Eric Maddox

The Virtual Dinner Guest Project
Posted on: September 28, 2011
The Virtual Dinner Guest Project (photo cred. Michael Karsh)

OVERVIEW 

The dinner table is arguably the world’s oldest and most universal social forum.

What if this forum was used to start a global conversation in support of justice, peace and intercultural dialogue?

Imagine Santa Fe’s art spaces converted to diplomatic-outposts, utilizing food and technology to connect people from around the world.

Since completing his undergraduate studies at St. John’s College in Santa Fe, The Virtual Dinner Guest Project’s founder and Director, Eric Maddox, has traveled extensively in the Middle East, completing his graduate research in International Conflict Resolution and Mediation while living and filming in The West Bank and Israel. He has spent the last two years filming his second documentary film on the US-Mexico Border. The first installment of the Virtual Dinner Guest Project took place in July of this year between residents of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico and Santa Fe. The second installment is scheduled for October 22nd with Kampala, Uganda. Eric will be moderating the Santa Fe side of all of the Virtual Dinners.

With Skype connections and dinner-table installations in local galleries, Santa Fe residents will participate in real-time dinner conversations with our international participants, while experiencing their native cuisine.

Mexico (completed 7/8/11), Uganda (10/22/11), Israel-Palestine, Liberia and Lebanon are just a few of the countries that have been lined up.

Proceeds from the meals will help to cover project costs, creating an internal revenue stream and local ownership.

Local art spaces will be equipped with video-monitor enabled dinner tables, projection equipment, A/V equipment, chef and table service, and 5-6 NM dinner guests. Audience seating will be made available. Audience members will be provided with hors d’ oeuvres, an opportunity to participate in a cross-cultural Q & A session after observing each meal, and details on how to get a seat at the table for the next event.

What The Virtual Dinner Guest Project is not:

A one-off novelty experience. Rather, participants on both ends will commit to a series of bi-weekly dinners, recorded post-meal interviews to assess impact and post to the website), and opportunities for continued collaboration in identified community-based projects.

A charity campaign. On the contrary, The Virtual Dinner Guest Project is about partnerships and local capacity-building. Funds to support the project will either be raised jointly or independently, but never on behalf of one side. The dinner events will be organized jointly, to leverage funds from the grass roots.

VDG is an emerging global initiative, and a platform for giving a face to the world’s communities and conflicts. SPREAD is only the beginning.

IMPLEMENTATION

Funds will cover food costs, A/V equipment rentals/purchase, IT support, videography and editing for web content/archive, chef & limited support staff, and print-advertising (a strategy for attracting sponsorship/leveraging financial support beyond our SPREAD grant).

Please check out the video of our completed pilot-project with Juarez, Mexico on our website at: virtualdinnerguest.com

DETAILS

Our project time-line is ongoing (SPREAD is just the beginning).

However we plan to use SPREAD funds to implement at least six events in six months. Events are to be open to the public, with suggested donations at door.

Two local venues, tech support, local business sponsorship and participants in several countries are already lined up.

IMPACT

It’s harder to ignore or vilify those we have broken bread with.

Our emotional investments have as much power to change the world as our financial ones.

VDG promotes a culture of informed compassion, practical global education, and grassroots entrepreneurship.

Local businesses sponsor “plates” at a set price, galleries provide space.

New Mexicans provide the community, and international participants are empowered through sharing personal narratives.

Let’s be an example for communities around the world. Let’s create opportunities to become more conscious global citizens and taxpayers. Let’s give everyone a seat at the table.

The Virtual Dinner Guest Project: Consume knowledge. Talk with your mind full.