Uh-oh. Tweets have just grown from 140 characters to seven stories. Digital-media students at Philadelphia's Drexel University have found a way to turn the microblogging messages into 36x62-foot animations projected onto the surface of a campus building. That's a whole lot of tweet.
Using the "Social Graffiti" system, anyone can digitally tag Twitter messages with @digmGraffiti to be projected onto Nesbitt Hall. Drexel seniors Matthew Morton and Chad Porche then combine the tweets with their own animations (shot in 1080p HD), and broadcast the images onto Nesbitt via a projector located on the fourth floor of a building across the street.
Morton and Porche developed the system (essentially a custom-made Twitter application built using the open-source Twitter API) for their senior project as a way to combine architecture, design, and technology--and explore the reach of social networking. Cara Schroeder, Burak Ozmucar, Kurt Gawinowicz, and Kerry Russo also contributed to the project.
Anyone with a Twitter account can send a message to the building, but if their tweet contains profanity or other words or phrases that trigger a third-party filtering system, the entire message gets deleted and never sees the light of night.
That said, "we think it's very important to let anyone and everyone participate to promote an open forum and freedom of speech," Porche told CNET. "One of our goals in this project was to bring the Drexel community together, and keeping this system open to the public helps us achieve that."
In particular, the students from Drexel's Westphal College of Media Arts & Design like the idea of using the mega tweets for university announcements, communicating with fellow students, and news updates. As such, they added keywords to their database that are specific to the Drexel and local communities.
Messages so far have ranged from job-hunting tips to random thoughts like, "We need a statue of Big Willy in Philly! Will Smith and Ben Franklin are the essences of Philadelphia!"
The individual tall tweets stay up on the wall anywhere from 8 to 12 seconds, with built-in default messages filling the void when the queue gets empty.
Those in the Philly area who aren't too Twitter-averse can catch Social Graffiti on display through Sunday at Drexel's Nesbitt Hall at 33rd and Market (animations are best viewed around 9 p.m., the creators say). Hey, as long as we don't start seeing tweets like "I'm bored" and "I just blew my nose" appearing on the side of buildings, we're really OK with this.