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An introduction to immersive journalism in class: an experience with photography and 360 videos on the SeekBeak platform



According to Ray Soto, Director of Emerging Technology for the USA Today Network, in 2021, it was essential to “begin to explore a spatial computing future that seamlessly connects our content experiences across many devices, including immersive technology platforms”. To the specialist, immersion is one crucial area in journalism since technological developments, namely the “introduction of 5G and LiDAR technologies into mobile devices”, have opened up new possibilities in terms of interactivity. In the predictions made to the Nieman Lab (2021), Soto argues that “news gets spatial” and that “organizations across the media industry will create teams dedicated to the exploration of immersive storytelling”. If it is true that technological developments, especially interactive and mobile platforms, have allowed new journalistic experiences to users (Vázquez-Herrero and de Haan, 2022; An introduction to immersive journalism in class: an experience with photography and 360 videos on the SeekBeak platform (Soler-Adillon and Sora, 2018), we must not forget that in terms of journalistic production, the bet on many of these new ways of telling stories has still been reduced. Storytelling innovation, particularly immersive storytelling, poses several challenges to newsrooms, namely from the perspective of professionals’ skills. As we have already seen concerning other areas, such as data journalism, there are still few professionals in the Portuguese context specialized in these areas, working in newsrooms (Martinho, 2014; Alexandre 2014; Moura, 2018). On the other hand, we can also question whether this type of training is already part of academic curricula and the extent to which future journalists have been prepared to work with innovative tools and technologies from the point of view of storytelling, especially immersive storytelling. Thus, and even before we think about the constitution of teams within the newsrooms, it is crucial to try new teaching-learning processes. In this context, we cannot fail to look at the offer of training in journalism (Larrondo Ureta and Peña Fernández, 2018) nor at the curricula of the courses (Marinho, 2015; Coelho, 2015), since these help us to understand the growing importance that has been given to technology and new digital media, but also the identified need for greater “proximity and exchange between academia and newsrooms” (Pinto, 2015: 10). On the other hand, we should also note that the insertion of immersive approaches in teaching and learning journalism is still limited, assuming above all a conceptual logic, that is, not oriented towards know-how to do (Canavilhas, Giacomelli and Morais, 2021). Thus, the present work attempts to account for an experience made with journalism students within the scope of a web journalism curricular unit. As part of this experience, students were challenged to use SeekBeak, a flexible and easy-to-use interactive 360 photo and virtual tour platform, to tell the story of a chosen space within the university.
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