12/12/08

It’s a reality

Today, much of reality television is plagued with the idea of scripted lines and over-the-top drama. But at the Waffle Shop in East Liberty, reality TV is the reality.

Customers discuss a variety of topics while they simultaneously enjoy a waffle or cup of coffee. And it’s all captured on film. The concept is providing customers with good food and five minutes of fame.

"Obviously it's an unfamiliar combination,” John Rubin, associate professor in the School of Art, told the Pittsburgh City Paper.

But for the students in his Contextual Practice course, it’s all in a day’s – or in this case, night’s – work. Waffle Shop: A Reality Show – the students’ semester project – is open from 10 p.m. until 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.

“Each semester, we rent a storefront and students create projects that respond to the surrounding context,” Rubin told the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. “We start from scratch and look around at the neighborhood, the history of the storefront, the types of people who are walking by or live in the community.”

The next step is for students to choose what to make the storefront. In this case students decided to combine two ideas – a waffle shop with a reality show.

Every night, students film customers who agree to be a part of the reality show. Then students produce a 2-3 minute episode from the footage collected over a couple of nights.

Past episodes play for the public on a TV screen in the Waffle Shop window. And soon they’ll also be available online.

It’s artistic inquiry alright.

But it’s not just art students who are involved. The academic backgrounds of these students include: art, drama, design, architecture, computer science and engineering, proving another example of how Carnegie Mellon really is a place where the left and right brain unite to make innovations with impact.

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