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Middle Ground

San Francisco City Planning, San Francisco Public Library
Middle Ground

Bringing strangers together in public space.

Middle Ground, an interactive public placemaking project showcasing social science concepts, was a collaboration between the Exploratorium, San Francisco City Planning, San Francisco Public Library, and other partners. Sixteen columns housing interactive, multilingual exhibits about how we think, feel, and interact with others offered an immersive outdoor experience in the heart of the city. 

Innovative social science exhibits such as Unseen Stories, Making It in America, Sharing Faces, and the Pay It Forward Café allowed passersby to investigate social interactions, stereotypes, generosity, and the ways in which humans come together and pull apart. This free, centrally located exhibition was facilitated by Urban Alchemy stewards, who encouraged local residents and visitors to explore their curiosity and biases toward the strangers around them.

Middle Ground has now taken the form of fresh, interactive, digital content about how we think, feel, and behave toward other people. The website features interactive digital experiences and in-depth essays on social science topics related to those covered in the public installation. 

Middle Ground’s public installation was open from August 2019–April 2020.