U.C. Berkeley News: Empathy and Compassion in the Global Lives Project

 At U.C. Berkeley, you may see a screen that takes up the size of the wall. It displays images of people around the world walking, sleeping, laughing, and living ordinary lives. 

This is the Global Lives Project. It is a 24 hour continuous video with no voice-overs or narratives showing the daily routines of people around the world.

While David Harris was an undergraduate, he was inspired to record a day in a regular person’s life. He continued in this same endeavor two years after graduating, recording 24 hours of James Bullock’s life. Bullock was a cable car operator in San Francisco. Why would this be so interesting? He wants to draw attention to the magical of the ordinary: the uniqueness of all humans.

Now 15 years later, Harris expanded this mission to a global scale and launched the Global Lives Project. The 24-hour footage follows 20 people around the world. The clips include a Vietnamese sand barge worker, a college student in Tokyo, and a traveling clown in Spain.

At the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Harris has put up his ambitious project that he hopes will spark discussions about religion, gender, race, and class. These discussions have been tinged with paranoia and distrust, and he hopes to add empathy into the mix. The exhibit follows the journey that led him to start Global Lives, a nonprofit and online video library. It is meant to inspire literacy and kindness in discussing global issues.

David Harris learned this very early on in his time at U.C. Berkeley. At a freshman seminar, the now UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ gave a talk about the arts. He said he didn’t “need to be bound by the boundaries of my discipline.” At the time, he was studying sociology, forestry, political science, and economics. Later, he embarked on a pivotal journey: a study abroad trip in countries such as the United Kingdom, Tanzania, the Philippines, India, and Mexico.

“The program changed my life. It changed everything in me,” he recalled. “I wanted to share this newfound sense of the importance of understanding cultures and lives from beyond my local community.”

In regards to future projects, he would like to explore topics such as climate change or the global disability community.

Global Lives recently produced Unheard Stories, an educator guide that emphasizes empathy and global concerns to middle- and high-school students.

Funding sources include the Adobe and Smithsonian foundations, the NEA, and the Berkeley-Haas’ Eckles Fund for Diversity and Social Impact, and others.

U.C. Berkeley is a world-class university with a variety of notable degrees and programs. Their alumni and professors do work that changes the world on a daily basis. Their admissions does not discriminate for financial need. For more information, take a look on their website.

Questions? Let us know!