Ethical reviews as tools, increased awareness of emotional data

It has been interesting to note the findings of reviews into immersive technologies and how these may inform future practices. In 2019, a six-month inquiry was held by the UK Government into Immersive and Addictive Technologies. The recommendations included calling for technology companies to look at how they protect the audience from harm, and for a new “Online Harms” regulator that would hold social media platforms accountable for content or activity that harms individual users. Alongside this, there must be clear procedures to take down misleading “deepfake” videos. This may have an impact for developments within immersive journalism as technolog)' evolves and more interactivity and social interactions within the news stories emerge.

Furthermore, as the platform companies are already seriously investing in the future of immersive technologies such as virtual reality, it is important also to start ethical discussions about their practices, especially in terms of emotional data collection. For example, by signing Facebook’s data use policy the users potentially expose themselves to various experiments that could target, for instance, the users’ emotions without informed consents (Jouhki et al. 2016,79-81). As the tech companies have their own ethical rules and practices, and business secrets, critical academic research should continuously emphasize the importance of ethical questions in terms of the use of new technologies.

Global co-learning on immersive journalism is growing

It is important to add that global online networks and communities like special Facebook groups or ad-hoc Twitter accounts continuously foster and curate our knowledge about the new implications of virtual, augmented, and mixed reality in journalism. These virtual social media communities are increasingly identified as important global education hubs and information networks for immersive journalism.

One of the largest online communities focusing on VR is a Facebook group called Virtual Reality with more than 50,000 members in September 2019, seven years after it was started. There are also plenty of niche groups in social media platforms, like a Facebook group named as Film 360VR/MR - Los Angeles, which spreads across wider California. The group was founded in August 2017 and it had almost 400 members in September 2019. The main aims of this group are to 1) explore immersive media through interactive and robust events, 2) inform members about new tools and workflows at the intersection of media, entertainment, and technology, and 3) curate resources and solutions for immersive storytellers and innovators.

Ways of storytelling are changing, eventually with the 5G

Many experts have argued that especially the fifth generation of cellular networks (5G) is needed before the immersive technologies will take off on a large scale. The New York Times launched among the very first newsrooms its 5G Journalism Lab in 2019.The company predicts that “Over the next few years, the transition to 5G will provide Internet speeds at least 20 times faster than 4G networks, enabling smartphones to download entire movies in seconds or stream massive multiplayer games without latency” ( 2019).

When preparing this book we asked those working within immersive journalism for their thoughts on where the industry will be heading. What are their own ideas about how it may develop as the technological infrastructures and gadgets evolve?

Because of 5G and wearables, we’re going to see an increasing intersection between biometric information and media. Users will be controlling media environments with their brainwaves and heart rate. In addition, media will be recommended to the user based on the data that’s coming from their wearables.

Sarah Hill, Story-Up

I think the onset of 5G and the possibilities of immersive “glasses” that achieve what Google Glass couldn’t may prove to be sparks that finally set this brand of journalism on fire. The one thing “traditional news” still can’t do is put the viewer in the middle of the story. Well shot and produced 360 video can do that.Throw in all the other potential bells and whistles that VR and AR can offer, and I’m still convinced storytelling will be changed forever by this technology. Great work is being done, we just need a broad audience with the ability to watch it in its best form.

George Sells,

We tookVR on a tour this summer to 160 local libraries - slightly against my expectations the Congo films were the most appreciated by audiences - so that’s a great endorsement of the power of VR journalism.

Zillali Watson, BBC

Predictions are particularly hard in the immersive field, even for 5 years in the future, because, if you glimpse back 5 years ago, you will be baffled at how fast hardware, software and content have evolved. One thing is clear for the next five years though, if they hope to reach the Promised Land of a mainstreamed technology', hardware manufacturers, software companies and content producers must put the audience at the centre of every decision they make from now on.

Thomas Seymat, VR editor at Euronews, R.JI Fellow 2018-2019

The promises of immersive journalism are still pertinent

Immersive journalism is an evolving field. This book draws together research from scholars around the world highlighting the opportunities that the field presents, while acknowledging the challenges and concerns it brings as well. With greater adoption and the potential of 5G, the field may find many new users but most likely only as an addition to a growing portfolio of journalistic platforms.

Clearly, there is a need for more research about the importance and role of online communities in terms of adapting to new emergent technologies in journalism, as well as the ethical challenges that this medium presents. Immersive journalism has the potential to reach new audiences, change the way stories are told, and provide more interactivity within the news industry.

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