App Talk

Meeting3_6eIn addition to the exciting arrival of the case documents at our third meeting, we spent the last part of our meeting talking with Professor Soloman Negash, Executive Director of the Mobile Application Development (MAD) Center at Kennesaw State University.  We discussed the app we would like to create for the Virtual World Journalism Project.
Soloman looked to the team for our ideas about the app. First, we discussed our goals for the app. What did we want the app to ultimately do? To inform? To entertain? To bring attention to? All the above? We also talked about who we wanted our audience to be. Parents? Teens? Both? We definitely want an interactive app, especially if we plan on appealing to teenagers. However, we also want it to be informative for anyone who downloads the app.  We want to bring awareness to what occurs in Georgia’s Juvenile Justice System and hopefully prevent more youth from entering the system.

Here are some of the ideas we came up with as a group:
– “You Are the Judge” Game: Set in a court scene, if you were the judge, how would you judge these criminals? This app would be both interactive and informative, as you get to make the decision and you get to read about the different laws that you are expected to base the decision on.
– Interactive Quiz: This would be very informative for both adults and teens, as the quiz would ask many questions based on the Juvenile Justice System.
Walk-Through of a Juvenile’s Story in the Virtual World Platform: Imagine walking through a crime as your avatar plays the parts of different characters; and then being at the trial and being able to make the decision that will ultimately determine where the youth end up: in the Juvenile Justice System or life in adult prison, or in a rehabilitation program, etc.

The main goal for the app is through immersive interaction to inform teens that they are responsible for their own actions and can ultimately determine their own fate: including avoiding being put into the juvenile justice system.

By the end of our discussion, we had not made a final decision, but we plan to further discuss the different options in greater depth.  We are looking forward to working with Soloman to create an app that will directly address aspects of our goal: Bringing awareness to what happens in the Juvenile Justice System and in a youth’s life before and after committing a crime.


Case Documents Arrived!

We’ve been eagerly awaiting the documents all week, and today, at our third meeting, they have finally arrived: Big thanks to JJIE editor, John Fleming, for stopping by Emory to pick up the flash drive from Steve!

4,000+ pages of documents all about the prisoner’s life. From his placement in foster care as a 2 years old toddler, to his current life as an incarcerated 30 year old in the Calhoun State Prison, we have all of the background information we need in the palms of our hands.

We may have all of the facts and background information, but, as we are learning through Leonard’s assigned readings in The Complete Book of Feature Writing, we have so many more details, viewpoints, and pure emotions to gather before we can bring justice to this story.  The Journalists have been doing a lot of reading on what it takes to write a great story. As we brush up on our skills, we realize that reporting will be the first and main step in gathering the information for this story. After all, according to David Finkel, a Washington Post writer, “writing is nothing without reporting.”  Reporting will entail all of the research, interviewing, organization and “hanging around” that precedes the writing of the actual story. For this project,  reporting will be especially important, as we must gather as much detail as possible in order to relay the information to the inworld builders.

As we await a reply for an interview with Steve Reba (which will hopefully open the doors to many other interviews with various other people), we will start with step one: Research. Now that we have all the documents, we will find a way to divide them up to become familiar with the case. In addition, we will research the Senate Bill 440 aka SB440 laws and any other significant information that has significance for our particular case.

Before we interview, we want to know as much about the case as possible so we know the right questions to ask. As journalists, we know that during the visits and interviews, we must not only prepare quality questions to gather all the relevant information for our story, but we must also be passive observers. We need to take a step back, observe the area, and take detailed notes to assist our team builders in recreating this story in our virtual world as a set for the machinima.

Along with the information we are obtaining in the case documents, we are learning more and more every day about journalism and inworld building. As a team, we are all extremely excited to combine our developing skills to amplify the voice of Georgia’s youth in the Juvenile Justice System.


Making Moves: Conference Call with Steve Reba

At 2:00PM yesterday, we had a conference call that changed the entire direction of our story . . .
Leonard has been in contact with Stephen Reba, a professor at Emory Law, who represents youth in the Georgia Juvenile Justice System who have been tried as adults.  In addition, Stephen is Director of the Barton Child Law & Policy Center and founder of the Appeal for Youth Clinic. Currently, at the clinic, there are six law students who are providing representation for youth in the system. Read more about Steve and the Center.  At the Appeal for Youth Clinic, Steve has 50-70 clients. Unfortunately, he is not currently representing any youth age 17 or younger, which we had originally wanted for a story.  He did mention one case that caught our interest, so we asked for more details.

