Digital street portraiture — There is an app for that, thanks to enterprising undergraduates at NYU Shanghai. Inspired by Humans of New York (a blog gone viral on Facebook and Instagram), Musa Malik, a neuroscience major, teamed up with computer science major Alexandru Grigoras and computer science professor Keith Ross, creating a new mobile app called humans — the first global album of digital street portraiture.
“Humans provides a unique perspective into the daily lives of people from the entire globe, bringing to light to stories of struggle, inspiration, and joy,” said Malik who originally conceived the idea and is now actively promoting the app.
Anyone around the world can sign up and contribute their own photo-stories about people from their local communities or simply browse through entries and discover personal tales from all over the world. Whether sad, funny, or inspiring, these are stories of people who suddenly don’t feel so much like “foreigners.”
After discussing the project together, Professor Ross helped Malik team up with Grigoras, who developed the entire app on his own and single-handedly wrote every line of code over a span of nine months. A beta android version was released late summer of 2015, and now the app is available for android, iphone and also has a browser interface. “This is by far the largest and most exciting software project I have been involved with to date,” said Grigoras.
You can already find over 1,000 stories from over 30 different countries now on humans. Users can browse by country, by artist (contributor), by top stories, by recent stories, by featured stories, and by story themes. You can interact by giving a ‘thumbs up’ or by assigning a specific emotion to a story.
Currently the top contributor is Tehreem Nihar, a second year NYU Shanghai neuroscience major. Her posts breathe life into portraits of people from Pakistan, from the streets of Shanghai, and even feature stories of NYU students and faculty. “I’ve had an amazing experience interviewing and taking portraits of people so far. I am glad to be part of this project and to have had meaningful interactions with interesting people asking them to share something personal, because everyone has some something different to share,” said Nihar.
In addition, many other NYU Shanghai students have already started posting stories to humans, including Anna Jaskiewicz, sharing stories of China and Poland, and Diem Hang Pham shedding light on lives from Thailand and Hungary.
“I am very proud that our NYU Shanghai students have developed such an exciting application, and also have contributed so many compelling stories,” said Professor Ross.
The humans project is already gaining momentum on the web, featured in Buzzfeed’s “16 Things You Should do in 2016” and “The Love Around Us,” and NYU Shanghai’s independent student newspaper On Century Ave. Musa Malik goes in depth about the Humans project “aim[ing to] promoting cultural amalgamation and tolerance amongst global communities in this interview.
Experience and download the app here.
See more on this story from NYU Shanghai here.