The Virtual Dinner Guest Project

Founded Year: 
2011
Entity Type: 
Initiative

Look in your fridge or pantry and you will find definitive endpoints of international commerce, our shelves and iceboxes revealing a veritable UN assembly of products and international partnerships.
At this moment the economic and political destinies of the world’s citizens are more interconnected than ever before. We work collectively to sate all manner of appetites, yet our intellectual and emotional connections to one another have failed to keep pace. What price are we paying for these disparities? What are the political, social and moral costs?
The Virtual Dinner Guest Project is an international multimedia initiative born from a simple premise: It is harder to ignore, vilify or harm those with whom we have broken bread.
The nuts and bolts of the project are straightforward. Imagine making a videoconference call from your dinner table while you and members of your community share a meal and a moderated discussion with people in another country. There is some strategy involved in the selection process, as countries that share less than amicable relations are actively sought out. Countries that suffer from overly facile media profiles of one another are also a point of focus.
The dinner table represents the world’s oldest and most universal social forum. The Virtual Dinner Guest project draws upon this notion and then extends the concept of the shared dining experience across borders and cultural divisions. Imagine dinner tables extending into the living room of a family in Cairo, the Yale University cafeteria or a rooftop Café in Tunis.
The Virtual Dinner Guest Project has actually realized all of the above scenarios. The project first launched from the US with a series of Virtual Dinners that connected Americans to participants in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, Kampala, Uganda and Karachi, Pakistan. The VDG Project ultimately intends to function as a platform for collaborative social entrepreneurship as well as a forum for international discourse.
Since February of 2012, the project has established itself in the MENA region, connecting from a growing list of cities that include Beirut, Cairo, and Tunis, back to the US with students at Yale, the University of New Mexico, Northwestern and other academic institutions. The inspiration for the new geographical base is strategic, to reach out to American students, community leaders and engaged citizens and create critical points of contact with communities across the MENA region during a time of political transition in both contexts.
The Virtual Dinner Guest Project represents an opportunity for citizens to be out in front of their governments, to manifest a culture of open discourse that might be emulated by their leadership. How might events such as these encourage a shift in the global media culture, if it becomes apparent that viewers and readers have become more connected with the street level perspective than the traditional purveyors of information? If social media can be used to foment revolution, how might we use it to nourish notions of peace, justice and open dialogue amongst nations?
If you believe that the world could benefit from a little more open dialogue, please contact us to see how you can support us and get involved. We are a community-building project aimed at creating a global network of local actors. Our community oriented project needs community support, input, and participation to reach its full potential.