What began as part of an ONA Hack the Curriculum grant two years ago has now turned into an ongoing series we recently branded “Who We Are.” Every Fall semester the JOVRNALISM student-run, immersive publication trains members of underserved/underrepresented communities – giving them 360-camera kits to keep – and empowers them to tell their own stories in 360/VR.
The student journalists don’t parachute into the community to co-opt stories, instead they work alongside the community and help produce the stories it wants to share through emerging technologies
Foster Care Youth are often labeled as ‘damaged goods,’ ‘criminals’ or worse. In partnering with Peace4Kids, a non-profit focused on using media to give them voice, we ran a series of workshops over several weekends, training the young adults on how to use the 360 camera.
The resulting project, Who We Are: Finding Home, is a direct look into the lives of young adults experiencing the foster care system, as well as others who survived it.
• Miriam, a program organizer for Peace4Kids, who turned to art to cope and express the trauma she experienced while in the system. She took her artistic skills and, using new virtual reality tools, created immersive art pieces available in the 360/VR video and Snapchat AR experience.
• Elizah, a quiet person who expresses herself through her lyrics and basketball. Her music tells a story of a young woman wanting to succeed in spite of hardships.
• Issac’s foster care experience was different from what people assumed. His foster father was a strong role model that shaped the man he is today. He also has a prized possession: a VHS tape on which his biological father recorded Issac’s childhood.
• Jenny, a foster care case worker who went through the system and is now helping kids from the other side.
• Jazzmone has been working since he was a kid. He has a lot of interests and career paths to his goal of financial stability.
In addition to these 360/VR stories, we incorporated technology – including photogrammetry and VR painting – to create unique augmented reality experiences. For a wider reach, we opted to use the Snapchat platform.
These Snapchat experiences showcase a diverse way of incorporating AR into journalism packages (make sure your audio is switched on):
Teddy Bears, like this one, are given out to kids when they enter the foster care system. For some, it is a welcomed gift, for others it’s a painful reminder. Hear both sides in this AR piece.
Step through this AR doorway to walk inside one of Miriam’s virtual reality art pieces.
Tap on the VHS cassette tape to watch the footage from Issac’s childhood.
(To activate the Snapchat Lens, simply go to the shortened URL via your phone and it will launch Snapchat and load the Lens.)