Compared to the online comments section—that domain of the keyboard warrior and the realm of dumb trolls—public, in-person conversations are still the gold standard for constructive dialogue, because it’s harder to be rude to someone when you’re staring right at them. That’s why, to combat toxic discourse, the Van Alen Institute and Times Square Alliance are hosting a friendly discussion series on hot-button issues in the middle of New York’s busiest public space.
Crossroads Conversations pairs perfect strangers to talk—without animus—about the divisive topics that dominate the headlines. This evening, in front of the Red Steps in Times Square, New Yorkers and visitors passing through the “Crossroads of the World” will be matched up for one-on-one conversations about immigration, facilitated by journalists.
Participants at tonight’s discussion will be speaking with Quartz‘s design reporter Anne Quito and The Architect’s Newspaper’s very own associate editor, Audrey Wachs.
Rather than digging into the nitty-gritty of the border wall RFP or Presidents Trump’s travel ban, the 10-minute conversations are meant to reveal personal stories, inspire sharing, and find common ground within divergent viewpoints.
Van Alen held a pilot Crossroads last December in response to the current political climate and the strong feelings it provokes on the Left and Right. Future conversations will center on health, sexuality, the environment, and infrastructure, and, to wrap up the series, Van Alen will aggregate key ideas from the conversations into “Word on the Street” reports that add another dimension to the issues of the day.
Crossroads Conversations’ first discussion runs tonight from 6–7 p.m. in front of the Red Steps. The talks are free and public—no RSVP required.