Universe Within: Digital Lives in the Global Highrise Playlist (Ages 13-18)

Universe Within: Digital Lives in the Global Highrise Playlist (Ages 13-18)

Universe Within is a multiplatform digital representation of global stories contained by and thriving in highrise apartment structures across the globe. This project is the final component of Highrise, the National Film Board’s innovative documentary exploration of international urban development. Students will not only learn about geography but will also engage in the lives of real people, with contemporary, challenging and sometimes controversial concerns. Each story illustrates the social and cultural realities of urban living while at the same time balancing the overarching political and economic truths. This project also engages students in an innovative and interactive method of content delivery.

Go to the Universe Within interactive website.

The individuals who are highlighted in these stories illustrate the potential for electronic media to change oftentimes oppressive realities. Each of the stories shows how activism begins in the home; highrise living is the setting for engaged activism on a personal level. At the same time, the stories illustrate the complex issues involved with these technologies. Some of the stories explore the problematic nature of surveillance and privacy, while others document individuals who use social media technology to improve educational access and human rights, and even to protect housing and the environment. Stories also illustrate how these new technologies can be used to problem-solve situations circumvented by politics, gender and economic concerns. These are bold stories told from local perspectives.

Download the study guide.

  • Universe Within - Toronto
    2015|3 min

    The Patel family prays in their apartment morning and night, using their cell phones and their laptop computers to connect with live-streaming from Hindu temples around the world.

  • Universe Within - Tokyo
    2015|3 min

    As Yoko loses control of her body to Lou Gerrig's Disease, she prepares for her future by learning to operate (through eyeblinking) a "proxy" robot that goes out into the world for her, when she can no longer leave her Tokyo apartment.

  • Universe Within - Seoul
    2015|3 min

    "Incredible Miracle" is a team of teenage boys who are world champion e-sports (competitive video gaming) players. They live, work and train on video games together in a highrise compound in central Seoul, often not leaving the premises for days on end.

  • Universe Within - Ottawa
    2015|2 min

    Cathy, who lives on her rural property outside St. John’s NFLD, has an aging mother who lives in Ottawa.  Instead of sending her to a home, Cathy had several wifi connected sensors installed in her mum’s home and is able to keep tabs on her mother.

  • Universe Within - New York City - Hurricane
    2015|3 min

    In the absence of timely government emergency response to the devastation of Hurricane Sandy,  one woman turns to google docs to organize the relief efforts of volunteers going door-to-door, floor-by-floor in the highrises of south Brooklyn, to aid Russian Jewish Seniors trapped in their own homes.

  • Universe Within - New York City
    2015|2 min

    For 22 years inside a federal prison, Alvin had no access to a computer or the internet. So when he was released last year, he had decades worth of digital learning to catch up on: google, email, facebook and twitter. And now, through facebook, he has found his long lost son.

  • Universe Within - Guangzhou
    2015|3 min

    Through the internet, Ling has arranged for herself a "mock marriage" to a gay man, to conceal her lesbian identity from her parents, with whom she lives in a highrise apartment in Guangzhou, China's 3rd largest city.

  • Universe Within - Baku
    2015|4 min

    New online tools have begun to offer a way to bridge the divide between a new generation of Armenians and Azerbaijanis activists brought up unable to remember the time when both lived side by side together in peace.  One of them is Ahmed Mukhtar, a 28-year-old Internally Displaced Person (IDP) from Aghdam. Working as a photojournalist, Mukhtar photographs the plight of other IDPs in Azerbaijan, and also trains IDP children in using photography to document their lives. In a country where the mainstream media is government-controlled, the Internet is Mukhtar’s only way to publish images.

  • Universe Within - Accra
    2015|3 min

    John is a 30-year old that operates PC Clinic Air, a wireless Internet café in his apartment building.  He wants to provide Internet access at an affordable rate, and considers his work in the public interest. Currently, his customers pay half of what they would with any of Ghana’s major network providers. In addition, his clients save the cost of purchasing a modem, or Internet stick. People use the Wi-Fi on their mobile phones, laptops or smart TVs.