Cargo shipping containers are being converted for use as “spaces” to connect individuals internationally. You have probably seen these containers stacked at any large port across the U.S., and perhaps most prominently at major harbors on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. When equipped with internet connectivity, the container “space” also seems to provide an atmosphere which is uniquely suited for very personal one-to-one conversations about topics that are of common interest. The only prescribed script is a simple prompt of “What would make a good day for you?” Each session lasts twenty minutes.
While university campuses may be home to many of these portals around the world, the very nature of the containers’ mobility make it very versatile in reaching out to different communities. Some have permanent locations, while others are exclusively mobile. Full body images are projected on a giant screen which seems to create a more personal experience. At the College Park location, individuals there were connected with others in Afghanistan, Mexico and Honduras. Some of the other permanent locations include Cuba, Iran, and San Francisco.
The container portals are the brain child of Amar Bakshi, a former foreign correspondent. Ironically, Bakshi found that the most informative exchanges over the course of his reporting years were the times when he turned off his camera, his cell phone was dead, and he would talk to the person sitting next to him on a bus. He felt that these conversations were very honest and expansive because “we weren’t concerned that what we said would get back to our mothers or bosses.” Maybe that’s also what happens when you’re talking to someone inside a shipping container in another part of the world?