Portal Project to Capture Discourse of Fairness, Justice, Equality

The Justice Collaboratory will join with Shared_Studios and artist Amar Bakshi ’15 to bring Portals, a Global Public Art Initiative, to Newark, New Jersey, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin beginning on April 18 to address issues within the United States criminal justice system.

The New Jersey Portal will be set up in Military Park, while the Wisconsin Portal will be set up in the Harambee neighborhood, which has the highest incarceration rate in the country. The project is made possible with support from The Justice Collaboratory, the ISPS Center for the Study of Inequality at Yale University, the Rutgers School of Criminal Justice, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

The Collaboratory will use information from Portals conversations to better understand how people around the United States perceive the police and how they relate their experiences to ideals of fairness, justice, and equality. The research is specifically interested in how people narrate their interactions with police authority and what discourses they draw on to make sense of their experiences.

"The idea of actually having a truly public conception of how police understand communities and how communities understand police has eluded us until Portals," said Tracey Meares, Walton Hale Hamilton Professor.

Portals are gold shipping containers with immersive audio and video technology inside. Participants come face-to-face with someone in the other container, and the two converse live as if in the same room. Since its launch in December 2014, Portals has connected more than 12,000 people in conversation between Tehran, Havana, Herat, New York, New Haven, San Francisco, Miami, Washington D.C., a Syrian refugee camp, and Kigali, to name a few.

The gold shipping containers can be placed anywhere—in a neighborhood, in a community gathering spot, in a public square. The Justice Collaboratory researchers plan to ask people who want to enter the Portal a single question, such as when you think about Ferguson, what comes to mind? Or what does Ferguson have to do with your life? With their consent, the Collaboratory will record the conversations that take place, conversations that will be de-identified and transcribed later.

“Shared_Studios is very excited about this partnership. The Milwaukee–Newark Portal connection will be our first domestic Portal pairing and we hope that it can yield the same kinds of intimate dialogues we have seen across countries over the past year and half,” says Amar Bakshi. “The idea for Portals was born at Yale Law School—to create a place for people to create their own meanings—and so we are particularly pleased to be teaming up with Professor Tracey Meares and The Justice Collaboratory in this endeavor.”

Portals Newark will be open to the public beginning April 18. Individuals can reserve 20-minute slots of time by visiting www.SharedStudios.com. Walk-ins are also welcome.

Read more coverage about Portals in Yale News and from Yale Law School.