Immersion journalism is here and having your own “avatar” is no longer science fiction.
On the Harvard journalism website, Nieman Storyboard, Ernesto Priego spoke to Nonny de la Peña about the future of interactive storytelling. De la Peña talked about her immersion journalism project, Gone Gitmo, where she used Second Life to take the audience through a virtual Guantanamo Bay prison to “experience” the story.
By virtually walking in the shoes of a detainee, the audience gain more understanding about the actual situation in the prison. Can’t get your head around it? See the video below:
On the video, de la Peña said: “Guantanamo is physically off limits to most citizens and press. Keep the topic out of sight and it stays out of mind. [In order to negotiate] inaccessible destination, we felt that Second Life offers us a chance to accessible albeit virtual version.”
“We do not torture your avatar. So rather than a torture chamber, we elected to build a contemplation chamber. Series of spaces to contemplate reports and practices going on in Guantanamo, as well as current news via RSS feed.”
The question is whether the audience are ready and are able to understand the context of the story to be taken on this journey.
It looks like if you happen to read or stumble upon any Wikileaks item on the websites of the NY Times or The Guardian, or any online source, you cannot even hope to do any government work in the United States.
This message was passed on to a School of Informatics and Computing of some university from a School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA) via its Office of Career Services.
“Dear SPEA Students,
SPEA has a long tradition of students pursuing careers in federal service. As such, it is important that students are made aware of the potential federal employment eligibility risks associated with the recently published WikiLeaks documents.
The US State Department and other federal agencies have issued news releases stating that anyone currently employed in federal service, or anyone who aspires to work in federal service, should not access or read WikiLeaks documents. The federal government considers most of the WikiLeaks information to be classified and individuals who read these documents or provide commentary on the WikiLeaks documents may be ineligible for employment in the federal government. This is especially true of students who plan to seek federal jobs in fields related to national security or the intelligence community. Students are also cautioned not to post links to WikiLeaks through social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.).
More specific information is contained in the article links listed below.
Check the English version of “WikiRebels: The Documentary” on Sveriges internet television (SVT). In depth interview with Julian Assange. Length 57:25mins. Interesting debate.
Hackers, philosophers or digital freedom activists? Interesting quotes from SVT interview:
Daniel Domscheit-Berg, Chaos Computer Club: “The question is about attitude. What attitude do you have toward society? Do you look at what there is and accept what is given, or …when you find a problem, you try to find a creative solution for that problem? So it is a matter of are you a spectator, or are you actively participating in society.”
Mikael Viborg, PRQ (where WikiLeaks servers are hosted): “We provide anonymity services, VPN tunnels. We accept anything that is legal under Swedish law. Regardless how objectionable it is. We don’t make moral judgements. This is a ticking information bomb, instead of conventional weapons. Hopefully this information somehow can stop some conventional weapons.”
Smári McCarthy, Icelandic Digital Freedom Society (On Kaupping Bank gagging order on Icelandic state television): “All of the regulators have been derelict in the duties. All of the bankers have been lying about the state of affair… We had failed as a country because we had not been sharing the information that we needed. We were in the middle of an information famine.”
Private Bradley Manning, US Army (Intelligence analyst and WikiLeaks “Collateral Murder” whistleblower): “If you had free access to classified networks, and you saw incredible things, awful things… what would you do?”
Ian Overton, ed-in-chief The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (On the war logs): “What these logs tell us is that war is hell. They don’t hide from the truth. They are not spun by a millitary spin doctor talking in an air-conditioned conference room in the green zone. These are visceral, unequivocal deaths written in raw details.”
I really could not care less if Miss A was a men-hating feminist, or if Miss W was a starstruck groupie with aspiration to be a journalist, but ladies, for all your First World ovary-of-steel manoeuvres, why shag a computer programmer because you were awestruck by his Wikileaks website?
Why don’t you pick up some coding skills and do your own thing? Screwing a guy because he is a hot shot – if Wikileaks is such a hot shot thing – won’t make you a hot shot. So much for feminism.
Another thing, ladies: don’t buy into the press hype, the way it venerates someone to be larger than life. And Miss W, trying to pass yourself off as a journalist and at the same time trying to get attention by wearing that pink number at that media event to catch his eyes pretty much shows you are not the fieldwork type. The last thing you want to do is to stand out when amongst your informants. You are not a journo material. Because you are now the snack of the sharks (remember the golden rule: press don’t cover press, and press don’t get covered by press).
