Never have I ever been introduced to such an interesting concept: Virtual World Journalism.
Since I have never spent much time with video games or anything “virtual” really, this whole experience has been quite new and a little intimidating to me. However, Gwenette has set up such a great workshop via OpenSim where we can expand our virtual world knowledge and really learn how to navigate inworld.
Although I won’t be the one creating the actual world in which the stories will be told, I am one of the journalists who is gathering the necessary information to put into the story and ultimately, into this world. For this reason, it is imperative that I, and the entire team, are familiar with the very different aspects of inworld life in order to gather all of the fundamental information to present this story right.
Oh, and perks of being inworld, as you can see above – despite my extremely busy, non-stop life [with school, this project, my job, and a billion other obligations], my inworld avatar finds the time to relax for me. Hmm, I guess these avatars can really teach us something – sometimes you need those moments where you can just take a step back to breathe and relax.
When I first started school at Kennesaw State University, my [indefinite] plan was to become a journalist. At the time, I didn’t know what type of journalist, nor how I would fulfill this aspiration. With no direction or a working portfolio of my work, I drifted from this original ambition and chose to pursue a different degree.
However, this project has once again sparked my interest in journalism. Since I have always loved writing, I knew that would be one of my favorite parts about this project. But now, as I delve deeper into the project and allow myself to get wrapped up in this case, I have an even greater love for the magnitude of journalism. Yes, journalism is writing. But more importantly, it is reporting. It is getting the deeper story through interviews, interactions and observations, and it is getting to know the people involved on a personal level.
These all-important aspects of journalism were all put into perspective for me today – Today, I had my first official interview. Since I have never been in the shoes of the journalist asking the questions and taking the notes, I was undeniably a little nervous. However, as a team, we had become familiar with the case and had come up with some great questions for Steve Reba. After reading through the documents, we were not only prepared, but we were extremely motivated, as we gradually realized how crucial this project could be to this youth’s life.
Since our interview was scheduled for 12PM and we wanted to be sure we had enough time to make it there (Atlanta traffic is unpredictable), we left our group meeting a little early at around 10AM. With Fred as driver, Kevin riding shotgun, and Ann and I riding as back-seat passengers, we jumped in the van and were on our way to the Barton Clinic at Emory Law to interview Steve Reba.
The drive was shorter than we thought and valet parking treated us well, and we were walking up to the Clinic right at 11:30 AM. It’s a good thing we got there early though, because we used all of our “extra” time to prepare the recording devices in the Conference Room at the Clinic.
The interview went great – Steve, having worked on the case for about 5 years now, is clearly passionate and knowledgeable about every aspect of it and was willing to answer all of our questions (and we had A LOT of questions).
After about an hour-long interview, we said our thank-yous and good-byes and left with the hopes of Steve being able to initiate a meeting with the actual youth in the current prison where he currently resides.
All of this being said – I absolutely love every aspect of this project. From the research of the case and contacting witnesses, to managing the communication with my wonderful team and writing/reporting the actual story. This project has taken over my life in a way I never imaged – every day, I am even more eager to bring more attention to this so that we can shine a light on its injustices and bring about a change – not only in the youth’s life, but to the whole system and other youths’ lives who could stumble down the same path.
Although I turned away from journalism my freshman year, this clearly does not mean that there is no chance of me changing course from my current degree and trying my hand at journalism in the near feature. In fact, I feel like I am already on that path. And I’m loving every second of it.
The Journalism and PR groups got an early start Wednesday morning. At 8 AM, both groups were at the Center for Sustainable Journalism ready to talk about our specific projects. While PR discussed their event/social media plans, the Journalism group prepared for the first interview with Steve Reba to be conducted in just a few hours. After talking within our separate groups until about 8:20 AM, we combined to discuss the CT Story case documents. As we explored the main aspects of the case, we decided that it was necessary to make a chronology of the youth’s life. Since a few of the journalists had already started a draft chronology on Google Docs, we continued using their document.
As 9 AM rolled around, we continued to talk about the youth’s life, focusing on some of the major issues: his upbringing in and out of 30 foster care homes, his mental state, the crime, and the court hearing. Also, from the documents, we had been recording significant people in the youth’s life – from here, since we knew our next big step is interviewing, we wrote down all of these important contacts who could possible give us a better idea of the youth’s life and case. With a large piece of paper taped to the wall and pen in hand, Professor Witt divided up the paper into sections of people in the youth’s life: Family, Court/Legal, Co-defendants, Social Workers, Foster Care, Mental Health, Victims/Witnesses, etc. From here, the whole group joined in on reading out the names we had recorded from the documents. Soon, the paper was crowded with the names of people that we believe will be beneficial to contact for more insight on the case.
