Saturday, February 04, 2012

Using Immersive Journalism to Communicate Reality of Hunger

What is the best way to communicate the reality of hunger?  An article with statistics, first-hand narratives, quotes and photographs is one way to do this. But there are times when a printed article might not tell the full story, no matter how well it is written and how powerful the photographs.

There is the option of a documentary, a short film, or a full length film such as Hidden in America and The End of Poverty.

But there are times when you want to the experience to the next level using the latest technology. Which brings us to immersive journalism, a strategy employed by former Newsweek correspondent and documentary filmmaker Nony de la Peña.  The concept is simple. Immersive technologies create a sense of "being there" as a news story unfolds

Here is a description from
Interested in calling attention to the growing issue of hunger in the United States, Hunger in Los Angeles recreates an eyewitness account of a crisis incident on a food bank line at the First Unitarian Church in Los Angeles.
De la Peña combined the game development tool Unity 3D, a head mounted display with motion tracking, and live audio she collected from the incident, to construct a simulated world in which audiences can suit up, walk around, and interact with other characters on the scene. The project has been developed at the MxR Lab, a joing lab between USC's Institute for Creative Technologies and the School of Cinematic Arts, with additional support from the Annenberg School of Communications and Journalism where de la Peña was a research fellow for the past two years. 

The project got great exposure at the Sundance Film Festival. Read more about the film in the festival Web Site and in FastCompany Innovation Uncensored. The latter article talks about all the advantages but also some drawabacks of immersive journalism.

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