Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Highlights from the 2009 Event


The Virtual Journalism Summit, held April 6 on the campus of Washington State University, offered established journalists and students the opportunity to interact directly with leading newsmakers in the media and technology industries. This day-long free event examined the growing popularity and influence of virtual reality and virtual worlds, where there are many real stories unfolding within the “metaverse” and its newly-created 3D spaces. 

Key participants included:
  • Helen Thomas, former White House bureau chief
  • Bob Scheiffer, CBS News' chief Washington correspondent
  • Philip Rosedale, founder, Second Life
  • Lane Merrifield, Executive Vice President, Disney Online Studios
  • Lila King, senior producer, CNN Interactive Storytelling
  • Erica Driver, co-founder, ThinkBalm
  • Wagner James Au, virtual world journalist
  • Bernhard Drax, virtual world journalist

The event consisted of an opening keynote speech from Linden Lab founder/CEO Philip Rosedale, who gave an overview of the economy and basics of Second Life. Rosedale's presentation addressed the "realness" of the stories within the communities that dwell within these emerging 3D spaces. One participant uploaded a report on the event on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ewTd2x0ekak

Immediately following his presentation, Web video podcast site Rocketboom interviewed Rosedale about his thoughts on virtual worlds and journalism (see:http://www.rocketboom.com/philip-rosedale-of-second-life/).

Caption: The avatar of Philip Rosedale addresses the virtual world audience inside Second Life.

Caption: Philip Rosedale meets with Rocketboom reporter Elspeth Rountree on the campus of WSU. Source: Rocketboom (http://www.rocketboom.com/philip-rosedale-of-second-life/)

The second event consisted of a presentation by Erica Driver, founder of Internet research firm ThinkBalm. Erica demonstrated new 3D learning, business and reporting applications, such as the ability to conduct live Q&A polling within a 3D space. Participants were invited to submit their responses to various questions as a 3D visual data stream displayed the results in real-time to the audience. To prepare the presentation for this event, Driver convened 17 members of the ThinkBalm Innovation Community and conducted a 3D brainstorming session. The session included the brainstorming of five questions for 10 minutes each, ranging from, “How comfortable are journalists with using the Immersive Internet?” to “How can journalists use the Immersive Internet to differentiate from competitors who don’t?” The two main findings from the brainstorming session were:
  • The Immersive Internet presents multiple barriers to adoption for journalists
  • The Immersive Internet will change the face of journalism

In partnership with this event, ThinkBalm published a .pdf white paper "Gathering Insights vis 3D Brainstorming."

Caption: ThinkBalm founders Erica and Sam Driver demonstrate a 3D Brainstorming tool to the audience.

After a quick lunch break, where participants were able to engage directly with all presenters, the event continued with a 3D roundtable on virtual world media. Rosedale and Driver were joined by CNN executive producer Lila King, Disney Online Studios executive VP Lane Merrifield and citizen journalist Bernhard Drax. The topics discussed at this session, which was moderated by author and blogger Wagner James Au, included:

  • How “real” are these 3D spaces – and why should journalists care?
  • What are the “best practices” in virtual journalism?
  • Privacy issues in 3D reporting
  • Is this just a niche? How can these stories appeal to a broader audience?
  • Ethical challenges in virtual spaces
  • Case studies of both successes and failures in pioneer virtual journalism efforts
  • Future roles and responsibilities of reporters in virtual worlds
  • Citizen vs. traditional journalism in 3D spaces

Caption: A citizen journalist captures the 3D Media panel with cell-phone video footage and posts to YouTube. (Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e0wEWgTyHXA)

The 3D panel concluded with the world premiere of a virtual journalism video report, designed and produced by Dancing Ink Productions for The American University in Cairo with funding from USAID. This video report explored the evolving face of journalism and how virtual worlds are a part of that transformation. In January 2009 a group of eight Egyptian political bloggers including the well-known Wael Abbas, met with James K. Glassman then the US Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. The documentary depicts the event itself, as well as the reaction of Glassman, the bloggers and project director Lawrence Pintak, who has since become founding dean of the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication.

Caption: A scene from the original Virtual Newsroom video, created by Dancing Ink Productions.

Following this screening, Club Penguin founder Lane Merrifield took the stage to discuss the function of the fifth estate in a child's virtual world. Merrifield's presentation examined how innovative applications of traditional methods of mass communication in the online community of Club Penguin are offering children around the globe new opportunities to express themselves and learn about their world.

Caption: Club Penguin founder and Disney Online Studios executive VP Lane Merrifield.

In the afternoon, invited participants were able to attend hands-on workshops on virtual world content creation and immersive storytelling. Prominent blogger Wagner James Au (New World Notes) helped answer questions and guided participants on "best practices" in virtual world content creation, machinima production, inworld photography and metaverse reporting.

Caption: Author Wagner James Au poses next to his online persona Hamlet Au.

The event concluded with a "mixed reality" Q&A featuring legendary journalists Helen Thomas and Bob Scheiffer. Both speakers addressed their thoughts on the current state of journalism, with an emphasis on the emerging technologies disrupting traditional media business models. The event included questions from the live audience, as well as from the Second Life audience. 

Highlights of the event were captured at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0bFZWYIRbgY, but
the full video can be seen on the WSU Event Web site at: http://experience.wsu.edu/murrow/Symposium.aspx.

Caption: The avatars of Helen Thomas and Bob Schieffer. Source: New World Notes (http://nwn.blogs.com/nwn/2009/03/thomas-and-schieffer.html)


Caption: Helen and Bob Schieffer (and their 3D avatars) address both a live and Internet audience in this "mixed reality" event. Full video at http://experience.wsu.edu/murrow/Symposium.aspx

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