For 20 Days, This App Connects Two Strangers Who Will Never Meet
20 Day Stranger allows them to track each other's lives...but in an intentionally vague and anonymous way. Its developers say the goal is to increase empathy and understanding.
Kecia Lynn has worked as a technical writer, editor, software developer, arts administrator, summer camp director, and television host. A graduate of Case Western Reserve University and the Iowa Writers' Workshop, she is currently living in Iowa City and working on her first novel.
What's the Latest Development?
Developers at MIT Media Lab's Playful Systems group are working on an iPhone app that they say will use common mobile features to foster compassion and understanding between people. As its title implies, 20 Day Stranger will match two complete strangers and allow them to see descriptions of each other's activities that are intentionally vague (such as "at a cafe" or "near an airport") for just under three weeks. The app uses the phone's sensors as well as general data from services like Instagram and Google Maps to give just enough information without revealing private details such as names or specific addresses.
What's the Big Idea?
The app is the brainchild of Tinsley Galyean, who co-directs MIT's Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values and broached the idea to the development group. "[It] isn’t to make your life transparent," says Playful Systems director Kevin Slavin, "it’s to give just enough to wonder and imagine and ultimately, to care. It is explicitly about producing imagination and conjecture, not transmitting information." Indeed, the app only serves to link two anonymous people who, at the end, will ideally gain some insights into everyday living.
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