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Combining elements of computer science, anthropology, visual art, and storytelling, I build systems to explore and explain aspects of the human world. These systems often involve passive observation, data mining, pattern finding, and information visualization. I believe in making projects that deal with timeless and universal ideas, executed simply, playfully, and with lots of human emotion. I believe in the similarities shared by all people. I believe in the power of stories to increase empathy in the world. I believe that everyone has a story to tell, but that too few people have a good forum in which to tell it. I believe that the commonality between people exists primarily in the ordinary stuff of everyday life - breakfast, bedrooms, first dates, feelings, kitchens, dreams, shoes, pets, hairstyles - but that these things aren't news, so they don't get covered. Instead we get the extremes - superficial superstars, flagrant wealth, horrible poverty, disease, bombs, insurgencies, celebrities, refugees - and this creates an unrealistic sense that there are only huge gaps between people, leading to a sense of isolation and misunderstanding. By building platforms to record and disseminate the everyday stories of normal people, I seek to change this in some small way. The study of the human experience is a lot like the study of the oceans - we know a lot about the surface and a lot about the deepest depths, but the most interesting things might reside in the relatively unexplored middle zones, about which we know very little. In the human world, it's these middle zones that interest me.
(2009-06-08)The Gifted Traveler will provide an interactive portrait of the developing world, composed of thousands of individual stories from normal people, stretching from the southern tip of Africa to the eastern coast of ...