The driving
motivation for this project is that people are scared of the unknown. This
irrational fear is a major cause for the racism and conflict that we see around
the world. Xenophobia is more easily developed when an individual relies on
hearsay, rather than experience or facts, to form their opinions of people from
other countries. My project seeks to address this problem by giving people the
chance to see what actually goes on in other countries and hear the stories of
the people who live there.


WALLS is an art/tech
installation that would be placed in downtown areas of cities around the world.
Each installation would consist of a large touchscreen and webcam. All of the
webcams are constantly on and are broadcasting live feeds of their city to all
of the other WALLS installations around the world, providing people a window
into the daily life of cities in other countries. People who stop to check out
the WALLS installation can view a number of the other cities at once, or pull
up one other video to be the full screen. Because these installations would be
placed in busy parts of the city, there would constantly be people walking
around. One idea is that people would be able to stop to check out the feeds of
other cities and be able to have a live facetime-esque experience with a
stranger from a foreign country. By providing this window into other countries,
the idea of other countries being foreign and irreconcilably different is
challenged as we see other people there going about their lives in very similar
ways to ourselves. This demystifying experience may help some people see that
our similarities greatly outnumber our differences.


The second component
of WALLS is more personal. While the live feed gives users a window into the
heart of the city, this part gives a window into the heart of the people. Based
off of research by psychologist Arthur Aron (psychologist behind in New York
Times 36 questions to make you fall in love), the idea is that people at these
WALLS installations will be prompted with questions that force people to be
vulnerable and tell stories that are personal. While surely not everyone would
want to reveal stories of this nature on a platform like this, if the age of
social media has taught us anything, its that we might be surprised about the
depth of personal stuff that people are willing to broadcast to a large
audience of strangers. People would record videos of themselves answering a
question or two and it would then become archived and viewable at all WALLS
installations across the world. These questions are designed specifically to
get at the humanity of people. Nearly everyone shares a large set of basic
values and shared experiences – first kisses, big mistakes, hopes and dreams,
lost loves. By seeing strangers from a foreign land open up on video and talk
about things that are both extremely personal yet also relatable, we can create
empathy and begin to break down the walls that have been built up between
people. By tackling misinformation and a lack of understanding, we can get
people to see that, after all, our shared human experience is pretty incredible
and whether we live in Boston or Tel Aviv, we have much more in common than we
might expect.