One of the many reasons I love San Francisco is the abundance of cool and interesting events always going on somewhere in the city. I recently had the pleasure of attending an event showcasing the Global Lives Project, a collective effort of more than 150 volunteer filmmakers, artists, architects, programmers and everyday people from around the world to build and display a video library of human life experience. The projects goal is to record 24 hours in the lives of 10 people that roughly represent the diversity of the planet’s population. The installation gives the viewer a chance to step out of their own reality and into one they never would have known.
The installation will consist of 10 different rooms, each airing unedited footage of a different person. The point of this is to take people out of own daily lives and bring them into the reality of people from all walks of life from all over the world. People will be challenged to rethink their own lives in connection to the rest of the world. The future of the project will integrate the public in evolving and growing and online video library of video works of human life experiences.
David Evan Harris of San Francisco, is the creator of Global Lives and got the idea for the project after he spent months studying and traveling around the world his junior year in college. Specifically his experiences in living with host families in different countries inspired David to develop Global Lives. In an interview at the iSummit in Japan, David talks about how he began to view the world differently after his trip. “When back in US after living in a bamboo hut in the Philippines and having spent time in a former squatter settlement in Mexico city, those people whose lives I had shared so intimately really stuck out in my mind and I couldn’t even do the sort of normal day to day tasks like reading a newspaper or watching a TV news cast and think about those countries in the same abstract way that I use to. I thought about the individuals”. David Evan Harris
I completely understand this feeling.
“My goal of Global Lives was to communicate the emotional aspect of my critical understanding of globalization and I really wanted to communicate that to many different audiences. Global lives is about taking people out of their everyday experience and showing them a daily reality that they otherwise would have never experienced. And through that asking them to really rethink their own role in the world and their relationship with people as individuals”. David Evan Harris
I thought the installation was brilliant and inspiring. Perhaps it was because I had just returned from a year of travel that I had such an appreciation for the project’s goal. I loved feeling like I was again in another country and learning about the culture and experiences of these very different people. As I watched the videos, I couldn’t help but wonder if such an exhibit would be of interest to others in our country? Of course the group attending the event were all very excited about the project, as like myself, they were people who not only love to travel but also love to talk about their travels. I found it very refreshing to talk to strangers about their journeys and share stories from mine. Since I have been back in the states I have noticed that while everyone is interested in my travels, some people can only hear so much before I notice their eyes glazing over. It was really inspiring to be around those that share my love of the open road and the passion for adventure!
I understand that not everyone would enjoy traveling in third world countries, but would love to learn more about those parts of the world. The installation allows one to experience another part of the world without stepping foot on a plane. But ultimately I wondered how could this organization and people like myself reach out to others and elicit their interest in the people of the world?
During the presentation I was reminded of some statistics regarding young people’s understanding and interest in people in other parts of the world.
38% of young Americans (18-24) consider speaking another language to be “not too important”*
88% of young Americans cannot point out Afghanistan on a map*
89% of young Americans do not correspond regularly with anyone outside of the US*
One of the most difficult statistics to pin down is: How many Americans have passports? It’s difficult to measure, since passports expire, people expire, and the population is always changing. But the best estimate is that only about 25% of all Americans at any given time have a valid passport. While I could not find an official government statistic for current passport ownership, I did find this page of the number of passports issued each year.
I have to wonder if the people who could potentially learn the most from the exhibit would ever consider going to such an exhibit? How can Global Lives reach the 75% of Americans who have never left their own shores? How do you elicit the desire to learn about other parts of the world and potentially awaken the travel bug that may lie within? How do you diminish the fears associated with the unknown and unfamiliar? How do you inspire someone to want to see and ultimately better understand the reality of the lives of those who live lives so different from us? How do we get people to step out of the comfort of their bubble to be challenged in new ways?
I can answer some of these questions from my own personal experiences. I use to be someone who most definitely lived in a bubble and was very unaware of many aspects of this world from politics, history, current events, and the many cultures of the world. I attribute my moving to and living in San Francisco to an awakening of ideas that I had never considered. My experiences traveling have also played a huge part in the person I am today. While I have always liked to travel on some level, I now understand travel to be so much more than a vacation at the beach. Travel is a means to challenge, educate, and develop myself through the experiences and people I meet in an effort to better understand this crazy world we live in and to truly develop opinions and desires for myself and the world. I am thankful that I have had the opportunity to live in a city that is very culturally diverse and provides a tolerant environment allowing one to appreciate the differences of people throughout the world. San Francisco is the kind of place in which one can step out of the box and challenge the ideals and standards of society, to make people question their beliefs, and re-affirm or discard them.
Some may ask, why should we even try to reach people that are not interested in the daily lives of people half way around the world? This world is very much interconnected and the more we know and understand other nations, the closer we are at bridging the gaps in society. Until we can all as a country examine the most significant social, political and environmental issues confronting countries and cultures around the world can we truly take steps to solving these issues and making this world a better place.
I think that the Global Lives Project has the right idea.
Global Lives is working to raise money that will be used to complete the remaining video shoots and launch the final installation. You can contribute to this project as a volunteer or you can click here to make a donation.