Introducing Immersive Journalism to Kennesaw State University

Last night, February 8, members of the JJIE Virtual World Team presented their Fall 2015 semester immersive journalism project to the students and faculty of Kennesaw State University.
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Beginning at 5:00PM, the Kennesaw State University Social Science auditorium #1021 was occupied by KSU students and faculty immersing themselves into Nonny de la Peña’s Sundance Film Festival virtual reality story, “Kiya.” Thanks to the donation from Unofficial Cardboard, makers of the Google Cardboard Viewers that the New York Times recommends for their Virtual Reality app (NYTVR), students and faculty were able to use Google Cardboard Viewers to see for themselves what this immersive journalism talk is about.

Once they had a feel for the emerging journalism platform, project interns, Claire Bohrer, Ariel Greenaway, and Camille Moore presented the project from their perspectives as the project’s journalists. Then, Leonard Witt, the project’s founder, presented another one of Nonny de la Peña’s videos, “One Dark Night,” in which actual 911 call recordings were used to tell the story of the day Trayvon Martin was shot & killed by neighborhood watch volunteer, George Zimmerman.

After seeing an expert’s work, the audience watched the JJIE Virtual World Team’s machinimas, The Kid, The Cop, The Punch, and a few minutes of Christopher: A Child, Abandoned, Deprived & Imprisoned. Once the audience saw the team’s work, virtual world expert, Gwenette Writer-Sinclair took them inworld to the JJIE Virtual World to show them how the project interns created these machinimas (action videos inside a virtual world).

The remainder of the presentation consisted of Q&A and discussion. KSU students and faculty expressed their interest in this emerging journalism platform and the possibilities of virtual reality in multiple different realms.

To continue the conversation, the JJIE Virtual World Journalism team plans to present the project to KSU journalism classes and also at the KSU Marietta Campus within the next few weeks.
More details (and further fascinating conversation) to come.


Our Team Meets with CNN Atlanta

Two weeks ago, Edward Thomas, the Product Manager of Mobile & Emerging Technology at CNN invited the JJIE Virtual Worlds Team to present the project at CNN.

At 11 a.m. today, seven members of the JJIE Virtual Worlds team, along with Publisher & Executive Director of the Center for Sustainable Journalism (CSJ), Professor Leonard Witt, CSJ Executive Editor John Fleming, Metaverse Strategist, Designer and Trainer Gwenette Writer-Sinclair, and JJIE web producer Christopher Hayden presented the result of a semester of hard work and dedication.

The primary goal of this presentation was to introduce our work to CNN producers, perhaps with the prospect of doing further collaborative experimentational work in the intersection of virtual reality and journalism.

Here is how we envision a partnership could work:

  • The Center for Sustainable Journalism would bring together college students, providing them with educational and experiential opportunities, as they work with virtual reality immersive journalism projects in collaboration with CNN.
  • In ongoing collaboration with the VW team, CNN product managers would provide the VW team with concepts based on CNN’s specific needs in the exploration of virtual reality storytelling techniques.
  • The VW team would design virtual world interactive scenarios and immersive journalism experiences, and then come back to the CNN team for critiques and collaborative improvements to reach project goals.
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Seven JJIE Virtual Worlds student interns (left to right; Jackson Walsh, Kevin Enners, Camille Moore, Claire Bohrer, Cristina Guerra, Ariel Greenaway, Anastaciah Ondieki) at the CNN Center.

At the beginning of the JJIE Virtual Worlds project, Professor Leonard Witt said,

“If we do excellent work, we will get recognition.”

Based on the interest of CNN, one of the world’s largest news organizations, in considering a long-term relationship with the virtual worlds team, I believe it’s safe to say that the team did excellent work, which clearly paid off with recognition and possible future collaborations.

Next Steps

  • The Christopher Thomas story is still a work in progress. The long text story needs to be edited once more before presenting it to CSJ editor John Fleming for possible JJIE publication. Furthermore, the machinima story, which was the initial, sole end product of this project (wow, how that has changed), must be re-edited into a final draft before its public debut.
  • The machinima “Forgive” is also a work in progress. Students Jackson Walsh and Cristina Guerra will continue to collaborate with Gwenette to complete their creative translation of a teenage girl’s poem to an emotionally evocative machinima.
  • Student researcher Claire Bohrer will continue to conduct research around this project to determine the effect of virtual worlds journalism versus textual journalism on an audience.

As we wrap up our main Christopher Thomas Story and our Forgive machinima, we are eager to see how many more doors can be opened and partnerships created with this ever-expanding project.


Virtual Reality MeetUp

Over 100 people attended the Virtual Reality MeetUp at the Trick 3D Gallery in Atlanta, Georgia, tonight. Defined as an “evening of virtual reality exhibits,” this convention welcomed a crowd of virtual reality enthusiasts, current users, business people, and others who were interested to discover the latest developments in virtual reality.

This first-ever virtual reality gallery night in Atlanta was the platform for the JJIE Virtual World team’s first in-person showcase of the project: Marginalized Youth Voices Amplified in Virtual Worlds.

Interns Claire Bohrer, Ariel Greenaway, Cristina Guerra and JJIE technologist, Christopher Hayden produced and ran the exhibit as they provided explanations of the project’s fruition, progression and objectives. Gwenette Writer Sinclair, our virtual reality specialist, was also present inworld to introduce people to our JJIE world in OpenSimulator and to answer any deeper virtual reality questions.

By the end of the night, the team had talked with various people who were enthusiastic about the project and who wanted to connect to learn more. The support from the crowd and other VR presenters was extremely encouraging, and only motivated the further growth and promotion of the project.

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The JJIE Virtual World team would like to thank Annie Eaton, the Chief Executive Officer at ATLvr who coordinated the MeetUp. We could not have asked for a better event for our project’s first showcase.


JJIE Virtual World: Enjoying Kicking It & Dreaming Under the Stars on the Tree Bench

 

 

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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 🙂 🙂