Virtual reality, gamification and fake news – the pros and cons of today’s new technologies

To survive in the media business today, you have to operate in various channels and use different technologies, because today’s audience want to have their news when, where and how they want it, according to an article in the Current (2016). To keep the audience, media companies have to obey, and this is where transmedia storytelling comes into the picture.

Transmedia storytelling is to tell a story in many different media formats where you benefit from the various media platforms advantages to highlight different parts of the story (Moloney, 2011). To use Facebook Live to broadcast from a live event, for example, or putting out pictures and videos on Instagram to show that the media is there when it happens.

The latter I have done several times during my work as a reporter on the Swedish newspaper Sydöstran. Colleagues at the newspaper have also broadcasted live on Facebook from big press conferences. We don’t get a lot of traffic because of this, but I believe it helps to build on the trademark of Sydöstran.

Photo: Tracy Le Blanc.

However, the newspaper doesn’t have either Snapchat or Youtube, which means that we’re missing the youngest audience, the future subscribers, which isn’t good (Lemelshtrich Latar, 2018). This is also a matter of resources, however. There is no time to produce material for many different channels when you are a small, local newspaper that struggles with fewer subscribers and fewer advertisers every year. The paper have also dismissed several employees in the last years, and the ones that are left have to do more and more work tasks.

I believe that more and more media companies have to increase the use of automated news in the future to keep up with the increasing demands on journalism. That is to use robot journalists to write articles (Lemelshtrich Latar, 2018). Robot journalism started in reporting sport games but is now used in almost every fields within journalism. Associated Press is already publishing thousands of articles written by journalist robots each quarter. By using more automation, journalists will have more time to create videos and other content to post in different channels available, according to communication professor Noam Lemelshtrich Latar (2018).

I don’t believe in the hype with robot journalism, though, that it will replace human journalists like some people think (Kahneman, 2017).

Robot journalists have too many limitations. They can’t write creatively, for example, because they write texts by collecting and rationalizing information (Andreasen, 2014). Neither can they use knowledge from many different fields at the same time like human journalists can, according to software engineer and writer Ben Dickson (2017).

Robot journalists are also limited in their use of metaphors and humour, and they can’t create videos and interactive elements in storytelling, that human journalists can (Lemelshtrich Latar, 2018). The latter is demanded more and more by the younger generation today, and several bigger newspapers have actually incorporated interactive tools in their storytelling (Lemelshtrich Latar, 2018).

The New York Times has created an app for their virtual reality videos that their subscribers can watch both with and without a headset (Lemelshtrich Latar, 2018). Virtual reality, or VR for those who aren’t familiar with it, is a combination of hardware and software systems that create an all-inclusive illusion of being present in another environment (Biocca & Levy, 2013).

The Guardian also used virtual reality to tell the story of how isolation can cause psychological damage. They did this by creating a virtual solitary confinement prison cell using VR, which their subscribers could visit virtually, to experience how it would be (Lemelshtrich Latar, 2018).

I think this is a fascinating use of virtual reality in journalistic storytelling. It is still very expensive to create, though, and only the more prominent newspapers can afford it (Lemelshtrich Latar, 2018). Definitely not the small newspaper that I work for back home, unfortunately.

The Guardian have also experimented with gamification, that is to use game design elements in non-game contexts (Deterding, Dixon, Khaled and Nacke, 2011). In 2009 they posted documents about Members of the UK Parliament’s suspected misuse of allowances, online for their readers to access. The readers could flag the material as either ”Not interesting”, “Interesting but known”, ”Interesting” and ”Investigate this!” (Conill, 2016). The readers that flagged the most documents were shown in a list on the site, creating a fun game-like experience for the readers (Daniel and Flew 2010). At the same time, The Guardian got help to go through the massive amount of documents and saved both time and money, it was a win-win situation, and the project was very successful

This is a very smart way to both engage readers and save resources and money. I will suggest this to my boss when I get back to my job at home. It’s also a smart use of collective intelligence, the ability of a crowd to perform a task better than individuals (Ince, 2019). If a newspaper employee had gone through all the documents, it would have taken a long time, but by spreading the workload, it went faster. The journalist would probably also have missed facts because you get mentally tired after reading documents after a while, but now the newspaper avoided that as well.

By doing it this way, the readers were participating in creating the articles, which equals participatory culture, coined by journalism professor, Henry Jenkins (2006) that I talked about in my previous podcast.

