How Shipping Containers are Connecting Strangers around the World

Few things are more important or more useful than international communication. Today, more than ever, there are many wonderful ways for people around the world to connect with each other directly. Innovative technology makes it possible for people to interact with others without leaving their home. Students and professors at Johns Hopkins have been busy creating a brand new way to foster even more international communication dialogue. In doing so, they have turned to one of the most ubiquitous of all global items: the shipping container. Shipping containers have taken on new life as part of a new idea called portals.

The Portal

A portal is a shipping container that’s been fitted out with modern technology. Using audio visual equipment, people can speak with others in the portal free of distractions. Much like sitting in a movie theater, the portal is quiet and dark so people can relax. Unlike a movie, however, direct communication is possible with the people on the screen on the other side. The idea for the portal came from Amar Bakshi and Michelle Moghtader. The two are the co-founders of an organization known as Shared Studios. Shared Studios aims to create interconnected environments that allow for greater worldwide communication and more effective ways to use the internet. Portals have been set up in varied places around the world. They are in use in many countries around the world including Afghanistan, Germany, Rwanda, Spain and the United Kingdom. Portals have been set up to help facilitate direct international communication in many varied spaces including universities, arts centers, museums, refugee camps and technological hubs.

Face to Face Communication

Shipping containers are durable and offer enough space so that people can stand in them and move around. The two founders have stationed them in thirty cities including Baltimore. When people enter a portal, they are given seating in a grey room. The people at the other end will appear as they do in life. This creates the highly effective illusion that both parties are sharing the same space at the same time. When people are together in the shipping container, it often feels as if they are in a separate world of their own. Each party can see the other party and respond to questions. They can also learn about nuances such as the person’s body language and facial expressions.

A Local Curator

In order to help facilitate conversation even further, each portal has a dedicated local curator. The portal at Johns Hopkins is run by the Johns Hopkins Stavros Niarchos Foundation Agora Institute. They have many goals on site that they hope to meet. Officials want to create platforms for dialogues. They also want to help any misconceptions that people have about people from other cultures and help overcome them. In doing so, they believe that this will help inspire direct collaborations that can make communities around the world better places to live. They believe that such portals can be great use in helping communities achieve this goal.

Davenport Laroche, headquartered in Hong Kong, is a major player in the container rental and hard assets investment industry.