Frequently Asked Questions

What are Portals?

Portals are interconnected, immersive audiovisual environments built in repurposed shipping containers, inflatables, and custom structures. When you enter one, you are met by someone in a distant Portal and can speak to them as if in the same room.

Shared_Studios maintains a network of 40 Portals around the world and connects these spaces to one another for dialogues, performances, and collaborative activities. These connections build familiarity, empathy, and understanding between communities who would otherwise never meet.

How do Portals work?

Portals are placed in highly diverse environments, including schools; refugee sites; cultural centers; public parks; businesses; conferences; and events.

They have been applied to dozens of contexts, from casual conversations to distance education; language immersion; policy discussions; business meetings; and live artistic and musical collaborations.

What is the goal of Portals?

The online spaces that dominate our lives confine us in homogenous ideological communities – commonly referred to as “bubbles”. When we do interact with individuals outside of our bubbles, the infrastructure of social media prohibits genuine exchange.

This trend seeks to deny us access to the richness of human diversity. The experience of coming in contact with lives that differ from our own is an experience that makes life better. That richness is denied to all of us so long as the divides between our communities continue to widen.

Portals counteract these phenomena by connecting people who would never otherwise meet. They bring together people separated by distance and difference for converations, collaborations, and play.

Most of all, Portals ensure that these encounters are authentic, productive, and human. By bringing human beings face-to-face and de-anonymizing their interactions in a space designed for meaningful interaction, Portals help people to see the full complexity of human experience.

What is a Portal Curator, and what do they do?

Curators connect the Portal to the world and to their local community. They staff the Portal and are present for all connections. They translate, support, and facilitate encounters to make sure all participants are comfortable and engaged.

How are Portals distinct?

Portals differs from traditional video conferencing in two ways:

  1. Technology: Where traditional video conferencing is restricted to a computer screen, making every participant a floating head, Portals are immersive, full-body depictions that allow participants to make eye-contact and feel as those they are sharing the same physical space. That technological leap is vital to our mission of bringing people together. To make people connect in genuine, authentic ways, they must be able to acknowledge each other not as a disembodied voices, but as an embodied, life-size human beings.

  2. Human curation: Portals set aside physical space to engage with people different from ourselves. Every encounter is facilitated by a real human being - a curator who translates, prompts, and guides the conversation, and every interaction is themed or planned to suit the participants. Curators therefore serve as community organizers. They ensure that a diverse range of participants visit the Portal, and create connections that are of the greatest benefit to their community. If a community member in Dubai hopes to learn about dance in Kigali, the Dubai curator will work with the Kigali curator to invite Rwandan dancers to that connection. The result of this global network of community organizers is a physical infrastructure that provides global access to local knowledge.

What is the broader vision of Portals?

We are building a freely-accessible global public utility. Our aim is to link communities around the world through a network of thousands of Portals. This network of immersive spaces will become a public square for the 21st century, where people everywhere can share their stories, collaborate, and learn from one another.

How many Portals are there and where are they?

Check out our sites section for the latest.

How are Portals funded?

All Portals are freely accessible to participants, and are either funded directly by the host organization (e.g. school, government, museum), private donors, or grant funding.

Shared_Studios works with nonprofits and local community groups who may not have access to independent funding to identify opportunities for external funding. We encourage all groups interested in a Portal to reach out – even if no immediate funding is available.

How can I bring a Portal to my community, school, organization, or event?

Get in touch via our Contact page to start a conversation.