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100 | Designing Portals to Connect the World

Michelle Moghtader is the Director of Global Development & Co-Founder 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

Shared studios’ flagship program is the creation of “Portals” – physical spaces enabled with video conferencing equipment that allows for the real-time connection between artists, activists and ordinary citizens from one part of the world to another.

The project began with a single prototype connection between New York City and Tehran, Iran. Moghtader and fellow cofounder 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, 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. Portals now exist in 15 countries with more coming soon, and Shared Studios has assembled a diverse and talented group of curators to program dialogues, classes and events, lead local outreach and provide live language interpretation.

The portals are continuously used to host live events, engage conversation, conduct hackathons and otherwise make connections that otherwise couldn’t be made.

The project is an example of a relatively familiar technology (video conferencing) being assembled and deployed in a profound way, in the process creating a very real form of new public space.

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."