Text the Mayor Project
Frequently Asked Questions
What is this project?
The Text the Mayor project is an art installation in Ithaca, NY. A scrolling LED message board (similar to one that may be located in a business window) is installed in the Mayor of Ithaca's office. Metal signs around Ithaca explain the project and provide a phone number to which people can text. Anyone, at any time, can send a message to the phone number that will show up instantaneously on the LED message board in the Mayor's office. When a new message is received it will overwrite the old. An archive of previous messages sent is available on this website.
Why hang this in the Mayor's office?
This project is based on a previous art installation called The Public Sign (Soapbox). With that project, the LED sign was hung in a window so that participants could see their own message appear on the board. The phone number was displayed below the LED sign. The aim of that project was to allow anyone to anonymously text a message and have it publicly displayed. Its intent was to make people think about issues of free speech and public speech in the US, and provide a platform for such.
The Text the Mayor project hopes to give people a direct link to their local elected officials, similar to other forms of electronic communication and social media, while using an actual piece of hardware in the Mayor's office. This project seeks to highlight the same free speech ideas as the last one (you can write anything you want), as well as reflect on the purpose of, and the public's link to, our elected officials and representative government in general. Finally, it hopes to be an actual communication tool used by the public to better the local Ithaca community.
Who decided to do this, or, is this some PR stunt?
The artist approached the Mayor's office with the idea for this project, with the goal of creating a socially and politically relevant piece of public art.
Is my government paying for this?
All of this project, including the LED message board, all explanatory metal signs, and the website, has been solely funded by the artist out-of-pocket. The sign in the Mayor's office uses an existing internet connection in City Hall. It also uses a small amount of electricity provided by City Hall.
What personal information is being recorded?
Your phone number and text message are automatically entered into a database. Only the text of your message is displayed on the LED sign. Your message along with the date and time it was sent are displayed on this website. Your phone number is never publicly displayed, given out, or sold.
Are messages reviewed before they are displayed?
Messages are sent to the sign automatically and without prior review. However, if a threatening message is sent, the recorded phone number may then be used to handle any security concerns in an emergency.
How does it work?
When a text is sent to the phone number's account, an email is generated and sent automatically to the artist's website. There, a server side script processes the email and strips away irrelevant information, then stores the date, time, message, and phone number in a database, and converts the message into code the LED sign can read. It then transmits this message directly to Ithaca City Hall's local area network. City Hall's router directs the incoming message directly to the LED sign's IP address, which then displays it until the next message is sent.
Will the Mayor respond to my text?
There is no guarantee the Mayor will be in his office at any given moment to see your message (though a record of it is kept on this site). The phone number is not linked in any way to the Mayor's actual office or cell phone. For yet more direct communication, you could call the Mayor's office (contact information is given below).
Is this really art?
Yes, it is.
My question wasn't answered. Who can I ask?
You can email the artist using the email provided on his website here
. You may also contact the Mayor's office here