I also think that one key to why the Guardian’s project was so successful was that people felt that they were a part of something important. The readers felt like they had the power to influence, they felt integrated, and their needs were filled with the confirmation of the ”most active list”. I also believe that they felt a shared sense of spirit in investigating the parliament. These are the four senses of a community, according to researchers McMillan and Chavis (1986) so you can say that the project created a community.

What’s also great with these types of projects is that people from all over the world can contribute, you are not limited by time or space. Not everyone can take part in it though. If you live in a part of the world where you have poor internet connection or no connection at all, you can’t participate. 

Photo:
Porapak Apichodilok.

This division between people who have access to new digital media and those who haven’t is called the digital divide (Rice & Katrz, 2002). There are two aspects of the divide, the global and the social divide. The first refers to differences in infrastructure between countries, access to internet, for example, the social divide refers to differences in skills within a country, for example, older people who didn’t grow up with new technologies and don’t know how to use it properly.

The social divide is an issue at Sydöstran, because we have older employees that isn’t comfortable to use social media for example, and therefore don’t want to, even though we know how important it is today, which is limiting.

Another problem with new digital technologies are the issues of computer security and hacking, fake news, and invading people’s privacy.

I know that our media organisation have been hacked several times and we have a hacking team working non-stop to prevent new attacks and keep our information safe.

Photo: ThisIsEngineering.

The spread of fake news is also a big problem in journalism today that spreads fear and racist ideas that ultimately can affect how people vote, according to the website 30secondes. In my job as a reporter, I haven’t got in contact with fake news that much luckily, maybe because I work at a smaller newspaper that hasn’t been targeted.

When it comes to keep people’s privacy information safe however, the basis for journalism changed when GDPR was adopted in Europe 2018. GDPR stands for General Data Protection Regulation and aims to protect the privacy of people in the European Union.

This means, among other things, that companies and organisations aren’t allowed to keep records of people’s information that isn’t necessary. People also have the right to know what data companies have about them, and if a person contacts the company and asks them to delete their information from their records, they have to obey.

It also means that you have to be careful who you take pictures of and ask them if it’s okay. This has made it harder for photographers and journalists to do their job. However, in general, I think GDPR is a good thing. It’s important to protect our privacy, even if it’s yet another challenge for media companies in an already challenging time.

Read my previous blog posts here!

References

Andreasen N. C. (2014) Secrets of the creative brain. The Atlantic. Retrieved from:https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/07/secrets-of-the-creative-brain/372299/

Biocca F., Levy M. R. (2013) Communication in the Age of Virtual Reality. DOI: https://www.taylorfrancis.com/books/9781410603128

Clendenin L., Stuckey D. (2016, October 10) Transmedia journalism expands storytelling for deeper impact. Current. Retrieved from: https://current.org/2016/10/transmedia-journalism-expands-storytelling-for-deeper-impact/

Daniel, A.; Flew, T. (2010). “The Guardian reportage of the UK MP expenses scandal: a case study of computational journalism”. In: Communications Policy and Research Forum 2010 (Sydney, 15-16 November 2010). 

Deterding, S., Khaled, R., Nacke, L.E., Dixon, D. 2011. Gamification: Toward a Definition. In CHI 2011 Gamification Workshop Proceedings, Vancouver, BC, Canada.

Dickson B. (2017) What is Narrow, General and Super AI. Tech Talks. Retrieved from:https://bdtechtalks.com/2017/05/12/what-is-narrow-general-and-super-artificial-intelligence/

Ferrer Conill, R. (2016). Points, badges, and news: A study of the introduction of gamification into journalism practice. Comunicació: Revista De Recerca I D’anàlisi [Societat Catalana De Comunicació]33(2), 45–63. https://doi.org/10.2436/20.3008.01.148

Ince, D. (2019). collective intelligence. In A Dictionary of the Internet. Retrieved from http://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780191884276.001.0001/acref-9780191884276-e-4460

Jenkins Henry (2006, June 19) Welcome to convergence culture. Retrieved from: http://henryjenkins.org/2006/06/welcome_to_convergence_culture.html

Kahneman, D. (2017) Remarks [Video file] NBER Conference Toronto: Economics of AI Conference. Toronto. Retrieved from: https://digitopoly.org/2017/09/22/kahneman-on-ai-versus-humans/

Lemelshrich Latar Noam (2018) Robot Journalism Can Human Journalism Survive?. Singapore: World Scientific Publishing Co

McMillan, D. W., & Chavis, D. M. (1986). Sense of community: A definition and theory. Journal of Community Psychology, 14, 6-23. doi:10.1002/1520-6629(198601)14:1<6::AID-JCOP2290140103>3.0.CO;2-I

