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Students: Loker Light Board Is Not Such a Bright Idea

By Ariel R. Frank

Although the production manager of the Memorial Hall/Lowell Hall complex calls the blinking signs in Loker Commons "light emitting diodes," some students simply call them annoying.

"[The signs] are random and painful," says Peter Y. Lee '98.

"Psychedelic and pointless," adds Stephanie N. Misono '98. "It's trying to be too trendy."

According to Brian S. Yankee, the production manager, the light emitting diodes--the three-color, 120-foot sign that runs over the food shops and the 7x10 foot wall at the east end of the commons--are designed to be lively and expressive.

"The signs are contemporary versions of the stained glass upstairs in Annenberg Hall," he says. "We're hoping students will think of [them] as a means of artistic expression, a conduit for creative output."

One of Yankee's duties is to determine what text and graphics will appear on the signs. The current display includes passages from Alice in Wonderland, the preamble to the Constitution and two students' poetry.

In addition, students and student groups have submitted an average of four to five messages each week since the commons' December opening, Yankee says.

Several students say they have found distracting the crisscrossing words that skitter across the long sign.

"When they do stuff that crosses, that's just wild," says Luis J. Mendoza '98. "It can mess up your vision."

"It's real painful," says Mark W. Kennedy, a second-year graduate student at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies. "But that's all right."

Which is exactly what Yankee believes.

"[The crisscrossing words] are not just for a message, but the text itself becomes art," he says. "It is supposed to be difficult to read."

Philip J. Parsons, director of planning for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, agrees that the signs are not meant to be read.

He says they are designed to create visual excitement and they represent something deeper about our society.

"Putting words up on a [screen] is ephemeral, but it's also risky," he says. "We're very frightened today of making statements that will last forever. There's all kinds of risks involved in having something like this as opposed to words cast in stone."

But Parsons says the large screen is not as bright and clear as it should be, a problem that will be fixed in a couple of weeks.

Once the display is repaired, it will be able to display animations and graphic designs made by visual and environmental studies concentrators, Parsons says.

"[I want to see] really wacky, interesting, crazy student involvement," he says. "Where's the imaginative edge in this community? It's exciting to see that expressed."

Although many students eating lunch in Loker yesterday seemed wary that the screen would show fuzzy pictures forever, some of them echo Parsons' optimism in the sign's capabilities.

"It looks like it has potential," Kennedy says.

*** LITE BRITE ***

Question:

Which of the following best describes your opinion of the electronic banner in Loker Commons? 12%  I' love the sign. 32%  The sign's fine, but I'm getting sick of Alice in Wonderland. 32%  I hate the sign. 24%  Don't know/no opinion.

Source: Crimson Polling Unit, 100 Students

Source: Crimson Polling Unit, 100 Students

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