Virtual reality journalism and the future

Vice asks a timely question: Is Virtual Reality The Future Of Journalism?:

Formally trained in print and documentary, journalist Nonny de la Peña has a history of telling human stories through a multitude of communication tools and media. The award-winning filmmaker and journalist has twenty years of reporting experience, but within the last decade, she’s found a powerful storytelling method in an unexpected place: eschewing print, television, and even the Internet, de la Peña believes virtual reality is the most powerful storytelling method at modern media’s disposal.

De la Peña has been described as a pioneer of “Immersive Journalism,” and has since become a Senior Research Fellow in the new field at USC’s Annenberg School of Journalism and Communications. Her craft specifically focuses on creating innovative VR projects using custom-built, motion-capture setups that allow users to walk through 3D generated recreations of non-fictional events. She told The Creators Project, “I believe VR will fundamentally change the landscape of how we experience many stories.”

As an example, de la Peña and her team used footage of a man collapsing while waiting in line at a food bank to digitally reconstruct the event—the resulting virtual reality story, entitled Hunger in Los Angeles, gives viewers the firsthand experience of the tension and intensity of the actual event, far beyond the emotional stimuli of any news broadcast.

“Most people don’t have a lot of VR experience,” says Paisley Smith, an assistant to de la Peña. “It’s a disconnect from the world you know, and you’re immersed somewhere else. In this way you can be more invested in the experience. It’s a very powerful, distraction-free storytelling technique.”

My guess is that it’ll be important, and well received. But, until the economics of the hardware involved becomes more inviting, we’re going to enjoy it sparingly and be moved by it in incremental degrees.

Either way, very cool stuff. Check out the whole interview and consider: you live in interesting times. You can step out and be at the bleeding edge of some amazing, immersive storytelling. How can you take part?

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