Immersive Journalism

In Creative Futures we will be looking at Immersive Journalism throughout the second semester.

These are the main points I took from John’s Power Point presentation and suggested websites:

‘Immersive journalism’ is the production of news in a form in which people can gain first person experiences of the events or situation described in news stories.’

Witness to a real event as it unfolds by:

  • Entering a virtually recreated scenario representing the news story
  • A digital avatar – an animated 3D digital representation of the participant, and see the world from the first-person perspective of that avatar.
  • As oneself, a visitor gaining first-hand access to a virtual version of the location where the story is occurring, or through the perspective of a character depicted in the news story.
  • Gain unprecedented access to the sights and sounds, and possibly, the feelings and emotions that accompany the news

“Immersive journalism is the production of news in a form in which people can gain first person experiences of the events or situation described in news stories. Well-crafted journalism always aims to elicit a connection between the audience and the news story.

The fundamental idea of immersive journalism is to allow the participant to actually enter a virtually recreated scenario representing the news story. The participant will be typically represented in the form of a digital avatar – an animated 3D digital representation of the participant, and see the world from the first-person perspective of that avatar.

The participant can also enter the story in one of several forms: as oneself, a visitor gaining first-hand access to a virtual version of the location where the story is occurring, or through the perspective of a character depicted in the news story. Whether visiting the space as oneself or as a subject in the narrative, the participant is afforded unprecedented access to the sights and sounds, and possibly, the feelings and emotions that accompany the news.”

Personally the idea of donning a head  set to immerse myself into a digital experience of first-hand ‘reality’ is a complete paradox. I can understand the significance of 360º news reporting but the whole virtual version of events makes everything seem unreal and much further removed from the true realities of these significant major events.

I looked a little closer at some examples of Immersive Journalism:

Nonny de la Peña, “Hunger in Los Angeles.” January 2012.

“The Displaced”, New York Times. Novemeber 2015.

“The Battle for Northern Syria”, Smart News Agency, September 2015.

“Hunger in Los Angeles” was produced 5 years ago which, in terms of technology, is very dated. The experience is intended to give access to the sights, sounds, feelings and emotions of the event. However, the outcome is far from the reality of actually witnessing such an event. The animation is crude, the people and scene plastic and unreal. Maybe the impact is much greater wearing head mounted display virtual reality goggles but this takes you even further from authenticity. It would be easier to actually stand in a food bank queue yourself to witness a true reality.

“The Displaced” puts you in refugee camps and desolate villages, where you can witness firsthand the effects of war through the eyes of 3 young refugees. The video is a moving, true to life depiction of the situation of these children. The sensitivity of the subject matter is handled with care and the poignancy highlighted by emphasising the devastating effects on children.

I watched the video a first time without knowing much about the background. Being able to see the actual places and people involved, coupled with personal commentary made the situation more real. Something that is happening in the present moment. The video works as a stand alone report but incited me to look further into the issues involved.

I found it useful to read the following articles and then go back to watch the video with a more knowledgeable approach.

https://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/08/magazine/the-displaced-introduction.html?_r=0

https://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/08/magazine/the-displaced-oleg.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/08/magazine/the-displaced-hana.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/08/magazine/the-displaced-chuol.html

“The Battle for Northern Syria” is a hard-hitting glimpse into reality which transports you to Jisr al-Shughur in Syria, to experience the tragedy as if you were there.  It suggest you watch the video with a dedicated headset for the best immersive experience. Contrary to what I previously stated, I would like to take part in this experience. I think that we are so far removed from this situation that to be able to feel closer to the events brings home the immediacy. That these things are happening here and now in our world.

Immersive journalism allows news reporting to be globally distributed. I looked at Smart News Agency who published this video and many others. The original website is in Arabic, which allows a truly faithful depiction of events. However, with the wonders of modern technology, a web translation is helpful for a better understanding.

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