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.