University

Hopkins Hub: BUILDING A 'GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE'

Hopkins Hub: BUILDING A 'GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE'

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."

From a sun-drenched quad on Johns Hopkins University's Homewood campus, Portal visitors are transported—with the help of a floor-to-ceiling video screen and immersive audiovisual technology—to a location outside Erbil, Iraq, where four men sit inside another Portal.

Harvard Gazette: Face Time With Refugees

Harvard Gazette: Face Time With Refugees

Harvard Divinity School student Shannon Boley pushed open the heavy door to the large shipping container and slowly stepped out on to the School’s campus green, wiping away tears from her eyes.

Asked why she was crying, she said “that was just a connection I haven’t had in a long time.”

Boston Globe: High-tech shipping container Portal links Harvard students, Gaza youth

Boston Globe: High-tech shipping container Portal links Harvard students, Gaza youth

CAMBRIDGE — In a cozy space on Harvard’s campus, a small group of students sat down Sunday morning facing another cluster of young people and chatted about TV, music, and sports.

Metro: Portal allows Boston-area residents to 'FaceTime' with refugees around the world

Metro: Portal allows Boston-area residents to 'FaceTime' with refugees around the world

On Harvard’s campus, there’s a portal to another world — literally.

Inside an unassuming shipping container that sits on the grass at Harvard Divinity School, students, staff and other visitors can come face-to-face with refugees around the world.

The Harvard Crimson: Portals Project Connects Cambridge Students with Refugees

The Harvard Crimson: Portals Project Connects Cambridge Students with Refugees

Harvard Divinity School had a unique addition to its campus green this week: A metallic-gold shipping container equipped with immersive video technology, connecting Cambridge students with refugees from Iraq, Gaza City, Jordan, and Germany.

Austin American-Statesman: Golden shipping container at St. Edward's University is a videoconferencing portal to the world

Austin American-Statesman: Golden shipping container at St. Edward's University is a videoconferencing portal to the world

My two new college-aged friends -- at least I think we're friends, we just met -- love to hang out with their friends, shop and hit the beach when it's not too crowded. One of them loves horror movies, the other is really into action films. They've both gearing up for exams coming up in their studies of English and French literature

Hilltop Views: Inside the Portal Conversing with 2 Honduran Girls

Hilltop Views: Inside the Portal Conversing with 2 Honduran Girls

Going into the Portal, I did not entirely know what to expect. I mean, I was about to go into this golden shipping crate that was supposed to connect me with someone across the globe. What was I going to say? what kind of questions would they ask me? Would I be awkward? My mind went into this experience loaded with questions. However, as I propelled myself into an eye-opening conversation, I soon learned that the selfish questions wandering through my mind were unnecessary

Stanford Daily: Crothers Portal Connects Students Worldwide

Crothers RFs Stephen Stedman and Corinne Thomas stand in front of the Crothers Portal, which is now connecting students with conversation partners around the world (Courtesy of Corinne Thomas).

Crothers RFs Stephen Stedman and Corinne Thomas stand in front of the Crothers Portal, which is now connecting students with conversation partners around the world (Courtesy of Corinne Thomas).

The Stanford Portal, a long-distance video-chatting booth which facilitates conversation between Stanford students and individuals in portals in Kigali, Rwanda, Heart, Afghanistan and Mexico City, has been operating outside of Crothers Memorial since May 2. So far, student experiences have been overwhelmingly positive.

Caroline Neel, Stanford’s Portal Curator, explained the appeal.

“We’re trying to recreate something that’s pretty normal, like meeting a stranger,” Neel said.

According to Neel, an important part of the experience is to make the user feel like they are having a normal conversation. To do so, Shared_Studios – the collective leading the project – takes empty shipping containers and fits them with carpet to create a natural room environment. Live footage from the other portal is then projected onto the wall.

“You’re seeing a life-size person as if they’re really there,” Neel said.

Every portal operates in the same way. According to Neel, this creates parallel experiences in completely different parts of the world.

Savannah Pham ’18 had a conversation with a 27-year-old man from Kigali.

“First it [was] a little awkward, because I’ve never seen this person and never experienced his culture before, but it got a lot easier,” Pham said. “We ended up bonding over the fact that we like helping other people and want to go into education.”

Discovering similarities between the people using the portal has been a common theme for Stanford students. According to Pham, the experience gave unique insight into how completely different countries and cultures can still have shared experiences in their day-to-day lives.

Although a translator was present, just in case, almost all communication occurs without the help of the translator, which students describe as adding similarity and comfort to the conversation.

Neel echoed this idea, adding that these interactions served to break down cultural barriers.

According to Neel, who talked to different students after their sessions in the portal, this facilitation of dialogue is very important in the current politically charged times. Some students, she said, came out wanting to discuss the need for discourse between Middle Eastern countries like Afghanistan and the United States to stop cultural preconceptions we may have.

Neel also recounted one of the Portal interactions in which a Stanford student played ukulele in the portal while the Rwandan person sung along from the other side of the world.

In another case, a student from Seattle who had conversed with an individual from Kigali, Rwanda, who is visiting Seattle in six months. Neel exchanged their email information so they can meet in person.

Since these conversations are brief, many of the participants choose to avoid small talk and often focus on more intimate questions. As a result, people can grow close in these exchanges.

“He asked me, ‘so what is your dream?’ and it caught me off guard, because people here don’t ask me that,” Pham said.

The Portal will be open to students who make reservations until May 12.

 

Stanford News: Portals Project makes connections around the world

Stanford News: Portals Project makes connections around the world

While celebrating May Day in Kigali this year, University of Rwanda student INNOCENT UDAHEMUKA stopped by Stanford for a visit – well, almost.

Stepping into a gold-painted, soundproofed shipping container, Udahemuka stood in just the right spot for the mic to pick him up, the cameras to provide a full-body projection and the 4G connection to deliver him to a similar container in front of Crothers Hall on the Stanford campus. Udahemuka was in Rwanda.