Immersive journalism in academia and where do we go from here
Immersive journalism – a concept from year 2010 that came alive in academia from year 2016. With the advent of immersive technologies and media, such as mobile VR and 360-degree videos, journalism entered the immersive scene by trying to place you as someone else and somewhere else. It attempts to bring the events closer, to engage, and to cut through all the informational noise that we are daily being bombarded with. The academia then mostly started catching on when big news media houses such as The New York Times and The Guardian started producing their own 360-degree videos and, at the same time, VR has been emerging in commercial use.
The field is wildly multidisciplinary spanning across social sciences, humanities, and even natural science through information systems. In such cases it might be difficult to comprehend the state of the art and even realize the potentials for research. As a contribution to the overall understanding of this type of immersive media, we mapped the existing literature through a systematic search. We have identified and analyzed 27 academic peer-reviewed publications in English that deal with some form of immersive journalism. We discuss the publication intensity in recent years, terminology used, types of studies and what kinds of methods they utilized, what media and/or technologies’ effects were compared, and finally what kind of outcomes were studied.
The search was conducted in April 2019, whereas the study was presented at GamiFIN 2020 conference in April 2020. The number of reviewed publications from 2017 and 2018 was 12 and 13 respectively, while there were already 13 publications in the first quarter of 2019. The growing trend in the literature indicates that at the time of writing this blog there is likely double the number of total publications than what we have reviewed in this study. An updated and expanded review is underway, but this short overview and its findings are still relevant as a basis for anyone interested in user experiences in immersive technologies.
As expected, the most often used terminology was immersive journalism. However, others are 360-degree journalism, news, or VR, as well as VR news of journalism. This variance in terminology is not unusual for such a novel topic. However, although immersive journalism, in its original form, is the one most often used, similar relevant content can be found by using several others as well.
When it comes to the study design, the majority of the studies were empirical and specifically using quantitative methods. These often utilized experiments for analyzing outcomes of consuming immersive journalism content on different technologies. The most utilized media are 360-degree videos, which was to be expected considering how many are publicly available, as well as the significantly less resources needed for production than fully fledged VR experiences. Experiences of 360-degree videos were compared when consumed using mobile VR, 2D screen, or when viewing it as a 2D video, or with a fixed point of view.
There were over 20 outcomes examined, indicating a young field with a potential for breadth of research topics.The majority of the outcomes were investigated by one to three studies, but not necessarily using the same type of content or technology. This shows the need for more research in the area that would allow for meta reviews of different outcomes. Unsurprisingly, the most popular outcome to measure was (tele)presence. Although presence has been shown as a relevant mediator of a variety of outcomes, there is no standard in measurement instruments or even conceptualizations.
Finally, we have identified six gaps and notes for future research:
- As terminology used is so varied, authors should care to position their studies better. It is often unclear what is understood by the term, which can span from digital 360-degree videos to fully fledged embodied VR experiences.
- With the majority of studies using quantitative methods, and inference in particular, it is important to present the data in a detailed enough manner. More complete data and results presentation would allow for more nuanced understanding going forward.
- For similar reasons, future studies should aim at doing comparative experiments to those existing ones, or even replications. Drawing broader conclusions from such a diverse set of single studies would be greatly limited, if even possible.
- Although it is reasonable and understandable that the majority of reviewed applications considered 360-degree videos, VR should be considered more in the future. The technology and production is still developing and the costs are constantly being reduced. If academia aims at keeping pace with the real-world application, or even preferably get ahead of them, there needs to be a greater consideration of embodied VR immersive journalism content.
- A great opportunity for future research is to consider the core aims and hypothesized effects of immersive journalism. These are mostly attitudinal and behavioral outcomes, which have been studied in only a handful of papers.
- Additionally, domains of ethics, users’ media literacy, and issues of subjectivity vs objectivity show promising venues for future research. As evoking empathy is highly criticized in public discourse and immersive journalism in that sense might be a threat to rationality and even misused for fake news, there is a need for rigorous examination of the relation of immersive journalism and these concerns.
We hope this review manages to rightfully show a promising fertile field that can serve as a starting point for future immersive journalism studies and inform if not inspire both practitioners and researchers. The publication of the updated and expanded review is planned for the first half of year 2021.
Immersive journalism: Extant corpus and future agenda
Reference: Bujić, M. & Hamari, J. (2020). Immersive journalism: Extant corpus and future agenda. Proceedings of the 4th International GamiFIN Conference (pp. 136-145)
See the paper for full details:
The goal of journalism is to disseminate information to people as accurately and holistically as possible. Therefore, unsurprisingly, the recent advances in multisensory and multimodal technologies have spawned a new research area of immersive journalism (IJ). It is believed that the more holistic and engrossing media experiences afforded by virtual, augmented, and mixed reality technologies can lead to more comprehensive information internalization, both cognitively and emotionally. The literature has increasingly started to propagate since approximately 2016 onward. Therefore, while the domain is still only in its inception phase, and while the related technologies continue to develop, it is already mature enough to both look backwards to what has already been done and forwards to delineate future research agenda. In this review, we investigate what has been investigated in the extant corpus, including: methods and data, technologies and types of content in experiment settings, and dimensions related to the resulting experiences.
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