Selecting the right technologies to work with

There are emergent technologies coming up all the time. For these technologies to be picked up by Hernandez’s class at USC, they need to be interesting, currently available, affordable, modifiable, and not locked to a specific environment. The class should be able to make their own product and brand it as such. In essence, Hernandez’s class is not trying to come up with new technologies but adapting affordable emergent technologies and innovating new forms for journalism.

I focus on all the emergent technologies, [with] immersive as a focus [...] 360-degree video is still a valid platform, [an] incredible medium that can tell stories no other medium can tell. It is also a fantastic way to onboard people to the immersive platform.

UniSA students appreciate the future-oriented nature of the VR course, Stubbs notes. Even if the hype for VR journalism has cooled down in recent years, Stubbs sees learning 360-degree storytelling as an advantage for students’ future careers. These kinds of skills might not be in use in many newsrooms, but having a “bag of tricks” that the newsrooms do not yet possess might come in handy later on.

Trageton emphasizes that teaching about VR also teaches students about other forms of audiovisual communication that they are learning at the same time. Making the students conscious about the differences in each medium takes time.

So, then my main philosophy is that [... ] by learning this new medium, they learn that it’s a different medium, and by learning a different medium, they also learn more about the older media, like film and still photography [...] I think it needs quite a long time for the students to understand this.

Future prospects

In 2019, as the VR hype cooled down, Hernandez again focused more on AR in his Emergent Technologies class. Hernandez is convinced that, with fast mobile 5G internet networks, immersive technologies will prevail, even though quality content that excites the average consumer is still needed for a breakthrough.

AR, for me and all in the industry, is the long game. That will have more mass adoption thanVR [...] And when we are living in ja] mobile first world, AR is mobile-friendly.You already have the devices. So, then we talk about what kind of experiences you do wanna create and what kind of assets you need to create.

Hernandez noted that AR technology has matured on a variety of fronts, including mainstream developer platforms available from Apple and Google as well as Unity plugins. Making 3D models is becoming easier and more accessible. To also investigate how immersive journalism is distributed, Hernandez is utilizing different platforms, including Snapchat.

Due to the evolving nature of the technology', Stubbs notes, the UniSA course requires constant updating, both of the equipment and of what to teach.

It does require more attention than other courses. Just in terms of tweaking and making sure that we are aware of new things in the industry as well. Because, even from the lectures I wrote three years ago, things have changed quite a lot. I think the optimism has dimmed a little.

On another note, according to Stubbs, course expenses have come down. For example, the cameras are much cheaper than three years ago, the editing is easier, and the picture quality is better.

To develop teaching, getting insights from other universities would be beneficial. In Stubbs’ view, this would enable him to benchmark courses and also to collaborate. Currently, UniSA is the only Australian university with a Practical VR course.

Trageton remains unsure about continuing the 360-video part of the course during the coming years.They might add more emphasis on the medium, buy some cheaper, handier cameras, or, alternatively, remove it completely to have more time for other parts of the course.

Conclusions

From web-based searches and five experts’ semi-structured interviews, we can argue that teaching immersive journalism is still a rarity in the world. Journalism educators have tended to be followers and not proactive innovators in terms of adapting new tools or practices in their education work (Deuze 2006).This is also true in terms of immersive journalism. Technology alone, be itVR or some other, will not save journalism or journalism education (Creech & Mendelson 2015); but still we argue that it would be unwise to ignore any new technologies’ potentiality for transforming or at least influencing journalistic storytelling.

Nevertheless, according to our findings, there has been a small number of journalism schools and professors willing to be at the forefront of VR journalism, 360-degree journalism, and even AR journalism. It seems that leading journalism schools, especially in California, have adapted and adopted the idea of Deuze’s (2006) innovator model in their journalism education. The Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, Stanford University’s Virtual Reality Lab’s collaboration with Stanford’s Journalism Master of Arts (MA) program, and also the School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, have all taught immersive journalism. Not surprisingly, many of the first VR companies were started either in Silicon Valley or near Los Angeles (Lanier 2018; Bailenson 2018).

Moreover, in other parts of the world, from Australia to the United Kingdom and Nordic countries, immersive journalism has been in the curricula. One of the shortcomings of this chapter clearly is that we did not get any information about immersive journalism teaching in Asia, Africa, or South America. Further explorations of global immersive journalism education are needed.

Five immersive journalism teachers from Australia, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and the United States were interviewed, with the main question being how to best teach immersive journalism. The answer was manifold. In other words, there is a great variety of models of how to teach immersive journalism, but they all relate to innovation pedagogy, which emphasizes exploration and risk-taking. As immersive journalism is still small in its scope, only a few universities have created dedicated courses. There is room for the development ofVR journalism around the world; for example, Stubbs (2018) has argued that mastering VR techniques would be a valuable asset for Australian journalism students.

Clearly, we need more research about the importance and role of online communities in terms of adapting new emergent technologies in journalism.

References

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Sundar.S. Shyam.Jin Kang, & Danielle Oprean. 2017.“BeingThere in the Midst of the Story: How Immersive Journalism Affects Our Perceptions and Cognitions.” Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking 20(11), November: 672—682.

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