After spending $1.9 million on an art installation at Pioneer Village subway station, the TTC announced yesterday that they've chosen not to have it activated.  The installation is called "LightSpell," and the concept behind it is actually pretty cool. Only the TTC decided it was best that after all that time and money, we don't even get to appreciate it, at least not in the immediate future. 

"LightSpell" was intended to be an interactive installation, consisting of 40 light elements, each with 16 individual controllable lights. The lights can produce all the letters of the alphabet, special characters, and numbers 0 to 9.  Touch keypads would allow TTC riders to write messages on the installation, which would light up and be on display for everyone to see. 

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The TTC threw nearly $2 million into the project, and had the installation built. But, its been sitting unactivated and collecting dust for months now. The reason, according to the TTC's CEO, is because of "possible misuse of the messaging feature."

In other words, the very feature that was so unique about this project might be used as a platform for hate speech - which somehow didn't occur to TTC staff before they fronted the $1.9 mil. 

"There is a significant risk that the system could be misused to include hate messages or messages that target and/or discriminate against a specific individual or group of people," their statement reads, "Such misuse will undermine the objective of creating a safe and welcoming environment that is free from any form of discrimination or harassment."

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The TTC has decided not to activate "LightSpell" until "mitigation features are added to limit the potential for misuse and that there be further consultation with the artists." They've come up with several "recommendations" to control the installation's potential for misuse, but didn't specify if any of their ideas are currently in action.

The TTC also hasn't bothered to estimate how much more they'll have to spend on these "mitigation features." But, they did reassure us by saying that "the costs of any mitigation measures are not expected to be significant." Whatever their definition of "significant" is.

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The TTC claims that they've had a "number of conference calls" with the artists to discuss implementing the misuse measures. Some of these include providing a list of prohibited words, limiting the hours of public use of the installation, and giving the TTC the ability to remove content from the installation at any time. 

If they ever manage to put their heads together and come up with a strategy, we'll be sure to let you know. 

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