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100 | Designing Portals to Connect the World

Michelle Moghtader is a Co-Founder, the former Director of Global Development, and the former Creative Director of Shared Studios, a virtual art & community space founded to create portals of communication between communities across the globe.

100 | Designing Portals to Connect the World

In 2014, Shared Studios began as an art project, creating “portals,” or gold spaces equipped with immersive audiovisual technology. When one enters, they come face-to-face with someone in another distant Portal live and full-body, as if in the same room. Initially, the portal project began with a single prototype connection between New York City and Tehran, Iran. Moghtader and fellow co-founder Amar C. Bakshi thought that the project might engender a conversation between citizens of two countries whose relations have been historically strained. The results were astounding and even surprised the founders. People wanted to utilize the portals to talk, chat, and collaborate – there was little need for curation or stimulation. The ensuing conversations occurred organically and proactively. 

The project quickly grew into a global network of communication hubs that welcomed collaborating artists, entrepreneurs, and people from all walks of life. The portals are continuously used to host live events, engage in conversation, conduct hackathons, and otherwise make connections that otherwise couldn’t be made.

Shared Studios now has two main products: immersive portals that connect people as if in the same room, and global programming that fosters conversations between people with different lived experiences to unlock transformative insights.

Shared Studios has expanded to build a global network of these immersive Portals across 25+ countries in educational institutions, museums, parks, and corporations connecting 500,000+ people across distances and differences. People have written over 7,000+ pages of testimonials about their work, and they have been covered by most of the world’s leading press.

Before co-founding Shared Studios, Michelle was a multi-media journalist based in the Middle East. She has written for Reuters, CNN, The Huffington Post, and Energy Intelligence Group. She worked as a community organizer for the 2008 Obama Campaign and at the National Iranian American Council where she empowered citizens to become active members of their civil society. Michelle graduated from the University of Virginia and received her master’s degree from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.

We had a chance to speak with Michelle on Social Design Insights about this remarkable practice. Have a listen.


Social Design Insights would like to thank all those who make our weekly show possible: Baruch Zeichner, our Producer and Sound Engineer, Donna Read, for producing our video content, and Leah Freidenrich, Director of the Curry Stone Foundation. Our opening theme music for 2019 is "Bang Bang" and our closing theme is "Salvame" both by Eljuri from her album "La Lucha." The break music for this episode is "Communique" by Dire Straits from their album "Communique."