Halfway through the meeting, 4 members of the Journalism crew – Claire, Ann, Kevin, and Fred – had to leave for Emory Clinic to interview Steve Reba, the lawyer who is currently working to bring the youth’s case back into court for another hearing. The remainder of the meeting was spent discussing ideas for the machinima storybaord. Everyone was eager to contribute – even the journalists listened on speaker phone as they drove to interview Steve. After our discussion, everyone had a better idea of what the finished machinima might look like.
To get our minds in “inworld” mode, the Virtual World “The Kid, The Cop, The Punch” Machinima group showed everyone what they had been working on: draft machinima scenes from an incident that occurred in Chicago during the 1990’s. With this awesome presentation as reference, everyone at the table had a better vision of how the machinima for our story could develop. Each team member was thinking about how we could best showcase the youth’s story in he virtual world platform. We intend to catch the attention of a wide audience. We know how crucial this story presentation could be to the future of this youth’s life.
As for the interview with Steve Reba – it went great. Steve has been working on this case for the past 5 years. He’s extremely knowledgeable about every aspect of the case and the youth’s life. He was more than willing to answer and expand upon all of our questions. During the interview Steve agreed any extra attention brought to this case could be helpful to future appeals. Shining light on the injustices of this case in a virtual world machinima might just be how this youth gets another chance in court.
Next step: Set up interviews with contacts from our interview prospects outline and hopefully, with the help of Steve, an interview with the youth himself.
You know that moment? The moment when you take in a deep breath at the end of the day, feeling either complete relief that the day is over and you’ve done all you needed to do, or like you’ve absolutely have done nothing? Today, I took that deep breath and I felt like my day was not over yet. When this picture was taken for me by our amazing developer Gwenette Writer, I desperately wanted to be my avatar. Just kicking it with my feet crossed under a tree looking into the stars. And I somewhat was my avatar, because even though I could not relax at the time this picture was taken, my avatar did it for me. It made me feel better that I did some relaxing today 🙂 Maybe next time I could actually try relaxing in real life 🙂 🙂
In everyone’s mind lies a wealth of knowledge that is unique. Everyone is gifted with their own ways of communicating, hence making life more interesting. Imagine going to the bookstore to get a book and every section you go to, each writer has the same writing style and content. It is fair enough to say reading would be a chore rather than a joy! In the same token, if all artists copied a famed artist and molded all the products in the same way their “famed icon” did, art galleries, music stores, and theaters would run out of business.
Variety plays a big role in creating interest. The only way to achieve variety in writing is by allowing different ideas to the table, then consolidating them to form a cohesive story. In the same manner, to achieve a tasty meal, a good cook takes his knowledge of his recipe and assembles his ingredients, then cooks them taking into consideration what needs to cook first.
Tying this information to my favorite quote from the exercise Gwenette gave us, “Putting it on paper let’s you start fixing it,” all ideas count and an idea left in the mind cannot help anyone. On this note, as we gear towards the writing and actualization phase of this special task, everyone’s input is important. Our goal is to put our ideas together and bring out Chris’s story in an objective manner, and hopefully shed new light on this pressing issue.
Reading through the CT Story documents, I believe that we all have begun to realize just how crucial our coverage of this case is. Not only is it significant for this particular project’s goal of giving a voice to the marginalized youth in the Juvenile Justice System, but it is also extremely important for this particular youth who may have been neglected a fair deal in his original trial.
Professor Leonard Witt, the Project Coordinator, reminded us all of the extreme importance of this project through an e-mail he sent out to the group today. Among the strong words he used to express the magnitude of this project’s relevance, Professor Witt used the following words to ignite the motivation for our commitment to the project: “If we do our work right, [the youth] will finally get a fair public hearing, which might be life-altering for him. If we do it right, it will also be life-altering for all of us. Rarely in your life will you get an opportunity to do something that can so profoundly affect another person’s life. And beyond that, because [his] story is representative of thousands of others like him, the story’s magnitude is expediential in importance.”
It’s true. If we commit ourselves to “doing a great virtual world rendition, doing a great journalism story, and doing great public relations, all will elevate the project to get the attention it deserves” – Leonard Witt.
For this JJIE Virtual World machinima project, good is not good enough. Despite our countless other obligations, we must realize the significance of this case to this boy’s life, and to the numerous other youth who could stumble down the same path. If we want to make a difference and really bring justice to this case and many others like it, we must commit ourselves now. For the next twelve weeks, we must be willing to push past our limits to devote our time to a cause that is bigger than any other personal obligation. If we truly dedicate ourselves to this cause, then these next twelve weeks could be some of the most rewarding ones of our lives.
