Get the Picture? It Seems That You Don’t

Dear People Who Don’t Understand WGBH’s Digital Mural,

1197392460They are pictures. You know, like the billboards you see as you drive down the Pike at 80 miles per hour in your blind rush to get where you’re going. Only these pictures are huge and come without words. That’s all that’s happening. But judging by the stories WGBH told the Globe, it sounds like you don’t quite get it.

Maybe it stands to reason that a 30-foot-tall photo of Dick Cheney, towering over the Massachusetts Turnpike here, would raise some hackles among the Boston commuting crowd. That’s what happened one day in October, not long after WGBH’s digital mural went live.

“People made the mistake of assuming that this was an endorsement, rather than an invitation to discuss,” said Christopher Pullman, WGBH’s vice president for branding and visual communications, and the chief curator of the station’s prominent new display.

We actually saw the giant Cheney image as we drove home from the wilds of Western Massachusetts. Since we’re a bunch of PBS-loving liberals, we knew immediately what the image was referencing. And if we had been deeply offended by Cheney’s ugly mug, we would have known who was responsible for the display.

Still, station officials sometimes wonder if people know where to find the information, or realize who produces the mural itself. Pullman says some people have written to sneaker manufacturer New Balance – whose logo appears on the building behind WGBH – to find out what’s on the screen.

Let’s think for a moment, here. Why would a sneaker company put the vice president’s face on the side of its headquarters? Or a slow-moving image of a cluster of stars? Wouldn’t a picture of a sinewy runner be more appropriate for New Balance?

For those who are stymied by the wordless images that float across the building during your commute, WGBH’s website helpfully explains why you’re seeing women in Victorian-era garb or a cartoon monkey. And we’re sure they’ll be happy to hear any complaints you may have, so direct them to the broadcaster, not the sneaker maker.

We hope we’ve cleared things up for you.

Boston Daily