Our mission is to collaboratively build a video library of human life experience that reshapes how we as both producers and viewers conceive of cultures, nations and people outside of our own communities.

What is an Overview of The Global Lives Project?

The Global Lives Project is a video library of life experience, designed to cultivate empathy across cultures. We curate an ever-expanding collection of films that faithfully capture 24 continuous hours in the lives of individuals from around the world. We explore the diversity of human experience through the medium of video, and encourage discussion, reflection, and inquiry about the wide variety of cultures, ethnicities, languages, and religions on this planet. Our goal is to foster empathy and cross-cultural understanding.

Our web presence is possible thanks to generous support from the National Endowment for the Arts and design firm Method. Allowing visitors to engage with and become participants in the Global Lives Project, this advanced web interface is vital to transforming Global Lives’ exhibit design into an interactive video installation. Please stay tuned as we iron out kinks and continue to launch features in the coming months.

The Global Lives Project currently operates four programs:

  • Video production: Global Lives is building an ever-growing, online video library of human life experience by coordinating volunteer filmmakers and translators worldwide, including a new series on transit workers funded by the NEA.
  • Exhibitions: We build immersive video installations and host film screenings at museums, schools, and public spaces from the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco to United Nations University in Tokyo.
  • Web: With funding from the NEA, our website will enable visitors to interact deeply with the content, generating thematic tags, translations, commentaries, and even new video submissions.
  • Education: We provide enriching content and lesson plans to educators addressing themes of globalization and cross-cultural awareness through the lens of new media for grades 2-12.

Artist’s Statement  from 2010 Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Exhibit

Framed by the arc of the day and conveyed through the intimacy of video, we have slowly and faithfully captured 24 continuous hours in the lives of 10 people from around the world. They are screened here in their own right, but also in relation to one another.

There is no narrative other than that which is found in the composition of everyday life, no overt interpretations other than that which you may bring to it.

By extending the long take to a certain extreme and infusing it with the spirit of cinema verité, we invite audiences to confer close attention onto other worlds, and simultaneously reflect upon their own. The force and depth of human difference and similarity are revealed in this process. Gaps which mark cultural divides feel, at once, both wider and narrower. This sense – that we, as humans, are both knowable and unknowable, fundamentally different as well as the same – opens a space for dialogue.

Sometimes projects with the simplest premises are the most complicated to execute, and this can be said for Global Lives.

Hundreds of volunteers  from around the world make up our collective. Some are filmmakers and photographers, others are programmers and engineers, some are architects and designers, others are students and scholars – all are everyday people in their own contexts; each has participated according to his or her own motivations. They have donated, quite literally, thousands of hours towards bringing this project into being. This installation, our world premiere, offers us an opportunity to thank them, along with the generous communities that collaborated with us in each of these shoots.

This project is designed to remain a work-in-progress. Our volunteers are subtitling all 240 hours of footage in their original languages and translating them into English and beyond. This will form the basis for our online, participatory library of human life experience – the other major venue for our work. We continue to accept new footage for our expanding archive –  fresh additions to an evolving visual conversation.

Global Lives Impact Report 2013

Global Lives Impact Report

Click here to download our Impact Report PDF!

In 2002, the Global Lives Project was nothing more than an audacious idea—record and share 24 hours in the lives of ten people who roughly represent humanity’s diversity. It’s incredible to think of how far we’ve come since then.

In 2012 and 2013, we doubled the size of our video library, secured the support of the National Endowment for the Arts, launched our Unheard Stories curriculum and a global education program and forged critical partnerships with groups like the Smithsonian, Method, Adobe, the Stanford University School of Education, 826 Valencia and many more.

Thanks to the commitment and passion of our volunteer community and the support of these incredible partner organizations, we have made immense progress towards achieving our mission to foster a common sense of global empathy through our video library of life experience, our public exhibits and our work in classrooms around the world.

In 2013, we launched an ambitious website at globallives.org that now serves as a central collaboration platform for our global video production program. We achieved this by working closely with Method, a leading San Francisco design firm, and with the support of the National Endowment for the Arts. The site allows us to make our entire video library freely available to the public to stream or download.

Our initial video collection, The First Ten, is now available in its full uncompressed format for free download—all three terabytes! We have nearly completed the production phase of our second thematic collection, Lives in Transit. From Lara, a traveling clown in Spain, and Huyen, a worker on a sand barge in Vietnam, to Ruixian, a train attendant in China, Lives in Transit intimately captures the daily routines and rituals of people whose lives put them in motion in a world increasingly defined by mobility. We expect to finish post-production on the series by March of 2014.

In 2013, we also established our education program to pilot various exhibition models, develop student engagement activities, and evaluate launching a full-scale program. Global Lives’ ultimate goal in classrooms is to foster new media literacy and cultivate global citizenship and empathy among students around the world.

Looking ahead to 2014, we expect to continue our groundbreaking video production work, showcasing it publicly through exhibits at schools and museums, and investing more resources to further develop our education program.

On the heels of Lives in Transit, in early 2014 we will begin pre-production planning for a series that centers on speakers of endangered languages. We’re thrilled to begin work on this series in collaboration with the Smithsonian Consortium for World Cultures and the National Museum of Natural History—the most visited museum in the U.S. and second-most visited in the world.

None of our work would be possible without the generous support of hundreds of skilled volunteers and some of the world’s preeminent educational and cultural institutions. On behalf of Global Lives, its staff and Board of Directors, please accept our gracious thanks and best wishes for a safe and abundant new year!