The Youth
– Currently 30 years old
– Arrested and incarcerated @ age 13:  involved in a ride-along armed robbery
– In & out of foster care since a toddler with parents in prison; was taking medicine to prevent him from wetting bed at the time of arrest

His Story – What We Know So Far
– With another 13-year old boy in foster care (brother?), was involved in an armed robbery led by their 18-year old foster brother (biological son of foster mother); the two 13-year olds did not have guns; they each received radically different sentences.  Our youth received 40 years in prison; the other youth received a 20 years sentence.
– Currently in Calhoun State Prison

With this little information, we cannot create our story. Luckily, Steve said that we may be able to go with him to interview the prisoner. Since Steve has all the information on the youth, he will be scanning and sending us these documents so we can be familiar with his story, background, etc.

We also talked a little about what happens when incarcerated kids finally get out of prison. We discussed Alton’s case (From Jailhouse to Morehouse) and how, when he was released from prison, he completely turned his life around for the better. Unfortunately, this is not usually the case for most juveniles who are finally released from jail. Many people end up dying or committing suicide because they do not know how to function in this society, as they have grown so accustomed to the world of survival and violence in prison. Success stories for juveniles who finally get out of prison are very rare. When thinking about this in relation to our youth’s case, we must remember that he was put in jail at age 13 (he did not even make it to 7th grade) and has served 17 years of his sentence. He is 30 years old now.

Our Next Steps
Now, it’s the Journalism Team’s job to get this story rolling.

What We’ve Got So Far
We’ve got a story. We also will soon have all of the documents and information on the youth that we need. Now, we just need to read and become familiar with his story and then get in contact with people for interviews.
Possible People to Interview:
– Steve Reba
– Foster Parents
– Case Workers
– The Prisoner
– Other people who have worked with the prosoner
– All Locations: Schools, detention facilities, court tried at, where crime took place
– We also will need exterior shots or addresses to Google map for each place to guide inworld scenario development

Currently, we are awaiting the arrival of Steve’s case documents via an online drop location.  We journalists realize the need to get this story going as quickly as possible, so that our inworld builders can begin creating the virtual world machinima scenarios.


Introductions & Group Formations

Derek, Eric presenting 19aug15e

Today’s meeting began with introductions.
Each team member presented their prepared personal presentation to the rest of the team. We even had Gwenette listening from inworld, so the whole team was present, except for a few or our professional consultants and researchers. Since there are biographies of each of the team members to view on this site, I won’t re-cap on each presentation. I will say, however, that based on the introductions, we all have some impressive skills and knowledge to bring to the table. At the end of each presentation, Leonard asked us which role we saw ourselves taking in the JJIE Virtual World Project based on our previous work experience.

After all of the presentations, we split into the groups in which we felt we could best use our talents.
These are the groups that were formed (some people overlapped, as they will perform various roles for the Project):
Technology (Virtual World Builders): Derek, Erik & Cristina
Journalism: Ann, Ariel, Camille, Claire, Jackson, Jourdan, Kevin, Linda
Public Relations: Kasi, Linda, Ariel, Claire
Research: Claire & Ariel & essentially the whole group when it comes to all of the research we will have to contribute to make this Project possible

While in our groups, we discussed the next steps to take. The Journalism Crew focused on the stories we planned to cover. We threw around some ideas and circled back around to one story that Leonard had mentioned from the start about a man named Alton Pitre. Although Alton is no longer a youth, his story is very interesting.  He was born in Califronia, was incarcerated as a teen, and then completely turned his life around when he was finally released. Since he currently works for the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, he is an easy, immediate contact for a quick story.
However, we do want to keep searching for stories in Georgia (preferably of youth who are still in prison), so that we can work to amplify their voices while they are in the system.

We talked about the need to do more research on Alton’s story, as well as to be on the lookout for other stories. Claire & Ariel jumped on these Research roles to jumpstart the project. Camille discussed her connections to a youth detention center where she could possibly get us a tour for a visual representation of place (not only for the Journalists, but for the Virtual Worlds group as well). Jourdan also mentioned her connections with a group called Turning Point Therapy.  She may be able to get us connected with the youth there.

By the end of the meeting (and about 2 hours beyond), we were eager to take up our roles and begin our research.


& So It Begins… (Well, Continues)

Meeting1_1e3
First Group Meeting @ The Center

Since Derek and Erik (our two virtual world builders) did so much work over the summer on the virtual side of the project, we can hardly say that this is the “beginning” of the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange (JJIE) Virtual Worlds Project.

