top of the Waffle Shop building in East Liberty that is now being used to display overheard conversations with custom-made letters.