On a blustery Friday morning, Carolyn Rapkievian wrapped herself in a coat and gauzy scarf and walked a mile from her office to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. She climbed to the second floor, stepped into a 16-foot-long, gold-painted shipping container, and settled onto a short wooden stool. It was the day after her 60th birthday.
Thousands of commuters buzz by it; dozens more see it from the Starbucks line less than 100 feet away. But only a few enter this gold box in the middle of downtown Los Angeles' Grand Park. "That was amazing," Bernadine Harris said as she stepped out of the shipping container covered in gold paint. Moments before, she was speaking live to an Iraqi refugee standing in front of her — on a large video screen.
What if you could talk to a stranger on the other side of the world as if you were in the same room together? Learn about the origins of Shared_Studios and portals. The documentary follows middle schoolers as they step into the Richmond_Portal and connect with two muralists in Mexico City. "Passion Projects" is a docuseries about turning passion into purpose and its impact on the world.
Nas Daily visited the Portal at the United Nations, hosted by the UN Live Museum, made possible by the Ikea Foundaton.
Chris Wallace visits a Portal in College Park at the University of Maryland and speaks to a stranger in Mexico City.
George Stephanopolous reports on global Portals.
I went into the portal and spoke with several Iranians about their lives and their country and how they see the U.S. Perhaps President Obama and Rouhani should meet this way – call it a diplomatic dance.
When the Harvard- and Yale Law-educated artist and journalist Amar Bakshi, born and raised in Washington D.C., was traveling the globe seven years ago for his How the World Sees America interview series, he realized something: People often kept letters from American pen pals dating back to the 1980s, before the Internet made other modes of international correspondence possible.
Think Skype on steroids. Inside a gold-painted shipping container, graduate students sit in front of a large screen watching a live video feed. They're chatting with Syrian refugees in another, identical shipping container located more than 4,000 miles away, in Jordan. First-year student Shannon Boley says when she first came face-to-face with a refugee in the portal, it felt as if they were in the same room.
I was prepared for a pretty standard videoconference connection, but what I got was something infinitely more hygge. I was totally at home in the immersive, full-body viewing setup, feeling like I was chatting and making eye contact easily with my conversation partners, who were seated on a sofa in Berlin.
When the Palestinians realized that the Harvard students spoke Arabic, “all of a sudden, they were like, ‘Whoa!’ ” Greenberg said. “There was kind of a spark, and a joy.” From there, the conversation continued mostly in Arabic, as they discussed popular American exports such as “Game of Thrones.”
“It was a beautiful, spiritual experience,” said Boley, her eyes still red. “On the other end of the world, you’re sharing this really intimate part of you. I’m singing this song that means so much to me, and I could tell her song meant so much to her.”
The Stream's Malika Bilal takes you inside the Washington DC portal.
"In the four months I was there, I never had a connection with an Afghan citizen that was close to as powerful, as moving, as I did standing in that gold box. I was moved almost to tears. I was reminded why I got into the field of international affairs a thousand years ago: to understand people in other parts of the world, and how they thrive and survive under challenging circumstance. I was reconnected to that thread of my life.”
Despite a surplus of communication services, the world can feel like a disconnected place. Innovations like social media make it possible to reach people all over the world, but these platforms often become echo chambers more than anything. A startup company called Shared_Studios is trying to change that.
“I’ve had like some of the most meaningful conversations of my entire life in the portal,” says senior Emily Carder. “I’ve learned to salsa, danced with refugees from Congo, someone rapped in French to my best friend.” Carder was inspired to bring the portal to her high school after using it multiple times at its former location at Monroe Park in downtown Richmond. “I remember walking out absolutely shocked that I could communicate and relate so deeply to someone in such a short period of time across the world,” says Carder.
It’s dark and cool inside the Portal, a stark contrast to the summer heat and high sun. Wahid Rasooly, a 21-year-old civil engineering student, is standing in two places at once. His feet are in Herat, Afghanistan, but the screen inside the Portal shows a life-size version of him that can hear and talk in real time.
A gold-painted shipping container equipped with an immersive audiovisual studio rests on Jack Poole Plaza outside TED Talks in Vancouver, ready to link whoever goes inside for a face-to-face conversation with someone somewhere else on the planet.
In demonstrations across the United States, protesters are questioning the role of police in communities. After the last challenge to police violence from Ferguson to Baltimore, we listened to approximately 1,500 individuals living in communities with long histories of police violence, asking: How do you feel about police in your community? Our findings suggest that protesters don’t just oppose troubling police practices; they also understand policing’s relationship to U.S. democracy.
The world’s biggest conversation on the climate crisis launches simultaneously in New York City, Mexico City and Kigali
What do Newark, New Jersey, and Milwaukee’s Amani neighborhood have in common? They’re both high-crime, high-homicide and highly policed, and right now, a public park in each is hosting a gold-painted shipping container designed to facilitate conversations between the two cities about criminal justice and incarceration.
