Guest article by Lindsey Moringy
Has anyone ever told you that you have the personality of a lamp post? Well that might not be such a bad thing anymore!
A new project called Hello Lamp Post Austin enables residents to have in-depth conversations with objects and local treasures around town – everything from parking meters to buildings to Treaty Oak. For instance, on Thursday, City Hall (the building itself, not a representative) and I were discussing Austin’s biggest claim to fame. I suggested our longest-running music television program “Austin City Limits,” while City Hall was thinking more along the lines of breakfast tacos.
How Hello Lamp Post Works
Wondering how Hello Lamp Post actually works? “Street furniture” such as mailboxes and even Austin treasures ranging from Barton Springs to the Stevie Ray Vaughan statue have unique codes that allow them to be “woken up.” In order to start a conversation with any object, all you have to do is text the Hello Lamp Post phone number with that object’s code from any phone. Pre-existing identifier codes on the city’s infrastructure allow this project to easily expand beyond downtown, into other parts of the city.
There are three simple steps to participate:
- Choose an object and find the code (which can be a combination of numbers and letters).
- Send a text message to the Hello Lamp Post phone number, 512-580-7373, in the format “Hello (TYPE OF OBJECT) #(CODE).” For instance, to talk to City Hall you would say “Hello City Hall #301w.”
- The object will start asking you questions via text message, and sharing things other people have said (anonymously, of course!).
Different pieces of “street furniture” will ask participants different questions. The more people who participate, the more these objects will develop personalities, continuing to share stories and answers they have heard before. Asa Hursh of Art Alliance Austin says, “Objects have personality based on the type of object they are. For example, lamp posts like to talk about light and dark or night, whereas mailboxes might prefer to discuss correspondence and relationships.”
Players can wake up as many objects as they want, and return to those they’ve previously held conversations with to see how their personalities have evolved. According to Hursh, “the more you talk to an object, the more personal the questions become because the relationship is progressing, just as it would when two people interact.”
Hello Lamp Post comes to Austin to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Art in Public Places program. The City of Austin Cultural Arts Division of the Economic Development Department and Art Alliance Austin commissioned the project from London-based designer PAN Studio. It was originally developed in 2013 for Watershed’s Playable City Award in Bristol, UK, where 27,000 text messages were sent to 1,133 objects over a period of eight weeks.
The project will run for a period of 10 weeks in Austin, including during SXSW where it is an official art project this year, sponsored by the Downtown Austin Alliance. An official SXSW event will take place on Tuesday, March 17th (more details to come).
So why does it make sense to bring Hello Lamp Post to Austin? According to Hursh, “This project breaks through traditional ideas of public art and artist by better integrating designers and technology. This is important as we move further into the 21st century and I think it helps to place Austin on a path that other world-class cities have taken with this integration.”
Austin has a strong presence in the technology industry, as well as the creative scene. A project such as Hello Lamp Post merges those two entities and calls on Austinites to share their stories and opinions, giving a voice to the city’s infrastructure. Interactive public art such as this enhances the city for locals and visitors.
Hursh points out, “This project brings together a lot of different partners: the city, art organizations, technology organizations, public/private hybrids, the university and of course SXSW. We’re hopeful that this collaboration is the genesis of a long dialogue and many more partnership among all of these players.”
For More Info
Hello Lamp Post kicked off last Thursday with an event at Republic Square Park, and will run through April 27, 2015. If you want to get started by texting a few of the places mentioned in this article, use the codes below:
- City Hall: “Hello City Hall #301w”
- Barton Springs: “Hello Barton Springs #7665”
- Stevie Ray Vaughan Statue: “Hello Stevie #1954”
For more information on the project and how to participate, go to hellolamppostaustin.com.
@theAustinot wants to know:
Have you texted Austin’s street furniture through the Hello Lamp Post project?
Lindsey is a native Austinite who loves all things local. In her spare time she enjoys running around Town Lake, eating Tex-Mex, and writing bios about herself.