More than half of the global population is now living in cities. Especially in larger cities, most of these people reside in apartments. The population density may be particularly high, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that people get to know each other – or have any contact at all, for that matter. The vertical city often lacks a sense of community. While Katerina Cizek was making a documentary about people living in a Toronto apartment building, it struck her that most city dwellers go online to stay in contact with other people; their social arena is the Internet. Working in collaboration with academics, technicians
and locals, she developed the project into a multimedia experience entitled HIGHRISE
. The culmination of this work is Universe Within
, in which citizens of Toronto, Mumbai and Singapore talk about how social media, email
and Skype are impacting their physical existence. These technologies often have a constructive influence, showing that social media exert real social effects. We see people living in an apartment block join together to lobby for a children’s playground, and to take action against developers when their home is threatened with demolition. But many of the interviewees are realistic about the shortcomings of exclusively virtual contact – it’s no substitute for human contact or a face-to-face conversation.