The truck-size metal container sitting in a downtown park here isn't meant to raise awareness about the global shipping industry, though it may nudge some people's curiosity in that direction.
Iman, Dania and Marwa are talking about their lives in Zaatari, the largest refugee camp in the Middle East and home to more than 82,000 Syrians. Iman wants to be a journalist, Dania is focused on improving her English, and Marwa misses her three children, who live with their father in Syria.
Batool Matter and Michelle Graham stood shoulder to shoulder in front of a panel of judges, ready to present their design for a better ambulance emergency triage system for low-resource settings. They and four other team members had spent the better part of a week working on the design, and they had carefully rehearsed their presentation.
We at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum found ourselves asking, “How can we help visitors better understand the human consequences of mass atrocities and genocide?” For three months, our answer was the Portal: an immersive, audio visual experience created and facilitated by Shared Studios that connects strangers across the world in real time. The Portal was part of the Museum’s exhibition, “Genocide: The Threat Continues,” which focuses on the work of the Museum’s Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide to bring attention to people and places at risk today for genocide and mass atrocities. The video screen is large, allowing participants to see each other in full scale. The Museum partnered with Shared Studios to connect our visitors with individuals who had fled the Assad regime in Syria or ISIS-occupied areas of Syria and Iraq and who are living in the Harsham internally displaced persons camp in Erbil, Iraq and at a refugee resettlement site in Berlin.
We recently stood at a door in New York. We walked through that door and faced a person inside Iran. That was the concept of an art installation which started in New York and whose creators hope to take it elsewhere. They invited us to try. Walk into a common steel shipping container painted gold.
The Portal underwent a dramatic upgrade as UNICEF prepared to connect Ali Ismail, a young entrepreneur from Baghdad, to a special Portal at the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Silicon Valley, California. The man on the other end of the videoconference would be the President of the United States, Barack Obama speaking to people in four other Portals across the world. Or at least we hoped so.
With her white kitten scurrying around the room, Mira Bakri pulled up a chair and started telling three high schoolers from Conshohocken’s AIM Academy about her life and work in conflict-torn Gaza City, where she teaches high-tech coding skills to Palestinian youths amid their daily struggles for fresh water or electricity.
A trip to the other side of the world is now as short as a drive to Latham Park. A new interactive audiovisual installation called Portal has just opened at the downtown park, allowing residents and passersby to have an impromptu conversation with someone in a different country, continent, or hemisphere
In August, in the middle of the night, a long truck maneuvered, and a crane gently deposited, a large gold-painted “box” on the ground at the western edge of Safra Square in Jerusalem, parallel to the light train rails.
This art installation lets you talk to strangers 1,000 miles away
Sitting inside the shipping container like it’s their clubhouse, Walton and Lee talk about changes in the neighborhood, including the local vocabulary. The word “trauma” has crept into the neighborhood vocabulary.
On World Refugee Day, a golden shipping container was brought on to the grounds of the United Nations General Assembly hall in New York. Inside, cutting-edge audiovisual technology allowed delegates to converse via live video chat with children inside Jordan's Zaatari refugee camp, as though they were standing in the same room.
Since July, a gold-painted shipping container in Crissy Field has let everyday San Franciscans have 20-minute video chats with people anywhere from Afghanistan and Mexico to Germany to Rwanda.
On their way to this month’s 70th United Nation’s General Assembly, the organization’s annual high-level meeting in New York, diplomats and world leaders will pass by a makeshift glass structure—both a glossy multi-media hub, and a gateway to an entirely different world.
The Dallas_Portal was funded by a group of local donors who wanted to give the experience as a gift. Shared_Studios attributed Klyde Warren Park as the ideal urban space for the Portal to be nestled, as it sits between the business community and arts district. “Known for connecting the city’s Uptown and Downtown sectors, Klyde Warren Park is now helping its patrons make global connections,” says Kit Sawers, president of Klyde Warren Park. “We’re committed to offering free programming that continues to connect people of all generations, cultures, and socioeconomic backgrounds, here in Dallas and around the world.”
I just walked into a shipping container and took a selfie with three strangers in Gaza, all without leaving Australia. It was a thoroughly surreal experience. But it was also an awesome example of how tech has the power to connect people across geographical, political and language barriers.
“One of the most surprising things was how real the interactions felt with the folks on the other side,” Bickert said. “I went into it thinking it was like a Skype or FaceTime call, but because of the scale, you are talking with people who are life-size. It’s real life.”
Now that the kids are out of school, let’s hear what kind of shenanigans they’ll be up to once they get back in after the break. They’ll step into a portal to the world, no less, at the Winthrop Elementary School between February 25 and March 3. While there, they’ll have an old chinwag with kids from the Middle East, Latin America, Europe, or other parts of the United States.
