From Mark Twain’s novel The Prince and the Pauper to Eddie Murphy’s movie Trading Places to the reality series Wife Swap, people have fantasized about trading lives with complete strangers. You may think someone else has the life you dream of, until you discover that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Or maybe it is… How would you know unless you traded lives with someone else?
20 Day Stranger is a social experiment app in development by MIT Media Labs Playful Systems and The Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values that is designed to heighten understanding among cultures by letting us virtually experience the life of a stranger for 20 days.
From the website:
“For 20 days, you and a stranger will experience the world in your own way, together. You’ll never know who it is or exactly where they are, but we hope it will reveal enough about someone to build your imagination of their life… and more broadly, the imagination of strangers everywhere.”
This video shows you how 20 Day Stranger works:
20 Day Stranger will pair you anonymously with a partner who is a fellow app user somewhere in the world so you can experience their daily life for 20 days. The app uses information from Google Street View, Instagram and Foursquare to give you anonymous and general information about your partner’s daily life and send information about your life to your partner. You don’t need to actively send information about yourself, the app does it for you.
The app sends general information about your day to your partner. For example, if your partner visits a park, you may see an Instagram photo from someone else that was taken at a park. If your partner is driving to work you may see Google Street View photos of their commute within a 1/2 mile radius of their location. If your partner visits a coffee shop you may receive a photo posted onto Foursquare by someone else from a coffee shop.
You have no way of knowing the identity of your partner. No names or exact locations are shared and no direct communication between the partners is permitted until the very end of the 20 day period. At that point, when the experiment is finished, you are allowed to send one (and only one) message to your partner: you can bid them fond farewell, reach out with contact information, or just thank them for participating, it’s up to you.
The app has not yet been released but you can volunteer to help test the app out now by going to the 20 Day Stranger website and applying to participate. The app is due to be released in a few months, first as an iPhone app and then later as an Android app. Stay tuned to The Wonder of Tech for news about the upcoming launch!
Would you like to trade lives with a stranger using the 20 Day Stranger app? Vote in The Wonder of Tech poll and let us know:
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to trade places with a stranger? Will you be signing up to test the app? Will you be getting the app when it launches? Let us know your thoughts in the Comments section below!
** Many thanks to Wonder of Tech reader cho cho for suggesting 20 Day Stranger to me!