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[DC] Immersive Journalism - The Future of the News

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The emotional turn in journalism studies is fueled by new forms of emotion-driven journalistic work, such as immersive journalism and constructive journalism. However, because these innovations are developed to ultimately re-connect journalists with disenfranchised and fragmented audiences, they highlight the need for a more thorough study of audience perceptions in our field.
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Many studies showed the ability of movies and imagery techniques to elicit emotions. Nevertheless, it is less clear how to manipulate the content of interactive media to induce specific emotional responses. In particular, this is true for the emerging medium virtual reality (VR), whose main feature is the ability to induce a feeling of "presence" in the computer-generated world experienced by the user. The main goal of this study was to analyze the possible use of VR as an affective medium. Within this general goal, the study also analyzed the relationship between presence and emotions. The results confirmed the efficacy of VR as affective medium: the interaction with "anxious" and "relaxing" virtual environments produced anxiety and relaxation. The data also showed a circular interaction between presence and emotions: on one side, the feeling of presence was greater in the "emotional" environments; on the other side, the emotional state was influenced by the level of presence. The significance of these results for the assessment of affective interaction is discussed.
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Major news outlets increasingly use immersive techniques in their journalistic productions. The idea is that, through the application of immersive technologies, the news consumer can engage with and be part of the story. However, we do not know, to what extent this promise is actually fulfilled in productions currently accessible to news audiences. This study uses a multi-step approach to fill this knowledge gap. First, based on an interdisciplinary literature review, we propose a conceptual model of immersive journalism. We then use the elements of this model to content analyze 189 journalistic productions that are labeled as immersive by the producers, including 360 degree videos, computer-generated VR, and interactive, 360 web productions, stemming from a variety of outlets and countries. Results show that the level of user immersion in these productions is actually limited, with little interaction and technical inclusion possibilities. Our results contribute to an emerging field of journalism studies, in which the user plays a new role when interacting with advancing technologies.
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News producers are increasingly experimenting with news in virtual reality and 360° video, which is often presented as the ultimate form of immersive journalism as it provides viewers with a first-person experience of a news event. Audiences are deemed to be more involved with the presented story, raising assumptions that they may be more engaged with the event and feel more empathic towards the subject of the story, especially in the case of foreign news, as distance is virtually narrowed. This experimental study (n = 149) assesses whether 360° international disaster news leads to a higher sense of presence, higher enjoyment, higher subjective involvement towards the topic, and increased engagement with distant suffering towards the victim. Using an existing news item produced by the Belgian public broadcaster VRT on a Syrian oil worker, a between-subject experimental study was undertaken, comparing four 360° video conditions: single viewpoint, drag-and-drop 360°, 360° with a cardboard VR device, and 360° with a head-mounted VR device. A verbal, qualitative debrief allowed for a better understanding of the results, which show that 360° video journalism leads to a higher sense of presence and higher levels of enjoyment. However, no effect on distant suffering or subjective involvement is found.
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Immersive journalism in the form of virtual reality (VR) headsets and 360°-video is becoming more mainstream and is much touted for inducing greater "presence" than traditional text. But, does this presence influence psychological outcomes of reading news, such as memory for story content, perceptions of credibility, and empathy felt toward story characters? We propose that two key technological affordances of VR (modality and interactivity) are responsible for triggering three presence-related cognitive heuristics (being-there, interaction, and realism), which influence news readers' memory and their perceptions of credibility, empathy, and story-sharing intentions. We report a 3 (storytelling medium: VR vs. 360°-video vs. Text) × 2 (story: "The displaced" and "The click effect") mixed-factorial experiment, in which participants (N = 129) experienced two New York Times stories (that differed in their emotional intensity) using one of the three mediums (VR, 360°-video, Text). Participants who experienced the stories using VR and 360°-video outperformed those who read the same stories using text with pictures, not only on such presence-related outcomes as being-there, interaction, and realism, but also on perceived source credibility, story-sharing intention, and feelings of empathy. Moreover, we found that senses of being-there, interaction, and realism mediated the relationship between storytelling medium and reader perceptions of credibility, story recall, and story-sharing intention. These findings have theoretical implications for the psychology of virtual reality, and practical applications for immersive journalism in particular and interactive media in general.
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Museums lean heavily on recent developments in communication technologies to create an authentic experience for online visitors of its galleries. In this study, we examine whether three specific affordances of communication technology—customization, interactivity, and navigability—can provide the personal, social, and physical contexts, respectively, that are necessary for ensuring an enjoyable museum experience. A 2 (presence vs. absence of customizable gallery) x 2 (presence vs. absence of live-chat with others) x 2 (presence vs. absence of 3-D navigational tool) between-subjects factorial experiment (N = 126) found that while each affordance is associated with distinct psychological benefits (customization with sense of agency and control, interactivity with reciprocity, and navigability with perceived reality), combining them on the same interface tends to undermine these benefits. In addition, power usage moderates the effectiveness of each affordance on the interface. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.
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This article presents and discusses three different approaches to the exploration of the cross-media challenges facing news audiences, as they seek access to, navigate in and make sense of the multitude of news sources across print, broadcasting, online and mobile media platforms. From a modernized uses and gratifications perspective, based on the notion of “worthwhileness” as the determinant of people's everyday selections from the “supermarket of news”, the article first reports from a longitudinal survey study in Denmark in which the author's foundational mapping of cross-media news consumption in pre-mobile 2008 is compared with replicating mappings carried out in 2011 and 2012, in a collaborative project between academics and news publishers. The analytical interest here focuses on the fluctuations between traditional news media and the surging digital news outlets of the internet and mobile devices. Secondly, the article summarizes the findings of a qualitative study of citizens' news repertoires, which was fortified with a quantitative factor analysis in order to find patterns in people's news consumption. Thirdly, findings are presented from a 2013 study that explored ubiquitous news consumption, asking respondents to specify the nexus of news platform and location of use.
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The article offers new insights for democracy and for news producers by mapping the use and users of today's cross-media news landscape, as the everyday consumption of news across the range of available news media and formats is shifting reflecting transformations of technology, culture and lifestyles. Theoretically the study is anchored in Habermas's notion of the public sphere, and its recent reconceptualizations in theories of “cultural citizenship”, “civic agency” and “public connection”. The project operationalizes these theories through the concept of users' perceived “worthwhileness” of news media, a user-anchored concept which incorporates the different functionalities of the situational cross-media use of news by citizen/consumers in everyday life. Empirically the article presents the findings of a large-scale survey that traces the imminent challenges facing players in the news market, as a consequence of accelerating divisions between “overview” and “depth” news media (across print, broadcasting and the Internet). The project is conducted in a partnership of university-based researchers and analysts from one of the major newspaper publishers in Denmark, and presents the first user-based analysis of the relative position of each individual news medium in the entire news media matrix.
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