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/

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