In dialogue with our sibling sites, we co-create the programming of the PHI_portal with and for our communities, inviting guests into an intimate space of possibility — through conversations, performances, listening sessions, readings and shared meals. Within this transnational curatorial network, distance is a force to move with, rather than against. The linguistic, geopolitical, and cultural specificities of each portal entangle us in a web of borders as we attempt to negotiate differences.
Apprehension looming, a handful of students from Peter Simonson’s senior seminar class “Listening, questioning, speaking” walked inside a golden shipping container outside of Folsom Field on Tuesday morning. Inside, a floor to ceiling projector and a pinhole camera connected them to four refugees, most barefoot, sitting in 1,500-person camp in Erbil, Iraq. Communications major Molly Serhan, 22, didn’t know what to expect. “I’m kind of nervous,” she said. “I don’t really want politics to be brought up because of what’s been happening in Syria. I just don’t know what to say about it.”
Amar Baksi —un estudiante de Derecho en la Universidad Yale— inauguró el Portals Project (Proyecto de Portales) en 2014 con el fin de conectar a personas que en caso contrario nunca se hubieran conocido. Los ‘portales’ —contenedores de carga pintados de dorado cuyos interiores están revestidos de una alfombra gris— permiten a personas en ciudades en todo el mundo — desde Brooklyn a México DF a Kabul— a comunicarse mediante videoconferencias. Pero no es sólo una publicitada versión offline de Skype: la pantalla llena la mayor parte de una pared y permite a cada participante a ver al otro de pies a cabeza, lo cual los hace sentir como si estuvieran en el mismo cuarto, aunque estén a miles de millas de distancia.
In 2009 the New Museum in New York presented “It Is What It Is: Conversations About Iraq,” a commission by British Artist Jeremy Deller. I left the museum with quiet tears streaming down my face, deeply moved by the experience. Deller placed a living room setup in the middle of the floor and curated a group of veterans, journalists, scholars, and Iraqi nationals to have an unrestrained open dialogue with the visitors. I sat alone with Nour al-Khal, who worked as a translator in Basra and survived journalist Steven Vincent in 2005 when they were abducted, beaten, and shot by armed men. We spoke about her nightmares, the isolation she feels living as a refugee in New York, her incessant fear for her family still in Iraq, and the brutal reality of young girls in conflict zones too often becoming sex slaves. This relatively brief conversation had a profound impact on me, and I was immediately reminded of it when I stepped into a Portal.
On a recent December morning, five twenty-somethings gathered inside a gold shipping container at Bonton Farms in Southeast Dallas. It was like a mini movie auditorium with a large projector screen. On the screen, they could see and talk with two young men in Herat, Afghanistan. “I have one question: What is the temperature there?” asked 21-year-old Racquel Ashe, who works for the education nonprofit City Year Dallas. It was 40 degrees in Dallas, but outside the cold container, it felt closer to 30. That day, it was warmer in Afghanistan. “In Celsius here, it feels like it’s 5,” said Ashe’s colleague, 22-year-old Elizabeth Bonnell. “It’s cold. We’re all shaking.” This shipping container is called a portal. They’ve been placed all around the world, courtesy of a nonprofit called Shared Studios. The mission is simple: connect people who may otherwise never get the chance to meet.
Before dawn on a freezing February morning, Amar Bakshi watched as a crane lifted a gold-colored shipping container off a flatbed truck outside the Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven, Conn. As diplomats consider a deal over Iran’s nuclear program, the shipping container is Mr. Bakshi’s attempt at restoring a relationship with that country.
Her name is Mahsa Biglow, and she is a 25-year-old Iranian graduate student in photography at the University of Tehran. They met on the Internet — but not in any of the usual ways.
It looks like a shipping container, but it's so much more. This gold painted portal is allowing people in Milwaukee to connect with portals in 29 countries. On Friday, thoughts on crime prevention were exchanged. Conversations in the Milwaukee portal are being recorded. The dialogue will be shared with researchers at Yale University, who are trying to better understand the public perception of police.
Education often brings students to new places, but it looks like that may be more true than ever for Andover students in the coming months.
Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick ’09 was transported to Mexico City, Mexico on Thursday by visiting the Portal at Cornell, speaking about U.S. international relations during the Trump presidency with political consultant Luis Daniel Perez Vazquez.
During its seven-week-long run, the portable communications hub has linked up to cities in the US as well as Iraq, Afghanistan, Rwanda and Myanmar.
While new technologies allow us to connect across boundaries as never before, we too often use them to insulate ourselves in our own communities. By conversing through a Portal, participants step out of their comfort zones, talk to someone completely unrelated to their individual lives and discover the multitude of amazing things happening all over the world. For SCMM there will be a mix of programmed interactions and open hours for all Mumbaikars to come and experience the portal.
The proposition next to the radiant, gold-painted shipping container is simple and inviting. "Portals" the sign reads. "Step inside and engage people around the world, live, as if in the same room."