Universe Within: how the internet unites the world

The Candadian Film Board’s interactive piece, Universe Within, is wonderful. It’s well-made, and it’s fascinating.

Universe Within is a digital documentary that reveals the hidden digital lives of highrise residents around the world. From intimate whispers on Skype, to explosive political uses of WhatsApp in neighbourhoods under siege, this story takes us inside the hearts, minds and computers of vertical citizens around the world: from Guangzhou to Mumbai to New York and beyond.

And what makes me love it is because it challenges the common narrative that the internet has somehow lessened humanity. Watching people empowered by digital technology, listening to their stories from around the world while I sit at a desk in London… I see that the internet has changed everything, but I just don’t see all that change as for the worse.

Dex Torricke-Barton wrote a great piece recently, How the internet is uniting the world. In it he says:

The history of humanity is a story of people coming together in new and different ways. We began as bands of hunter gatherers. But one day we came out of the plains of Africa to make the world our own. Our communities have never stopped growing in size and complexity. Now technology gives us the chance to take the next big step — to build one great human community.

He goes on to say—and I agree—that we must not pretend this will be a utopia. There will be clashes and divisions and power struggles, the diminishing of local culture… but I look at stories like those of Ummai, using social media to organise a workers union for migrant workers in Singapore, and I can’t help but feel that we have an incredible force for good at our disposal.


Also published on Medium.