Stairway Stories: Experiment at Pratt Institute

Field Experiment: Can we persuade more people to choose the stairs instead of the elevator in Steuben Hall at Pratt Institute?

Plan: To tempt people with excerpts from a hilarious sex advice book for insects: Dr. Tatiana’s Sex Advice for All Creation, by Olivia Judson. While waiting for the elevator people will be presented with a poster that reads:

HOW TO MAKE LOVE TO A CANNIBAL

Rule Number One: Never Get Eaten During Foreplay

…To find out more take the stairs…

And then to entertain people as they walk up the stairs with the rest of the funny sex advice article:

Some of my best friends are man-eaters, but between you and me, cannibalism isn’t my bag. I can see why you like it though. Males of your species are boring lovers… (etc.)

Observations: Most people were interested in trying to read the text on the railing. A few people starting reading out loud. People became preoccupied with reading the text and sometimes kept on walking passed the floor they meant to stop at.

Comments from participants: Everyone we encountered was intrigued by the text, even if they only got to read one floor’s worth of the story. They agreed that the interest was largely because of the funny/sexual text we chose. A couple of people said they felt dizzy after walking and reading. One person said “I can walk faster than I can read”. Some people commented that the trip up the stairs was a lot more fun than usual, that the 4 floors flew by, they weren’t even thinking about the climb, but only about the story. People didn’t always notice the initial poster on the first floor, they suggested that it should be larger and more direct to get peoples’ attention.

Plans for the future: The prompt poster will be simpler and larger. We will try other stairways around the city, and try mounting/hanging the text in different ways. The text in meant to change every week or so, to keep people interested in what will come next. This could be a digital read-out, or a projection, that could be typed in and changed easily. This installation tended to make people walk more slowly up the stairwell than they usually do. Experimentation with how many words per step will determine what will make it easier for people to walk up the staircase at a consistent pace.

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