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Experimental App Lets Users Get To Know A Stranger

on Monday, Jun. 23rd

Our world is more connected than ever, but sometimes it can feel like we’re using social media to build walled gardens. Tying up our real-world and digital lives into tighter and tighter bundles, instead of reaching out to new frontiers.

A group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is looking to go against that current with an app they are experimenting with called 20 Day Stranger. Wired’s Liz Stinson has the details:

Created by MIT’s Playful Systems Group, the app (now in beta testing) partners two people, who live as far away from each other as possible, in an anonymous digital pen pal scenario. Every day for 20 days, each person gets messages alerting them to vague details about their partner’s life: When he wakes up in the morning, where she’s going, what the weather is like where that person lives. You remain anonymous to each other the entire time, until day 20 when you get the chance to send one 400 character message. It’s about as poetic as apps come. “It should feel like postcards rather than letters,” says Kevin Slavin, a professor at MIT and director of the Playful Systems Group.

One of the great joys of early social media, even before we had the term, was getting to know far flung people. If this design philosophy can help reclaim some of that wonder, I hope it spreads.

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