However, today was our first meeting.
We met early for an 8:15AM breakfast at the
Center for Sustainable Journalism. After some social time, we met in the conference room to begin talking Virtual Worlds & Machinima.

After brief introductions of each of the team members, we immediately began discussion of the Georgia Juvenile Justice system and some of the main issues involved. Referring to the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange (founded by Leonard Witt, the project director), we discussed this niche journalism as well as the main issues in the system: Mental Health, Substance Abuse, LGBTQ, Disproportionate Minority, Evidence-Based Practice, Indignant Defense, and the School-to-Jailhouse Pipeline. Just like the JJIE, the goal of our project is to give juveniles in the justice system a place to speak and really amplify their voices in a way in which others can actually walk through their story as avatars in a virtual world.

Next, Derek and Erik gave us an overview of what they have been working on with Gwenette all summer: creating a scene of a Chicago circa 1990’s story. They showed us around the virtual world a bit, and told us about many of the components that went into its development.

Then, we met virtually with Gwenette Writer-Sinclair (Virtual World project consultant).  She was inworld and we met with her via the live image and sounds of the world projected into our meeting room. She presented more in-depth information about the virtual side of the project and gave us a visual tour of the JJIE Welcome Workshop region. Although we will all be working in different groups (Journalism, Public Relations, Virtual/Tech, Research), it is important that we all know how to navigate through the Virtual World. This will allow everyone to understand the affordances of the immersive, virtual world platform and possibilities for our project. This understanding is especially important for Journalists as they collect the stories and gather all of the necessary information to relay over to the inworld builders, so that they can develop each scene of the story.

This being said, Gwenette will be assigning different inworld tasks so that the team can become familiar with the affordances of OpenSimulator platform. She has already created tutorial exercises in the Welcome Workshop region that we will enter using the Firestorm OpenSim Viewer, as soon as we create our JJIE VW Grid avatars.

We also discussed the group’s basic communication platforms:

  • E-mail
  • Group Meetings (all 12 weekly Wednesday + separate group meetings)
  • GoogleDrive in order to share assignments, docs, pictures, information, etc.
  • We may also meet with each other inworld during our tasks in the JJIE Welcome Workshop region

The meeting ended with a reminder to create an Intro Presentation about ourselves – who we are and what we do best. Through these presentations, we will be able to determine our project roles and split into groups by the next meeting.


Project Overview

People and industries all over the world are working diligently to keep up with the ever-progressing technology of our times. Journalism is not an exception. From written, to online, to virtual – Journalism is continuously being altered to fit formats that will present stories and reach audiences in the most effective ways possible.  Pursuing that quest, the Center for Sustainable Journalism at Kennesaw State University recently won a grant to support using new technology for innovative storytelling.

Kennesaw State University is one of the 2015-16 winners of the Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education.
Read more about the winners and the competition.

Our Project Title: Marginalized Youth Voices Amplified on Virtual Worlds
Read about our project and our proposal on our Project Overview page.

Our project uses the open source, OpenSimulator virtual world platform to tell stories of  individual youth in the Juvenile Justice System. Through the virtual world  and machinima viewing experience, the audience will actually be able to walk through each youth’s story: their life before the system, why they were put into the system, and images of what life is like in the system.  Partnered with the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange (JJIE.org), Twelve Kennesaw State University students from several majors and concentrations, along with professionals, technologists, and researchers, will bring light to the systemic abuses involved with the Georgia Juvenile Justice System.  The main goal of this project is to amplify the voices of marginalized youth with theinnovative technology of virtual worlds and machinima. Our main project goals are listed below.

  • Project Goals:
    – Amplify the voices of marginalized youth with innovative technology.
    – Broadcast their voices to audiences via mobile apps.
    – Allow the youth to participate in telling their life story.
    – Gather a collaborative, interdisciplinary cohort of students, professionals, technologists and researchers to create and broadcast an innovative, immersive form of journalism, while teaching each other new technology for storytelling.
    – Implement OpenSimulator virtual world platform software and Firestorm Viewer software, demonstrating their practicality for collaborative projects.
    – Build accessible apps.
    – Disseminate findings to universities and news entities.
    – Forge relationships on campus, advancing our teaching, research, service and long-term sustainability missions.

As we strive to reach these goals, we hope that you will continue to follow this front page blog to keep up with our progress on this influential project.  Also, be sure to explore this page to learn more about the project’s background.  On their personal blogs, each team intern shares their individual learning experiences ad isights.