Carnegie Mellon University now has a vending machine dispensing short stories | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Carnegie Mellon University now has a vending machine dispensing short stories

click to enlarge PHOTO: O. ALEXANDRE
Photo: O. Alexandre
A few months ago, a new type of vending machine was introduced on Carnegie Mellon University's campus. But instead of dispensing Doritos or Coke, the machine dispenses short stories.

The machine, made by the French company Short Édition, is the first of its kind in Pittsburgh, but have already cropped up all across France, the U.S., and other countries around the world.

Located in the Cohon University Center, the machine at CMU allows visitors to press a button to dispense a short story written by either a professor in the English department, or an international writer selected with the help of Short Édition. The machine dispenses the story on a receipt-like, biodegradable paper, and uses inkless technology to print the words. It's something like those tiny libraries found tucked in neighborhoods, but for the digital age.

"It's sort of an interesting thing to catch on, because everyone's always on their phone, so you wouldn't necessarily think that they'd necessarily be interested in reading a piece of paper that they have to go get out of a machine, but there is some sort of attractive nature about it," says Nick Ryan, business manager in the CMU English department. "Our goal is to see if there's other places around Pittsburgh where it might be applicable."

The stories and poems vary in length, but are generally a minimum of 50 words and a maximum of 1,500. Technology within the machine shows that it's already had thousands of visitors.

Ryan says that the combination of humanities and technology in the machine makes it a perfect fit for CMU, hoping that it brings a bit more attention to the school's writing program.

"Carnegie Mellon is known for a lot of things, perhaps not always humanities and the English department, and so it makes me happy in the role that I'm in to see it getting some attention for the English department, which is an equally strong program, but maybe doesn't always rise to the PR level of robots on the moon and things like that."

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