GOOD

Instead of Snacks, This Vending Machine Spits Out Short Stories

Short Édition’s dispensers give readers a serendipitous literary experience.

The vending machine—what better symbol is there of Western civilization’s culture of convenience and unhealthy snacks? But what if one could instead feast on words, stories, and ideas?

This is the vision behind Short Édition, a series of eight vending machines dotted across Grenoble, France, that spit out original short fiction as well as haiku and other poetry. While the team behind the machine sees the stories as a way to fill the idle moments while, say, waiting for buses or subways, the project also has potential as an engine for improving literacy and imagination, while temporarily tearing people away from the bright gaze of their mobile devices.


Short Édition’s Quentin Pleplé tells GOOD that the idea arose, not too surprisingly, while he and colleagues were taking a break from work to visit a vending machine.

“We were actually not thinking about work, just having a break at the snack vending machine,” he says. “We thought it would be cool to have it for short stories. Then, a couple of days later we decided to hack a prototype. [Thus] the short story dispenser was born.”

Hacking the prototype meant going old-school. Pleplé said that the Short Édition team bought some “electronic components” and soldered them together. “It wasn’t pretty, but it was working,” he says.

From a user perspective, the short story dispensers are free and available anytime. Once users have spotted one, they simply press one of the story vending machine’s three buttons, which spits out stories that can be read in one, three, or five minutes. The ability to choose the length is as much control as the users are given. From there, the machine takes over, printing a random short story or poem.

“The 600 short stories in the dispensers are the best stories written and selected by the community on Short Édition: 141,000 subscribers and 1,100 authors,” Pleplé said.

Genres currently represented include adventure, thriller, drama, and romance. (One genre users won’t be seeing is erotica, which, given that this is France, might be a bit of a shame.) Every story dispensed by Short Édition can be read by a 10-year-old. But despite the nearly-all-ages format and broad target audience, Pleplé says that the feedback on the story dispensers has been overwhelmingly positive. The current contract, however, is only with the city of Grenoble. But, as with any good piece of technology, the machine’s creators are hoping to expand everywhere they can—they are looking to install vending machines in the United States and Italy, and seeking other willing collaborators.

Articles
Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

This new generation of activists' most pernicious enemy is denial. The people in charge — complacent politicians and corporation heads who grossly benefit from maintaining the status quo — are buffered from real-life consequences of climate change. But millions of people don't share that privilege. For them, climate change isn't an abstract concept, but a daily state of emergency, whether it comes in the form of "prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa…devastating tropical storms sweeping across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific…[or] heatwaves and wildfires," as Amnesty International reportsare all too real problems people are facing on a regular basis.

RELATED: Greta Thunberg urges people to turn to nature to combat climate change

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

Millions of people in over 150 countries across the globe marched for lawmakers and corporations to take action to help stop climate change on Friday, September 20.

The Climate Strikes were organized by children around the world as an extension of the of the "Fridays for Future" campaign. Students have been walking out of classrooms on Fridays to speak out about political inaction surrounding the climate crisis.

"We need to act right now to stop burning fossil fuels and ensure a rapid energy revolution with equity, reparations and climate justice at its heart," organizers say.

There's no doubt the visual images from the marches send a powerful message to those on the ground but especially those watching from around the world. GOOD's own Gabriel Reilich was on the scene for the largest of the Climate Strikes. Here are 18 of the best signs from the Climate Strike march in New York City.

Keep Reading Show less

September 20th marks the beginning of a pivotal push for the future of our planet. The Global Climate Strike will set the stage for the United Nations Climate Action Summit, where more than 60 nations are expected to build upon their commitment to 2015's Paris Agreement for combating climate change.

Millions of people are expected to take part in an estimated 4,000 events across 130 countries.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Apple

When the iPhone 11 debuted on September 10, it was met with less enthusiasm than the usual iPhone release. A lot of techies are holding off purchasing the latest gadget until Apple releases a phone with 5G technology.

Major US phone carriers have yet to build out the infrastructure necessary to provide a consistent 5G experience, so Apple didn't feel it necessary to integrate the technology into its latest iPhone.

A dramatic new feature on the iPhone 11 Pro is its three camera lenses. The three lenses give users the the original wide, plus ultrawide and telephoto options.

Keep Reading Show less
Health
via I love butter / Flickr

We often dismiss our dreams as nonsensical dispatches from the mind while we're deep asleep. But recent research proves that our dreams can definitely affect our waking lives.

People often dream about their significant others and studies show it actually affects how we behave towads them the next day.

"A lot of people don't pay attention to their dreams and are unaware of the impact they have on their state of mind," said Dylan Selterman, psychology lecturer at the University of Maryland, says according to The Huffington Post. "Now we have evidence that there is this association."

Keep Reading Show less
Health