It’s time to make a difference. True commitment begins now.
So, I have not blogged yet. As a PR person this virtual reality seemed WAY out of me league. But, as the weeks have gone on I have come to enjoy it. I have realized that I can actually do pretty good on the homework assigned each week and do it in the time given. I never thought I would actually understand what was going on inworld. Public relations I understand, even journalism I understand to a point being a communication major, but adding virtual reality to my list of skills I never thought would come as naturally as it has. I am excited to learn more and maybe show other members of the team how to do things if they don’t understand.
As we wrap up editing and polishing the Chicago neighborhood machinima, the interns begin exploring the internet for Creative Commons licensed CC0 and CC-By images. They are searching for photographs and textures that portray and evoke emotions. The project’s two final machinima – one a real journalism documentary we call “The CT Story” and one a personal poem by a young person struggling with their emotions – will both use graphics and inworld special effects to create immersive, visual experiences to tell their stories.
Today’s group meeting started out with a much-needed talk about the organization of the project’s activities and documents.
Gwenette led the first thirty minutes as we all took a step back to talk about the valuable information on this very JJIE Virtual World site, as well as to review the strict schedule. We discussed how to post and organize blogs, how to locate and read the calendar on the site (located under Project Info tab), and what needed to be done so we can meet our deadlines.
A major eye-opener for many was the September 30th Machinima Content Deadline. This is very important to note, as it means that the Journalists must have relayed all of the necessary information on the CT story that will be going into the machinima. Although we do have an “emergency info add” deadline for any missing pieces that must be in the virtual world story, the strict deadline is September 30th.
Furthermore, we discussed the events that the Public Relations group will be coordinating:
The earliest event, coming up on Wednesday, October 7, is a live, inworld music concert produced by the popular Hypergrid Safari Tours group. They run weekly hypergrid tours across the Opensim Metaverse for crowds of up to 20+ die-hard hypergrid explorers and music fans. We will be hosting their October 7, Noon to 1pmET, music concert on our very own JJIE Virtual World Welcome Workshop region’s Beach Music Stage. In addition, that same Wednesday morning, Nina Camplin, an artist and machinimist from England, will be our guest speaker during our group meeting.
Our Wednesday, October 21, classs speaker, Chantal Harvey, a professional Dutch television producer, animator, machinimist and machinima festival producer from Amsterdam, will be sharing her creative techniques and virtual world machinima tips with our team.
Looking ahead to our final project showcase – it will be held in the Media Lab of the Social Science Building at Kennesaw State University, December 2, 2015 from 4:30-7:30. All KSU staff and students are welcome to attend.
After PR talk, we discussed our source materials for next machinima story writing and scenario creation: the CT Story documents received from Steve Reba. We decided that everyone should be familiar with the case in order to commit themselves to the project. Claire Bohrer, the Journalist Producer, divided up the documents amongst the twelve interns to read through and give a detailed summary of each assigned file. Via GoogleDrive, each team member has designated pdf files to read and correlating templates for notes in which to record his or her findings. The deadline for the completed summaries is Monday, September 14, 2015 at 5:00PM. After all the document summaries are submitted, every group member must go back and read through the every summary (or full pdf files) to become familiar with all aspects of the case. During our group meeting on Wednesday, September 16, we plan to discuss the key points of each document. Along with the summaries, we will be recording interview/avatar prospects, significant locations, and important event dates. All of this information is relevant to both the Journalist Group, who is writing the story, and the Virtual World group, who will be building the machinima scenario.
When it comes to inworld assignments: Gwenette has prepared our Week 03 & 04 assignment, involving researching Creative Commons licensed, emotionally evocative visuals, then uploading, framing and displaying them inworld. The assignment is due on Tuesday, September 15. These skills will be important during our creation of the graphics and inworld special effects for both the CT Story and the “Forgive” poem machinimas.
At the end of the meeting, we all split up into our groups to discuss and assign tour specific tasks. Although we may be in three separate task groups, there is no doubt that we will all be working collaboratively to make this project a success.
Just a heads up: Here is a screen capture of all our interns’ names showing you where to find the links to their individual blogs. Note we have changed the “Blogs” tab and category to read “Bloggers”. On that top tier tab page you will find ALL the blog posts by our interns in chronological order. We have several categories bloggers can check to help showcase each post’s contents. For example, every intern post always checks off the categories of their own Name and Bloggers, and any other subject category that describes the post, like OpenSim or Avatars or Machinima.
If you want to read about a specific topic, look to the sidebar. On every page there is a dropdown menu with all the categories with the number of related posts. Click any category title and you will find all the posts about that topic from both our interns and our Front Page writers.