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American life today is segregated in many ways. A lot of us live in neighborhoods that are divided by class or race. We are often closest friends with people who are like us or who agree with us. We may only watch media that confirm our basic beliefs, political or otherwise. Even our Google searches are filtered and ranked according to our previous searches and clicks, creating what has been called a “filter bubble.”
It requires real effort to encounter—certainly in any deep or sustained way—people whose experience is very different than our own. And yet we go on making judgments about people and politics based on our limited perspectives. What if we could change that?
The project is a series of ten dialogues, each between two very different people. The first person in the series chooses someone very different than him or her to have a dialogue with, and they talk; the second person chooses a third, and they talk; and so on. Each dialogue is structured around a set of questions, theater games, and open-ended discussion.
The dialogues will be recorded and used as the raw material for an educational curriculum and the multimedia website you are now visiting. Each dialogue will yield a podcast episode, photos of the participants, and more.
Paul VanDeCarr, project director, is the managing director of Working Narratives, and the author of that organization’s guide on “Storytelling and Social Change.” Paul has been a researcher, writer, and producer who has worked in diverse storytelling fields, including for the Columbia Center for Oral History, actress and playwright Anna Deavere Smith, and groups that do educational campaigns around documentary films.
Alison Byrne, project producer, is a radio and video producer, researcher, writer, and location scout producing documentary films, web series and other content for outlets such as HBO, PBS, and Discovery. She completed the Transom Story Workshop, and has since produced for various radio outlets. She received the 2015 Miller Audio Prize from The Missouri Review for her audio essay, “Leaving Los Angeles.”