Newspapers have always strived to get their readers to react to their content. A mark of successful reporting is not only the supply of information, but if a story can capture the attention and possibly outrage of the public. Most people are mainly concerned with the ongoings of their own daily lives, which explains why hyperlocal news sites have been so successful. Yet with international reporting, it can be difficult for readers to relate to situations abroad. Foreign correspondents are being phased out due to budget cuts, which is seriously impeding international reporting during a time when globalized events are becoming crucial in society. Thus a new project called Immersive Journalism, founded by Nonny de la Peña from USC Annenberg School for Communication and Peggy Weil, may help readers grasp the gravity of situations outside of their immediate lives.
"The fundamental idea of immersive journalism is to allow the participant to actually enter a virtually recreated scenario representing the news story," writes Immersive Journalism on its website. "The participant will be typically represented in the form of a digital avatar - an animated 3D digital representation of the participant, and see the world from the first-person perspective of that avatar." This video game appeal allows users to experience nonfiction events, and the participant can even change characters to get a broader sense of the story. Progress through immersive journalism is measured through levels, points, and reached objectives, but the founders stress they are not providing just a source of entertainment. "In contrast, a participant in immersive journalism isn't playing a game but is put into an experience where she is participating and affected by events but may or may not have agency to change a situation."
Immersive Journalism used its concept to create a Guantanamo Bay Prison, which they describe as "virtual but accessible." The game, called "Gone Gitmo," allows users to understand what it is like being imprisoned in Guantanamo. In a similar project called Deep Immersive Journalism, users are exposed to torture techniques. An image of the participant's head is placed on top of a virtual body that is in a stress position. Participants were then asked to image they were truly in that body while they were exposed to audio of an interrogation. "Although all of our participants were sitting upright, after the experience each reported feeling as if they were hunched in the same position as the virtual detainee," reports the founders of the project.
While the demonstration seems graphic, it does hit home the implications of events in a more distinct way than from traditional forms of news. Not only could immersion journalism befit investigative journalism, but the game-like factor could also help acquire a younger readership and boost popularity. Will such a new form of journalism become a rising trend in the future?
Sources: Immersive Journalism