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iPhone app links strangers for 20 days – a path to peace?

By Cathryn Wellner / November 27, 2015
Photo clip from video below

Photo clip from video below

I wrote about this app in May 2014 (see 20 Day Stranger below). That was long before the recent eruption of violent extremism in pockets around the globe. I think it’s time to bring this to your attention once again.

Fear of The Other is nothing new. Neither is storytelling. This free app connects two strangers from different parts of the world. For 20 days they follow each other’s lives via their smartphones. They never learn private details, not even exactly where their partner stranger is from. What they do learn is to see the world through a stranger’s eyes.

At the end of 20 days, all information about the two strangers is deleted. They remain strangers, but perhaps during the 20 days their eyes will have been opened to their shared humanity across geographical and cultural boundaries.

This might be a good time for everyone with a smartphone to meet a stranger.

20 Day Stranger

For 20 days, strangers around the world will be paired via their iPhones. They will send photos to each other, with no identifying information. Their anonymity will be preserved. Each will view the other’s life without ever knowing who the stranger is.

What a curious little experiment. Jordan Graham wrote about it for the Boston Herald, quoting Tinsley Galyean, the co-director of MIT’s Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformation:

“We can start to develop this sense of intimate moments with somebody we don’t know and will never know,” said Tinsley Galyean, co-director of MIT’s Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values. “Sometimes it’s very mundane, but sometimes they’re in the hospital.”

The app is a joint project of the Center and the MIT Media Lab Playful Systems. If it piques your curiosity, apply here.

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