VIRTUAL REALITY JOURNALISM – PART TWO.

Following from the last post regarding Virtual Reality Journalism, comes the second installment aimed at delving further into research and purpose of the proposed DA (Digital Artefact).

The first post in this series outlined a proposal for creating a Digital Artefact focused towards VR Journalism. As with any creation or research piece, it is imperative to establish foundational understanding of the topic and determine a well-defined argument. The purpose of this post (part two), is to explore the objectives for undergoing the DA and highlight integral research concerning the practice and implementation of Virtual Reality Journalism.

Aforementioned in Post One, Virtual Reality Journalism combines the experiences of Virtual Reality and journalistic endeavours to produce immersive simulations of the stories being portrayed.  Utilising the ability to simulate reality and create near real experiences, the journalism industry has began to implement this medium when tackling stories of war (Project Syria), homelessness in Los Angeles and historical events such as the United States Inauguration.

Following, is research, articles & industry opinion outlining the implementation of VR Journalism for mainstream consumption.

THE NITTY GRITTY – RESEARCH. 

ETHICAL DELIBERATIONS

Journalism in any form is underpinned by the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), which is a global code of ethics for journalistic practice. Detailed explicitly are four areas in which journalists must adhere when reporting. These are:

  • Honesty
  • Fairness
  • Independence
  • Respect for the rights of others

However, there is yet to be a section under the MEAA regarding VR Journalism. VR Journalism, whilst simply an extension of rudimentary journalism, opens up an entirely new set of ethical implications which must be explored.

Poverty Porn.

Understood as the exploitation of disadvantaged, poor or war ravaged groups by the media for purposes of entertainment, gaining sympathy or generating sales. Virtual Reality Journalism, as documented by Project Syria and Hunger in LA, is predominately used to show people of privilege other’s in vulnerable circumstances such as war and poverty. The very nature of VRJ is to trigger an emotional response, which intern proliferates the concerns of Poverty Porn. Dialogue must happen as to the ethical implications of the stories being portrayed by VR Journalism.

Fake News.

Misinformation, an increasing dilemma for journalists, could be exacerbated by the advanced mainstream use of VR Journalism. An ethical implication to the practice of VRJ is those who have access to making stories. Without a Code of Ethics or journalistic law, consumers are the helm of decifering fake news from real. Detailed on Media Shift (mediashift.org), was VRJ creators Emblematic Group’s dilema when creating Greenland Melting. Emblematic used a hologram of Eric Rignot, to host the story. Eric Rignot never visited Greenland for the piece, however was imposed in the icey environment wearing a warm jacket. This, although seemingly harmless, compromises the ethical integrity of the story as it is not entirely truthful to consumers.

Image: Greenland Melting (Emblematic Group) 

 

Recently, a video using AI tools, circulated of a fake Obama speaking to a camera. The video was to highlight the technology available to model exact behaviour of a person. With regards to VRJ, this technology is availble to manipulate and misinform the public of news and world happenings.

Behavioural Manipulation.

The very purpose of VR is to elicit an emotional response from a created ‘near real’ environment. Human behaviour is determined by one’s immediate environment. When VR is immersive and mirroring a real environment, so then is the response of the person experiecing it. However, “unlike physical environments, virtual environments can be modified quickly and easily with the goal of influencing behaviour” (Madary and Metzinger, 2016). When experiencing immersive interactions of situations such as war, the ethical question must be considered as to what is too much for a subject to experience when consuming a news story? Research my Micheal Madary and Thomas K. Metzinger, raises the concern for VR induced PTSD as the human mind is easily maluable. Plasticity of the mind is strongy linked to environmental triggers, and as the research suggests, effective VR has the capabilty to ellicit negative responses in the brain.

The questions begs: How far is too far when it comes to Virtual Reality Journalism?

FROM RESEARCH COMES PRACTICE – OBJECTIVES. 

The aim of the DA is create a news story using the practices of VR. Below itemises the specific objectives of the DA . Note, the objectives will again, in more detial, be expressed in the third installment of the DA proposal (presentation).

Objective One.

The first objective of the DA is to highlight the argument that VR Journalism has the capabilty to create a further sense of empathy towards stories being told. When immersed in stories via virtual reality, Nonny de la Pena argues that “telling tough, real life stories creates deep empthay”.  Shown in Pena’s 2015 TedTalk, are the responses of those experiencing her VR story, Hunger in LA. When a man collapses from hunger in the simuated environment, the person experiencing the event via VR technology, has a visoral response.

 

Image result for nonny de la pena hunger in los angeles
Image: Hunger in LA. 

 

Chris Milk, in his 2015 TedTalk, states that, from experiences he has had in making VR Journalism, it has the capabiltiy to “connect humans to other humans in a profound way, that I have never seen before”. 

 

Related image
Image: Chris Milk TedTalk 2015. 

Objective Two.

The second objective of the DA is to express the power Virtual Reality Journalism gives the consumer. When creating a story through VA or 360 degree visions, such as with many stories by The New York Times, the user has agency over how they experience and perceive the content. Displaying full environments, untouched by curation or story-telling, the user is able to experience the situation for what it is. When used ethically, VR Journalism has the capability to eliminate bias, as footage is raw and explorable by consumers, and thus giving consumers agency of their perception of news stories.

Image result for NYtimes vr
Image: NYTVR: The Displaced. 

 

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