When you flip to the news channel to see Syria being attacked, or come across a video on Youtube of Donald Trump expressing his opinions about the direction the United States need to take, you are watching journalism. Even reading the newspaper about the nationwide convenience store robbers, Blake Fitzgerald and Brittany Nicole Harper, you are still experiencing journalism. Journalism is what gives the rest of us eyes of the tragedies and good fortunes happening across the world.
More important, are the people who risk their lives, their reputation, and their time to capture these moments, that most of us don’t even experience in our own lives. These are the people who are creating content, that future historians will study to understand how societies have evolved. Now journalism is entering a new level, for people to truly understand what it feels like to be bombed unexpectedly, while a young girl sings a beautiful melody.
Nonny de la Pena is pioneering this next level. She is a former Newsweek reporter and a PhD candidate for the University of Southern California. She is also the CEO of the Emblematic Group. Instead of primarily using print or videos to showcase the devastations happening across the world, she is using virtual reality. Because of this feat, she is considered the Godmother of VR journalism. A.K.A. Immersive Journalism. As best said by Co.Create, her team at Emblematic Group “specializes in re-creating real-life news events as fully immersive virtual reality experiences.” With the Unity Game engine at their disposal, they can make you feel as if you are actually at the event, creating genuine and visceral emotions about the situation. As well as creating a new level of experiencing journalism to truly understand what people actually go through during a unexpected traumatic events.
The first project that Nonny de la Pena began for her virtual reality journalism, involved a diabetic man collapsing to the ground in line at the food bank. This project was dubbed “Hunger.” When you enter the VR simulation, you are standing in line at the food bank. Suddenly a man drops to the ground, having a seizure. Because of the immersive nature of the experience, you are compelled to help the guy, but there is nothing you can do. This caused people experiencing the scenario, to have a visceral reaction towards the incapacitated digital character. What makes the simulation even more real, is the live audio taken from the actual event, to construct the scene. The intent was to focus on the starvation problem in the United States. Because of the consistent reaction people gave, she knew immersive journalism was the next step for people to have a true understanding of the traumatic events that happen worldwide.
Leading the Emblematic Group to create a VR simulation, showcasing the terrorist attacks happening in Syria. And more profoundly the young refugees affected by these attacks. Nonny de la Pena explains, “In America, we’re deeply involved in Syria, but we’re very disconnected about – what is that place? who are the people? Why do I care? Why are we there?” Because of virtual reality journalism or immersive journalism ability to provide a on-scene view of these events, she recognizes that VR is an empathy generator. Wouldn’t you agree, that you would be more impacted by these attacks, if it felt like it was happening to you versus seeing it through a 2D window? This is the Emblematic’s teams goal.
To let people gain better insight and empathy for endangered people her team have created a simulation centering around the Travon Martin case. The young black male, who was shot down by a volunteer watchman, George Zimmerman. Tell me you wouldn’t have a different perspective of the situation, when you are actually experiencing it. I would. The point is immersive journalism will be more impactful, than watching horrifying events through a window. I hope the Emblematic group keeps up the good work, because they are pioneers in VR immersive journalism.