Curry, Skype and a camera: one man's digital dinner diplomacy

Mon Oct 13, 2014 5:40am EDT
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By Ashutosh Pandey

BANGALORE (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - (This October 10 story was corrected in paragraph 12 to say women not women rights activists, and clarify paragraph 4 to indicate when the grant was received from Skype)

It's India-Pakistan diplomacy with a difference: two groups of students - one in Bangalore, one in Islamabad - talking fashion, film and politics over homemade curry and steaks.

By dining together on Skype calls, the students might knock down the cultural and political barriers that divide them. That's the dream of Eric Maddox, founder of the Virtual Dinner Guest initiative.

"It is harder to ignore, vilify or harm those with whom we have broken bread," said the 36-year-old American, who has spent the last three months in the Indian tech hub of Bangalore.

Maddox is filing for non-profit status for Virtual Dinner Guest, an idea conceived during field research in the West Bank as part of his degree in international conflict resolution. The project is funded by private donations and received a grant from Skype two years ago.

The ultimate aim is to create a database of conversations and street interviews that can be accessed by anyone, anywhere in the world - a platform, says Maddox, for a "natural culture of solidarity".   Continued...