How could the use of new Virtual Reality technology fit into Journalism?
I plan to explore this question with various opinions found in articles published online. Let’s begin.
TheGuardian recently posted an article by Paul Chadwick, who was a journalist and a lawyer, as well as the former director of The Guardian Australia, according to his short biography on TheGuardian.com. He writes virtual reality can offer a similar experience to the viewer, as a well-written piece can deliver an “immersed” sensation. He says that TheGuardian did a virtual reality piece titled “First Impressions” based on “the first six months of a child’s life” and he loved the outcome.
Chadwick comments that you will be most immersed in the experience if you are separated and closed into the view, so you will have no distractions. He explained that TheGuardian distributed the cardboard boxes used along with smartphones to experience virtual reality journalism.
“Cardboard, newspapers, smartphones, and a sophisticated app all mixing in this way are themselves markers for our transitional time,” said Chadwick. He is right to say we are living in a transitional period.
Click here to read Chadwick’s full article
Rowland Manthorpe, from The Wired UK, also wrote an article recently titled “Seven Lessons for VR Journalists, from the People that Should Know”. He starts off asking the question of whether or not journalists should bother with virtual reality since it has not received the wide attention we expected it to. I get the feeling reading this that virtual reality is not as world widely accessable and amazing as everyone thinks it is.
Manthorpe goes on to quote a study done by BBC. This study involved “more than 20 VR practitioners in the USA and Europe, including the New York Times, USA Today, Die Welt, ARTE, the Guardian and Sky, the report shows an industry moving tentatively forward – but experiencing doubts about the long-term benefits” says Manthorpe.
So here’s proof that it may be a huge trend as of right now, but maybe not in the distant future. We can all pretend that one day we’ll all be able to afford this luxury and watch our news through VR headsets every morning instead of reading the paper, or watching television. But let’s be real. There’s a slim chance of that happening, especially with the way our economy is headed and the middle class is growing larger while the upper class is shrinking.
Click here to read Manthorpe’s full article.
I found a journalistic ethics page created by Thomas Kent, President and CEO of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and he attended Yale, according to his Linked In which can be found if you click: here.
In terms of the use of virtual reality’s ethics, “The producer needs to be transparent with the viewer about how the project was created and what impression it is designed to create on the viewer,” said Kent. In other words, the viewer needs to be informed of how the virtual experience was created, that way they are not persuaded one way or the other by the VR journalist. Biases can be created accidentally if the virtual reality is presented in certain ways, so Kent is explaining VR journalists need to keep this in mind.
Kent also explains his thoughts on the creation of the virtual reality news events. “Due to the sometimes cumbersome nature of VR equipment, VR projects may need to be set up like a movie shoot, with shots mapped out in advance. If so, people in the shot will be fully aware that VRmoviemaking is going on. That could affect their behavior,” he writes.
Click here to read Kent’s ethics page.
So we’ve come back to this idea that creating virtual reality experiences may be a bit too much work for journalists and not entirely worth the copious amounts of effort. The results may not justify the means in this case.
I’d like to conclude the blog post here, seeing as we have explored three aspects of the virtual reality experience: the copious amount of effort it takes to make VR, the affordability (or un-affordability), and whether or not it works under the journalistic code of ethics. Review the articles linked and form your own opinion, but in this writer’s opinion, I don’t see virtual reality overcoming all of journalism.
For one, not everyone is going to be able to access it, even if they have a smartphone they may not want to buy even the cardboard headset. Number two, people still really enjoy reading plain text instead of watching everything. I still like to read books much better than seeing the movie adapted versions, and I know I’m not alone in that. Lastly, journalists were made writers, not computer programmers, game designers, or even artists. We write, and that’s why people read our articles, whether in print or published online.