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.
JJIE Interns Present to CNN atlanta
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.


Harvey’s Machinima

At Wednesday’s meeting, we looked at some machinima work by producer Chantal Harvey.  Primarily utilizing Second Life, all of her work was insightful and fun to watch. Her video “Robi”, tells the story of an alien left behind on a forgotten planet after losing his head. Although a simple story, the macinima is both tragic and tranquil. The designs and actions are also simple, but still manage to tell a good story. Watch “Robi” here.

 


Chris Thomas is a Good Kid

Reading the documents from earlier in his life, we see Chris described “violent”, “argumentative”, “disruptive”, and “disrespectful”. In recent interviews, however, we have heard quite the opposite. We’ve heard Thomas being described as “bright”, “polite”, and an “attractive kid”. Of course we’re talking about events separated by two decades in Chris’ life from elementary years to late twenties and now age thirty. So some of his current progress, no doubt is attributed to maturity. Yet even those who met with him saw differences in his behavior and general attitude one-on-one than that of his experience in the school system. This is typical of those in his situation, hardened children. They may have trouble functioning in an organized environment such as public school in their younger years, but are very unaware of what they are doing being so young. Even all the way up to Chris’ arrest in 1999, we learn that he had little to do with the robbery at hand and was maybe a little more than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Neglected by his parents and grandparents, that are the foundation for every kid, bouncing back and forth to numerous foster homes, and topping it all off with a major arrest. You have to feel for him, and be proud of any progress he has made.


My Voice: Contributing to the Virtual World Project

We had our show and tell on Wednesday, August 26, where we discussed our own greatest works along with connecting that to how we can contribute to the project. My presentation was on an article I wrote about my life with Asperger’s which was published by The Talon in April 2015. Dr. Witt had stated how mental health is one of the issues surrounding juveniles in the justice system, clearly not strange waters to someone who grew up in the autism camp. This makes me want to fall down on my knees and thank God that none of my struggles didn’t lead to being behind bars for any violent mishaps stemming from problems on the inside.

JJIE recently publish a story of a 14-year old inmate who committed suicide on last Easter Sunday. The lead sentence states “Severe understaffing and failures in training and mental health procedures” were factors in his death. It’s no surprise. It would be an interesting study to see how prevalent such circumstances are today and their correlation to the criminal actions of juveniles in the system.

The misconception, still prominent today, is that suicidal teens merely have a vain desire to “seek attention”. That there is no internal problem with them.  All they want is the proverbial spotlight cast on them by their peers or others around them, perhaps only to hear the wailing cries of “Don’t kill yourself! We love you!”. This is pretty far from the truth.

Many of those who feel the burden of suicidal idealization want to be happy. They don’t want to die, they want to live life and live it to the fullest. Yet, on the flip side, they may have a missing sense of self worth which leads to the conclusion (albeit a delusional one) that the world would be a better place without them.

What of those that get convicted and incarcerated so young? Who feel their life is over? Such a young imprisonment may bring the thought that one’s life is over. Especially when combined with mental health issues going unnoticed or untreated.