The DC Neighborhood Portal
A wall-sized video screen, installed in a vacant Dupont Circle storefront, shows a live video of an identical setup in a Georgetown storefront. Here's what happens: you'll walk by, notice the life-size people on the screen, and stop when you realize that the people on the other side can see you too.
There's no sound. You can tell it's someplace nearby, but it will take a while to figure out where the other camera is. You and the people on the other side will look at each other and share a "What is this thing? Can they really see me?" moment. You might smile, laugh, and pantomime to each other. The feed is automatic, and is on every night from dusk until midnight for a month.
This is the first stage of this project, which is really a testing stage. The next stages, instead of connecting Dupont and Georgetown, will connect Dupont and Brooklyn; or Dupont and Topeka, Kansas; or Dupont and Berlin; or Dupont and a refugee camp in Africa. The video feed is really just a glorified Skype connection between two laptops, using cheap video projectors to enlarge the image.
This stage is also a test of how passersby react. Colleagues and I will be watching in real life and online, taking regular screenshots (to be curated into a tumblr) and experimenting with the setup during the run. Are people nice or mean when they can anonymously interact with someone across town? Does the exhibit need any written explanation at all? (My guess is no.) Does it seem scary and governmental, or friendly and fun? What if the two parties could communicate via text message or chat feed?
We'll let DCist and other local media know about it and the story behind it, including your support and involvement, but otherwise the signage and branding is very low-key.
TL; DR: A wall-sized outdoor live Skype feed between Dupont and Georgetown. Strangers look at each other and interact. No audio. Someday, the setup will connect two places across the world rather than across town.
Funded by Washington, DC (April 2013)