Katerina Cizek

Pioneer in participatory and interactive documentary production


An innovative storyteller who works across many media platforms, Katerina Cizek is currently directing the National Film Board of Canada’s HIGHRISE, a multi-media project on life in residential skyscrapers in suburbs around the world. At MIT, she has collaborated with the Open Documentary Lab to develop the newest phase of this project, HIGHRISE: Digital Citizenship, which investigates how new communication and media technologies are reshaping the personal lives, political practices and citizenship claims of highrise residents. The project demonstrates how the documentary process can drive social innovation, rather than simply document it. Read more.

The Art, Ethics and Technology of Documentary Co-Creation
• Katerina Cizek, Documentary Director and MIT Visiting Artist
• Andrew Lowenthal, Open Documentary Lab Fellow and Executive Director of EngageMedia
• Mandy Rose, Associate Professor and Director of the Digital Cultures Research Centre, University of West England, Bristol UK
• Ethan Zuckerman, Director of the Center for Civic Media and principal research scientist at the MIT Media Lab

March 18, 2015 / 5:00 pm
The Landau Building 66-110
25 Ames Street

As new forms of media, networks and devices emerge throughout history, documentarians are always at the forefront of discovering how to tell stories with them. From the first newsreels, to the latest Virtual Reality installations, non-fiction creators are the first to introduce their audiences and users to novel ways of interacting, immersing and collaborating in new environments while interpreting reality. How can these new technologies change the documentary creator’s relationship to the “people formerly known as subjects”? How can new models of co-creation redefine not just the form of the story itself but the methods by which we create them? How can documentaries be made “with” people instead of “about” them? This panel examines the history and potential for documentarians to co-create with citizens, social scientists, technologists and performing artists, with the aim to both create artful meaning and foster concrete political action.

Workshop with Katarina Cizek and HIGHRISE
March 19, 2015 / 10-11:30 am

Prior to launch of the final iteration of HIGHRISE, the National Film Board of Canada will stage live performance. Katerina Cizek workshops how to bring the story to the stage and screen using fiction and non-fiction, improvised theatre, interview and recorded documentary. Join us to workshop the idea using fiction and non-fiction, improvised live theatre, interview and recorded documentary.


The Art, Ethics and Technology of Documentary Co-Creation
Panel with Kat Cizek, Andrew Lowenthal, Mandy Rose and Ethan Zuckerman
March 18, 2015 / 5:00 pm
The Landau Building 66-110
25 Ames Street

Workshop with Katarina Cizek and HIGHRISE
March 19, 2015 / 10-11:30 am
MIT Media Lab 6th Floor
For MIT Community Members

The final iteration of the National Film Board of Canada’s HIGHRISE, called UNIVERSE WITHIN: Digital Lives in the Global Highrise, will be releasing on-line this spring, Prior to launch, Kat and the team will be staging a live performance at Hot Docs, the largest Documentary Festival in North America. Please join us to workshop the idea, to bring the story to the stage and screen, using fiction and non-fiction, improvised live theatre, interview and recorded documentary.


Participatory and Interactive Documentary Workshop
January 27-30, 2014

Explore how technology enables new forms of storytelling and public engagement. This 4 day workshop, intended for anyone with an interest in collaborative storytelling and innovative research methods, will cover participatory methods, social and digital tools, and best practices in cross-disciplinary approaches of digital documentary.

The workshop covers the basics of building media projects with partners that aim to change worldviews, lives, policies, conditions, and tell good stories too. In this highly interactive workshop, you’ll learn about proven methods, projects and experiences, and we’ll brainstorm your own ideas and projects to develop concrete strategic plans.

The mornings feature lectures, screening and presentations. Visiting Artist Kat Cizek will share research findings and tool-kits around ethics and methodologies from over 8 years of practice, including the most recent project, a collaboration with the New York Times, “A Short History of the Highrise.” The afternoons feature structured break-outs into small groups to discuss/develop your own ideas for collaborative projects.

Class Visits

October 2-4, 2013

In the Media

The Atlantic Citylab: Explore the Digital Lives of Global Highrises in ‘Universe Within’

The Globe and Mail: Photo Essay: Why the high-rise is the future for an urbanized planet

The Globe and Mail: We should recognize Canada as a nation of high-rise-dwellers

CBC News: NFB’s Highrise web project wins Digital Emmy

The New York Times: A Short History of the Highrise 

The New York Times: Your Story of Life in High-Rises 

Wired: One Millionth Tower High-Rise Documentary Takes Format to New Heights 

Filmmaker Magazine: The New Digital Storytelling Series: Katerina Cizek 

NPR: Choose Your Own Adventure With 360-Degree Documentaries 

DocLab: HIGHRISE/Out My Window 


Scot Osterweil, Creative Director of the Education Arcade and a research director in the MIT Comparative Media Studies/Writing Program

William Uricchio, Professor of Comparative Media Studies; Principal Investigator, MIT Open Documentary Lab and MIT Game Lab 

Sarah Wolozin, Director, MIT Open Documentary Lab


YouTube: The Art, Ethics and Technology of Documentary Co-Creation

Blog: Life in the Global High-rise 

TechTV: Documentaries, Journalism and the Future of Reality-Based Storytelling