2019 Pro-Am Student Award finalist

Homeless Realities

About the Project

Using emerging technologies (360/AR/VR/Drones/Photogrammetry), JOVRNALISM produced the multi-part 360/VR video series and AR Snapchat experiences Homeless Realities, that takes the viewer into the lives of people experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles. As part of the project, the USC Annenberg-based class also collaborated with Al Jazeera’s immersive media studio Contrast to produce a four-part 360 video series: My People, Our Stories: Los Angeles.

USC Professor Robert Hernandez and his JOVRNALISM students hosted a multi-day immersive storytelling workshop for eleven participants experiencing housing insecurity in Los Angeles. By training the homeless participants and giving them portable, easy-to-use 360 cameras, the project empowered them to tell their own immersive stories. The students continued to work with participants for weeks following the workshop to help them develop and produce their stories. As the JOVRNALISM students worked with the participants on the ground, Contrast produced four stories, providing additional editorial guidance and packaging its own series in post-production.

Each of the stories offers a unique and intimate perspective on different aspects of homelessness in Los Angeles, providing an authentic and alternative representation of the voices of those living on the streets. The participants all chose the experience they wanted to convey, the narratives they wanted to share and the stereotypes they wanted to challenge.

Homeless Realities was released in December 2018 and Contrast’s 4-part series My People, Our Stories: Los Angeles was published by January.

While JOVRNALISM has mobile apps on iOS, Android and Oculus GO, its reach is nowhere near that of Contrast. Their series was published across AJ+, Al Jazeera English, Contrast and Al Jazeera Arabic, with a result of nearly 2 million views (1,965,563). The series was also recognized at the Shorty Awards as the winner in the Best 360 Video category.

In addition to Contrast four selected videos, JOVRNALISM students produced four additional 360 video pieces.

Students also created augmented reality experiences via Snapchat’s Lens Studio. This is better experienced that described, but students produced 3D models of different homeless dwellings and objects that could be brought into your reality through an AR, interactive audio tour via Snapchat. (Each one of these innovative experiences is less than 4MBs.)

The Snapchat pieces are (make sure your audio is switched on and step into the tent/car):

Lastly, to wrap up the project, JOVRNALISM had a public premiere event at the downtown LA Library that showcase and celebrated the homeless participants and students.

The incredible projected worked on many levels – empowering an underrepresented community, employing new technologies, collaborating with an international media partner, producing compelling stories, sharing the results with millions.