Using AI to imagine the communities we will likely never have as New York City residents.






Generative AI


solo project


Most people in New York live in tiny apartments in extremely close proximity to others. In my first apartment, all my windows faced directly into those of my neighbors. I gained more intimate knowledge of their lives than I have for my closest friends, and yet, I never even learned their name.

The sense of anonymity that one experiences in New York can feel isolating. I realized I would subconsciously make up narratives for my neighbors, as if filling in empty outlines in a coloring book. Seeing that others were creating their own imagined communities, I decided to use generative AI to bring these to life.


I asked New York residents to describe a neighbor they saw constantly and had collected intimate knowledge about without ever having interacted with them. I asked ChatGPT to create physical descriptions and neighbor introductions. Click through below to see an example for a resident ChatGPT called Ethan Matthews, with a headshot generated by DALL-E.

I fed these neighbors’ physical descriptions into Dall-E to generate ID photos for each, which I then turned into 3D avatars using Character Creator's iClone. I used Amazon Polly and Narakeet to allow the neighbors introduce themselves. Here is an example of Mr. Chen (seen in the generated ID photo at the top of this page).


It was much harder to generate images of LatinX residents than any other race. Darker skin tones were also a struggle. It took many prompts each time to generate an ID image where the full head was visible.

Panoptic projection

To accompany the AI avatars, I created a physical prototype that I called a "panoptic projection" (reviewing our position inside society and observing it as a whole, participating in it while emitting a critical thought towards it).

I filmed videos of residents walking around their apartments, edited to look as though they were shot from the street on a rainy day. I projected these into a cardboard replica of an apartment building, each apartment accompanied by a voice over describing the fictional personality of its resident.