Earlier this year on April 20th, students from the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani and Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States connected with each other through a live digital portal.
The project was led by Dr. Hemin Latif, vice president of university advancement from AUIS and Tamara Jafar and Alexander Jacobson from GSD. Dr. Hemin explained that the idea behind the event was to extend the use of the internet beyond conventional conference calling and face-to-face meeting. Using custom designed software, the event created an augmented reality experience where participants from two ends seemed to be sharing the same physical space.
The event was part of Harvard Graduate School of Design’s project entitled Interlaced Space, “which is the first iteration of an ongoing experiment in empowering civilians to directly connect despite pre-conceived, spatial, national, or cultural barriers,” according to their press release about the project. Dr. Latif explained that the event came about after a visit by Harvard student Tamara Jafar to AUIS last year who initially proposed the project. Jafar is an Iraqi-American urban planning student with a political science background in conflict areas and is a member of Brooklyn-based indie rock band, Cultfever.
The digital portal intermittently connected the AUIS cafeteria with Chauhaus Cafe at Harvard Graduate School of Design for four days from April 20th to 24th. The inaugural event on the 20th included interesting discussions and musical performances from students at both ends in the informal setting of their cafeterias. Food and snacks were provided on both sides to add to the natural interaction of the participants. The Interim President of AUIS, Dr. Esther Mulnix, and Associate Dean at Harvard Graduate School of Design, Michael Hays, also spoke to the students at the event.
“Only when we believe that distant communication cannot get better and our social life cannot be more controlled by Information Technology, come new ideas and tools that challenge our perception. This project for example, made us rethink how institutions and communities across the world might communicate and socialize in the near future due to continuous innovation in the use of Information Technology,” said Latif about the event. “We believe that the participants enjoyed the experience. A good number of students have signed up for follow up events and further interaction,” he added. While this particular setup was arranged for the launch event only, other smaller events are planned for the future, such as classroom discussions.
Dr. Latif extended his thanks to Korak Agha from AUIS IT department, IT student volunteers, Dr. Esther Mulnix, Ms. Tamara Jafar and Mr. Alexander Jacobson from the Harvard Graduate School of Design, AUIS Communications department and Avesta Restaurant for their support.
Read more about the project in this press release by Harvard GSD.