Experiencing the News: Immersive Journalism

Immersive journalism is an emerging genre in which sound, video, and reporting are melded together and presented with virtual reality technology to put the consumer in the scene, usually experiencing it from the point of view of the participants.

It’s similar to the journalism sub-genre documentary film, but with the extra VR component.

The leading example to date is the immersive film Hunger in Los Angeles, by Nonny de la Pena.  De la Pena is a former classmate of Oculus Rift founder Palmer Luckey and a journalist and filmmaker.  She put the capabilities of the Rift into her film which chronicles people waiting in line at a Los Angeles food bank.  The immersed consumer sees herself or himself standing in line and witnesses an elderly person suffering a diabetic attack.  These are all real events that De la Pena documented.  The user immersed with the capabilities of Oculus Rift and hears sounds recorded at the scene.

De la Pena counsels that if audio isn’t strong, the user’s illusion will be shattered.

On the surface, the benefits of “being there” when receiving a news feature are self-explanatory.  But they go beyond realism or a fulfilling sensory experience.  The larger concept is the cultivation of empathy, using the information—sight, sounds—point-of-view—to cause the user to see things he or she wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

The film Hunger in Los Angeles isn’t yet into play via the Rift, but it won’t be long.

The project is one of the way in which the acquisition of OR by Facebook will help further the technology’s range.  Zuckerberg is committed to using virtual reality for as much social good as possible, and immersive journalism is one of the chief vehicles for this.

It isn’t unreasonable to suggest that the way stories are told and received may fundamentally change in the next twenty to thirty years.  There are many ways to tell stories and to engage an audience.  Immersive journalism places emphasis on engagement through perspective, placing the user inside of the experience.  This is not necessarily better than all forms of storytelling.  While our society places special emphasis on the Platonic value of first-hand experience, reflection on what we read or hear about without being placed in a point-of-view through technology also has its benefits.  But the development of the capabilities of immersing an audience, with its emphasis on empathy, is a noteworthy development.

Future developments in immersive journalism will come, not just from more adoptions, but from further developments in VR itself.  Further immersion will come from technologies that allow participants to feel what is going on in a scene and to interact with it with more intricacy.  In the next year or two, though, expect to see a lot of debate among those studying the media concerning this new field, immersive journalism.

http://virtualrealitytimes.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/immersivejournalism.jpghttp://virtualrealitytimes.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/immersivejournalism-150x90.jpgJeff MaehreMoviesPhilosophy and EthicsExperiencing the News: Immersive Journalism Immersive journalism is an emerging genre in which sound, video, and reporting are melded together and presented with virtual reality technology to put the consumer in the scene, usually experiencing it from the point of view of the participants. It’s similar to the journalism sub-genre documentary...VR, Oculus Rift, and HTC Vive News