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.
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.
What an utterly impersonal way to acquire extremely personal information.
No matter how remote and businesslike they can be, phone interviews are unfortunately a very necessary part of the story-telling process. Over the past weeks, we have been reading through the documents to attain the contact information of people who were in close contact with the youth throughout his life. From caseworkers, foster parents, judges, and lawyers, we are determined to reach out to anyone and everyone who can provide us with more insight on the youth’s life. The reason for phone calls is to first establish that initial contact – then, hopefully, we can move from these impersonal phone interviews to more personal visits.
However, since this case occurred over 15 years ago, it has been much more difficult to contact these people than expected. After various calls to many numbers found in the documents and numbers found online, we have become more and more accustomed to the sound of the repeated “beep, beep beep,” indicating a disconnected phone line or an immediate voicemail response from an unrelated individual. Conducting interviews is nerve-wracking in itself, which is why we have a set of questions prepared for each specific person before each call. However, what is even more troubling is the very real possibility of not being able to get in contact with these prospects who are very valuable to the accurate telling of this story.
All we can do now is keep trying. And if we are unable to contact our prospects by phone, we may even have to take a step further and visit them at their houses. If there is one thing I have learned about Journalism from this project, it is the essence of persistence. Never stop trying until you are out of options. Then, find more options. Try everything. Always succeed. Whenever doubt sets in, I remind myself that this isn’t simply a school internship. This is the story and life of an individual who faced an injustice, and it is an opportunity to provide him with another chance at a fair trial. That being said, may the phone calls continue. And may the voice of this youth be heard.
This week has been extremely busy with the editing of the first machinima and brainstorming/planning for the next ones. However, I went inwold and read over the storytelling slides, which helped give me a sense of how the stories can be told and the structure they can have. These slides are displayed in a place called Storytelling Circle, which is one of my favorite locations. I love the starry sky, the fire, the cottages, and the cozy feeling this location exudes.
When I first found out that all interns would have their own avatars and build inworld, nervous was not the emotion that overcame me. I worried and feared that my confusion and lack of knowledge with technology would hinder my capability to fully grasp virtual reality — I was wrong. Our developer, Gwenette Sinclair, has done a phenomenal job of guiding us through each homework assignment with clear and concise directions. I first logged in knowing nothing and now know when I login I can create, rotate, copy, and change shapes of boxes in inworld. I can create note cards and drop them in a basket that is delivered to Gwenette via Internet. I can fly, run, and teleport to any location I choose. It is amazing how practice and patience with virtual reality has allowed me to acquire skills and enjoy every time I login inworld.
This week’s virtual world assignment required us to take a screenshot of ourselves facing the camera, while sitting on a poseball at one of several locations. I chose to take my snapshot while relaxing under a tree near the Storytelling Circle. One of the wonderful things about being inworld is that two worlds come to life. I chose to sit under the tree because in reality I love to be outdoors. Being able to sit under a tree and stargaze in our virtual world, like I do in the physical world, is the best of both worlds for me.
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.
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.