‘Virtual Street Corners’ Allow for Real Interactions

Journalism / Article

Two adjacent neighborhoods in Boston Roxbury and Brookline now have instant contact with each other via two live, 24-hour, video screen.

Digital media artist John Ewing has installed the two screens, which play a continual view of a street corner in the other neighborhood. They also have a microphone, so residents can speak to one another.

The concept is simple: Give two strangers an easy-to-use mode of communication, and a conversation is bound to erupt. They may even scratch below the surface of small talk and actually interact with each other’at least, this is what John Ewing believes.

‘In Boston more than other places it seems people don’t get between neighborhoods. I was going to make this a live feed on a website, but I don’t want people to just sit in their living rooms. I want them to come down here, to get physically in their neighborhoods,’ Ewing told the Boston Globe.

The project, being partially funded by a $40,000 grant from the Knight News Challenge in 2009, will also include six news reports from a team of three staff from each neighborhood, as well as poetry readings and discussions with community leaders. There will even be a community Rock Band game using the screens, which will be up for three weeks.

Jamarhl Crawford, the Roxbury community organizer for Virtual Street Corners, said the two neighborhoods are intertwined, as over the years some residents have moved from working class Roxbury to wealthier Brookline. The project allows former residents to see how their old neighborhood has changed, he said.

‘I was interested in the project because of the ability to talk with a community that we really don’t get the opportunity to often talk with, even though we’re only separated by a couple of miles,’ explains Crawford in a video interview. ‘This is not a thing where at the end of this we’re going to save the world, but I do hope we have some dialogue. We want people to learn a thing or two about each other.”

This year’s Knight News Challenge winners will be announced on Wednesday at around 2pm’ stay tuned.