Powering Peace Through Portals

PeaceTech Lab and Shared Studios

PeaceTech Summit 2018 may be over, but the work of Powering PeaceTech continues. Join us as we reflect on the day's insights and themes, while discovering new ideas and players in the peacetech industry. First up, Shared Studios connects the dots on connecting people globally, virtually for peace. You can also catch Shared Studios Founder, Amar Bakshi, in a conversation with internet founder and Google's Chief Internet Evangelist, Vint Cerf, here (4:45:45). 


Study after study reinforces the idea that peace is created through deliberate dialogue between diverse groups. The Shared_Studios Portal seeks to empower individuals and communities through technology to advance their unique goals, not as consumers but as citizens. Portals create space for dialogue and are a demonstration of how technology, if constructed well, can thrive as a vehicle for peace. We envision a world where Portals regularly deliver the benefits of globalization to communities that are often left out and believe that peace will take root when diverse groups speak face-to-face. For many, the Portal is where this begins.

The Portal provides physical, full-body audiovisual spaces through which anyone can speak, dance, sing, and create with someone somewhere else around the globe. We have built an “internet you can walk through” that connects participants with someone they might never meet otherwise. Portals bring everyday individuals – many of whom feel their experiences are inaccurately represented in mainstream or social media – together, on the same level, in the same space.

Nearly 150,000 Portal participants over the last three years have crafted a connection across the globe, with conversations ranging from the deeply personal to the everyday. A drone pilot for the U.S. Air Force working in Washington, DC met an Afghan for the first time through the Portal, only days after flying drones through Afghan airspace. A group of Gazan women shared a Portal conversation with an Israeli entrepreneur and an Iranian artist, discussing their inability to receive proper care for breast cancer in Gaza City. Two Iraqi students and a teacher met with members of Congress just one week before a scheduled vote on the Education For All Act, which directs funds to education in emergency zones. All voted yes.

For the last two years, Portals in heavily policed communities have connected to one another, allowing those in Baltimore, Milwaukee, Newark, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Mexico City to speak directly with others experiencing similar phenomena. In Milwaukee, our Portal Curator used his position to bring together rival gangs to create local truces, which led to the creation of “Hood Ambassadors,” a neighborhood watch coalition based on the Portals mission.

At Shared_Studios, we are working on analyses that study correlations between age, international travel, language, education level, and other key indicators across Portal conversations. We have collected thousands of handwritten transcriptions from participants reflecting on their experiences and are conducting close textual and word frequency analyses to better understand how Portals influence beliefs and behavior. How can Portals help groups better understand distinctions and similarities between poverty in Mumbai, India and Milwaukee, Wisconsin? What is the efficacy of Portals in connecting decisionmakers with the communities they serve, and how has that translated to the policies they craft and implement?

Technology is not an independent force and remains the responsibility of human beings and communities, not artificial intelligence or a select few, to direct it both toward a moral purpose and peace. Find a Portal in your community (or bring one to it) and step inside.