And Julian, you know that when your arse is on the line, you’ve got to have your pants zipped up and vet your groupies more carefully. They’re out to get you.
Good luck, mate. I look forward not to hear anything about ‘rawdog sex’ in the courtroom. Real lives are at stake, and these accusations are just too tedious.
The Wikileaks video ruined my otherwise perfect Easter holiday. Even in the midst of the spectacle surrounding the UK hung parliament, I’m still thinking about the damn thing.
By now, you would have watched the video, which depicts the murder of two Reuters journalists and several Iraqi civilians by the US airforce. It led to a worldwide condemnation over the incident, led by the media.
A still from the Wikileaks video. See the video below - if you have the stomach for it.
AJ Somerset, former soldier and now a Canada-based freelance photographer, provided an alternative view in contrast to what the majority of the media practitioners feel about the incident. He said the Wikileaks video is “deliberately manipulative”, “framed with an introduction that encourages us to see it in a certain way”. The style of narratives “lead us to see what they want us to see, and we see it”, he says. “And then we loudly complain about what we see, and puff ourselves up in self-righteous indignation”.
The Pentagon has admitted that the video is genuine, but what Somerset is objecting here is to the dramatisation of a piece of visual evidence.
Ok, let’s treat it as cinema
If we were to look at the video though the lenses of the two prominent film theories, Formalism and Realism, we would have arrived to different conclusions on the validity of the video.
The Realist school of Andre Bazin would have us believe that film is “an imprint of reality”, that the processes involved in the making of an image – minus manual intervention (or manipulation) would lend “indexicality to the (moving) photograph”. Through this lens, that video can be taken as reality, or evidence.
However, if we were to examine it via Rudolph Durkheim’s Formalist lens, we would accept that the narratives of the mediation – the hypermediacy and the transparency – are just ‘styles’ employed to reinforce the ‘unrealism’ of the photographic piece. The editor’s or photographer’s depiction has got nothing to do with reality. It’s art. If it’s art, it’s abstract, and is therefore open to various interpretations. Through this point of view, the Wikileaks video can be viewed as ‘fiction’.
AJ Somerset has got a point.
Now look at it as ‘art’
But let’s apply John Berger’s ways of seeing here and examine the video from the point of view of the soldier who murdered those people. We see an event unfolding in the first person’s point of view, depicted in present time (this, however, is determined by the format of photography. Can’t be helped), and the murderer soldier nattering like he’s some Yankee teenage gamer wanting to eliminate his opponent on the World of Warcraft.
“How much is simulator training responsible for the disconnection from reality demonstrated in this incident? The crew was detached from reality … How (is) the Army … producing crews that, having the potential for such incompetence, cannot detect it among themselves. If anyone in that crew had paused and asked if the action being taken was correct, surely it would have been aborted … The Army has to find out why.”
So AJ Somerset has got a point about the Wikileaks edit being dramatised, but look and listen to that video and you will see that this is no more than a video game to the murderer. The gendered gaze that epitomises the ‘divine’ way of seeing – or looking down at – its subjects is again at work here, in war.
The Fallujah chemical plant, so we're told. This satellite image forms the evidence for the existence of the weapon of mass destruction in Iraq
Seeing is ‘believing’. Really
On this vein, what then does this make of, say, satellite images, or ‘live’ televisual images transmitted via satellite? If we apply the Formalist view on satellite images, would that also make them ‘art’ – or fictional? In other words, not ‘evidence’? After all, satellite takes photos where the human eye can’t reach, so how do we know how accurate the depiction is? I posed this question to David Heinemann, who is teaching Art of the Image course for Spring at the Department of Anthropology, University College London.
Seeing via the satellite could be an act of faith, he answered. Not in the religious sense, but we don’t see the evidence with our eyes and we only have what is taken by the satellite to believe in. Think of the ‘divine’ point of view of heaven that Michelangelo painted for the Sistine Chapel. Is that true? Who knows, but it takes faith to take Michelangelo’s words, or images, for it.
Heaven, according to Michelangelo. To see this, and take it as evidence, is an act of faith.
So, yes, Mr Somerset, the Wikileaks video could be fictional, but so are NATO satellite images. Seeing is subjective, not objective, and seeing depends on the social construct. The social construct says those who own the technology own the way of seeing. Because technology, in this case (moving) photography, comes with a certain way of looking and understanding. Are you surprised that this, as a result, is the model followed by Wikileaks, and also by journalists like you and me?
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