Moloney K. (2011, November 23) Tag Archives: drillability Transmedia Journalism in Principle. Transmediajournalism.org. https://transmediajournalism.org/tag/drillability/

Rice, R., & Katz, J. (2002). Comparing Internet and Mobile Phone Digital Divides. Proceedings of the ASIST Annual Meeting39, 92–98. Retrieved from: http://search.proquest.com/docview/62213417/

Wolford B. (n.d.) What is GDPR, the EU’s new data protection law? Gdpr.eu. https://gdpr.eu/what-is-gdpr/

30 secondes: (2019) Impacts of Fake News. https://30secondes.org/en/module/impacts-of-fake-news/

Want to know more about the blogger? Click here!

Is social media going to be the death or the rescuer of digital journalism?

How does the use of social media affect today’s journalism? That’s what I’m going to discuss in this blogpost.

My name is Sarah Rätzer, and I’m a 30-year old journalist from Sweden. I’m currently studying journalism and communication at Bond University on the Gold Coast, on the other side of the world.

That wouldn’t have been possible without the innovation of the internet. I researched different universities all over the world via the internet and then applied to my favourite one, Bond, through a study abroad organisation in Sweden via the internet. I also applied for my visa, got my insurance and booked my flight ticket via the internet. All of this we take for granted today, but 30 years ago before the internet had diffused into our everyday life, this would have been much more complicated.

It takes 30 years for an innovation to become a standard technology, according to the technological forecaster Paul Saffo, so I’m happy I’m studying now and not 30 years ago. (Shirley, 2007)

I’ve been working as a reporter at the local newspaper Sydöstran in my home town in Sweden for the last few years. However, last year I felt like I wanted to do something else for a while and also learn something new. Therefore I thought studying abroad would be perfect for me.

I am what the management consultant Peter Drucker would call a knowledge worker. Not a boss but not a worker either, rather something in between whose mission is to think for a living. People these days don’t stay at the same job during their entire career like they did back in the days. People today want to change jobs, change cities and even countries, and to keep the talent companies have to agree with this and keep their doors open, according to the survey: Thinking for a living which was published in The Economist (2006). Just like my boss at the newspaper who let me fly to the other side of the world to study. He will benefit from this, though, because when I get back, I will have even more knowledge that I can share with the newspaper and my colleagues.

When I first started my job at the newspaper, I worked as a web reporter responsible for both publishing articles digitally and managing our social media channels. A lot of work for just one person if you ask me, especially considering how important social media is today.

I noticed that the articles I put on Facebook got a lot more clicks than the articles I didn’t publish there. When I looked at the statistics of how people accessed our articles, Facebook drove a lot of traffic to our site. Most people still accessed our articles through our web site, but Facebook was the second-largest source of traffic, way more effective than, for example, Google.

Despite this, I had to fight for the use of social media at the newspaper, against people who weren’t comfortable using it and therefore didn’t want to. I understand that it can be scary when this new way of working gets introduced in your workplace if you don’t understand it.

However, sometimes you have to embrace new things if you know that they are good for you and your job. Facebook is part of the technoculture within digital journalism today. Meaning that we use the technology of Facebook to create and spread our news, among other things. The culture of Facebook with words like Facerape, which means to hijack another person’s account and the technology of Facebook has been synonymous and also a natural part of today’s society (Green, 2002).

Photo by: Gerd Altmann.

People who don’t want to be a part of that has what sociologist Everett M. Rogers would call a hypercritical and pessimistic stance towards this new way of work. That is, that they see Facebook usage at work as leading to a disaster (Rogers, 1986).

They were claiming that it would take too much time away from other work tasks and “it isn’t in the job description”. Well, I think it should be, because we know how important, for example, Facebook is today. It has over 2,4 billion users monthly, and it’s the most prominent social network worldwide, according to statistics from Statista from 2019. We also know that a lot of people read their news there, which tells us that we, of course, want to have our news there (Gramlich, 2019).

Semiotician Daniel Chandler would call these people who are against social media use at the workplace technological determinists. This means that they believe that new technologies, Facebook, in this case, would radically change their job and their way of thinking. I think that it’s we who would change our job and our way of thinking by using Facebook. We rule the technology, the technology doesn’t rule us. This makes me more of a socio-culturalist, according to Chandler (1996).

There’s more challenges in using social media within digital journalism. People want to read news for free, so they tend to get angry if we post articles with a paywall on Facebook, even if we write in the post that it’s a paywall-article. They don’t seem to understand that journalists also want to get paid for their work.

