2016 The David Teeuwen Student Journalism Award, Large Newsroom winner

NYC Values

Judges comments

An immersive, digital experience with compelling stories.

About the Project

NYC Values is a digital experience created by twelve graduate students from New York University. Our inspiration is a remark made during the Fox Business GOP Debate on January 14th, 2016. Ted Cruz made a claim that Donald Trump embodied “New York values.” He went on to add, “most people know exactly what New York values are,” which turned out to be incorrect.

People in and out of New York took their two cents to social media, and opinions were understandably diverse. That’s why NYC Values was designed to answer the question: “what are New York values?” Our answer wouldn’t be exact, but it would be designed to bring clarity to the discussion and serve as a definitive platform for discussion.

The NYC Values site is built around six different video stories. Story subjects were carefully chosen to represent different genders, sexual orientations, age groups, and ethnic backgrounds. Each story subject was also chosen with a specific value in mind – but these are never revealed to the audience. Instead, we developed a tool for users to submit text entries on each story, enabling them to share what values they feel are represented in each video.

Audience engagement was a priority for NYC Values, and we wanted that engagement to be interactive. Giving users the ability to interact with our site not only encourages them to watch multiple videos, but also provides them with a payoff. Text submissions are visualized so users can see their submission was counted. The visualization also shows users what values other users are seeing, adding context to the discussion we facilitate.

The interactive tool was built by scraping data from an online dictionary and filtering out profanity and offensive words. We did not filter words based on positive or negative meanings however, as this would be biased and discredit our site as a space for political commentary. We are searching for New York values, whether they’re positive, negative, or somewhere in the middle.

Innovation was another priority for the team behind NYC Values – more specifically, innovation with 360º video. And even though the technology is still up and coming, we wanted to take it in new directions. Navigation to the six video stories on NYC Values is now done primarily through a 360º video menu.

Most 360º videos today feature a single, seamless image to create a virtual reality experience. Our menu on the other hand, is built with six different 360º video portraits, each depicting a story subject. The portraits were shot using a 360º camera rig and then stitched together as though they were a single image.

To polish the menu, we added sound clips from each story and mapped the audio. Or to put it another way, the audio reflects where a user is looking. Navigation buttons were then added to make a one-of-a-kind 360º experience.

Because 360º video is still an emerging technology, several rounds of user testing were done to make the menu as intuitive as possible. This brought about a few changes, including a graphic to explain navigation.

As you might expect, the 360º menu and interactive tool on NYC Values are heavy in terms of data and files. Move the NYC Values site from desktop to mobile, and you’re looking at slow loading times and disinterested users.

The mobile version of NYC Values does not include the 360º navigation or interaction for this reason. Every other feature on the NYC Values site is included, and mobile users are encouraged to find NYC Values on their computers for the complete experience.

Regardless of where you find NYC Values, a story arc is apparent. We introduce users to the project by explaining our mission: to bring some truth to the idea of New York values. We then direct them to our video stories, where they can experience New York like never before – from the eyes of locals who call the city home.