Our readers can also comment on our Facebook-posts which can be a problem if they write offensive or racist things. This has happened many times when I have been working. It’s a good thing that our readers can interact with us instead of us just publishing articles without any feedback or contact. It can also be problematic because we as a newspaper don’t want to be connected to that. Neither do we want our readers to feel bad when they see our Facebook posts. However, this is a part of the social convergence within journalism, which we have to accept. Back in the days the newspapers were publishing articles for their readers who were only able to receive the information. Now the readers can post comments on the newspapers social media pages, rate the newspaper on Facebook and also share their articles. Today everyone can publish anything, anywhere. That is what journalism professor Henry Jenkins calls participatory culture (2006).

This brings us to another problem area within journalism and social media, fake news. When everyone is a publisher, how can we know that what people publish is true? We could of course look up the source and check its credibility and use google to see if any other web pages have the same information. But it’s tricky these days to know for sure. Especially with today’s technique which even makes it possible to do so called deep fakes. That is videos of people saying things they have never said, made possible by artificial intelligence. Facebook is doing a raid against deep fakes before the Us election of 2020, which I think is very important. These videos look very real and could change people’s opinions regarding who they vote for, which isn’t good for democracy. (Hern, 2020)

Social media is here to stay, and we will probably encounter more problems in the future when both social media and digital journalism are evolving.

Journalism is facing a tough future, with fewer subscribers and people not willing to pay for digital news. I think we have to come up with a way to use social media more effectively within digital journalism, to help save it. 

Paul Bradshaw that runs the blog onlinejournalismblog.com is writing that Artificial intelligence could help journalists figure out what, when and how to publish on social media, with the help of algorithms. Several companies are already doing this according to the blog (Bradshaw, 2019), and I think this could be a big help for the future of journalism.

The Artificial intelligence could figure out when it’s most effective to publish a news article and in which social media channel to publish to give the best possible traffic because now we’re only guessing. Or we look at statistics and then act but with artificial intelligence algorithms, we could analyse so much more data and statistics, so much faster.

Then social media journalists can concentrate on building relationships with the audience and also figure out how to cope with the fact that a lot of social media users mostly use the chat function. Because today we don’t get any traffic from people just using the chat function on for example Instagram. That is another possible platform that could be explored in the future.

How do you think we can use social media to help save the digital journalism? Write your suggestions in the comments!

Want to know more about the blogger? Click here!

References

Biagi Shirley (2007) Media/Impact An introduction to Mass Media. Australia: Thomson/Wadsworth

Bradshaw Paul (2019, June 22) FAQ: How has social media changed journalism – and what does the future hold? Online journalism. https://onlinejournalismblog.com/2019/06/22/faq-how-has-social-media-changed-journalism-instagram/

Chandler Daniel (January, 1996) Engagement with media: Shaping and being shaped. Retrieved from: http://visual-memory.co.uk/daniel/Documents/short/determ.html?LMCL=VtZnX6

Clement J. (2020, Jan 30) Number of monthly active Facebook users worldwide as of 4th quarter 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.statista.com/statistics/264810/number-of-monthly-active-facebook-users-worldwide/

Gramlich John (2019, May 16) 10 facts about Americans and Facebook. Retrieved from: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/05/16/facts-about-americans-and-facebook/

Green, L. R. (2002). Technoculture: from alphabet to cybersex. Crows Nest, Australia: Allen & Unwin

Hern Alex (2020, Jan 7) Facebook bans ‘deepfake’ videos in run-up to US election. The Guardian. URL: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/jan/07/facebook-bans-deepfake-videos-in-run-up-to-us-election

Jenkins Henry (2006, June 19) Welcome to convergence culture. Retrieved from: http://henryjenkins.org/2006/06/welcome_to_convergence_culture.html

Rogers M. Everett (1986) Communication Technology. New York: The Free Press
The Economist Intelligence Unit N.A., Incorporated. Survey: Thinking for a living. Jan 21, 2006

About the blogger

My name is Sarah Rätzer and I’m a 30 year-old journalist and social media lover from Sweden. I have a Bachelor degree in Journalism and media production from Linnaeus University in Sweden and I have been working as a journalist and web reporter at a local newspaper for a couple of years now. Currently, I study communication and media at Bond University on the Gold Coast. My goal with studying abroad is to broaden my knowledge of journalism and social media and also get to know people from other countries and cultures.

As a web reporter I have used social media a lot in my job and the purpose with this blog is to analyse the future of journalism, with a special focus on social media.

Create your website at WordPress.com
Get started