Welcome to the future, 360 storytelling is more than just buzz

Over the past few months I’ve been exploring how 360 degree technology can be incorporated into the journalism and media production courses I teach. It seems as if the more I learn the less I know. To a casual consumer 360 degree, augmented, and VR (virtual reality) experiences are associated with gaming platforms. And while this is where the technology started it isn’t where it is going.

Welcome to the Future – On a daily basis another sector reports experimenting with the technology. Last week NASA aired the first ever 360 live shuttle take off and Facebook now offers 360 degree live streaming. In a relatively short amount of time journalists and newsrooms are exploring ways to use the technology for immersive storytelling. For example, the New York Times now produces one 360 news story a day. Other major news outlets are following suit including the Washington Post  and USA Today.  The way we tell stories is forever changing with 360 degree, VR, and AR (augmented reality).

Research in the field is scant but growing as more people adopt and experiment with the technology. Those who research VR and augmented reality believe these types of immersive experiences can create empathy in the viewer and provide a sense of presence not

desktop occulus
Freehold, NJ Microsoft Store

possible with traditional storytelling techniques.

Organizational Buy-In– Because the technology is so new and expensive buy-in from decision makers takes time. The nuances of the VR experience are difficult to explain. The possibilities of the technology are only realized after you’ve consumed content using an Occulus Rift or a Vive  headset. You need to go to the Microsoft store and ask to try both headsets. It is quite an experience if you haven’t done it. This technology is nothing short of a modern day miracle.

It feels as if you are dreaming, but you’re not. It feels as if you are there but you are not. The ability to be present virtually in a space will forever change the way we create and share stories.

360 Storytelling Is Different – As a university professor, I interact with colleagues from diverse fields. There is already an underlying assumption multimedia storytelling is easy. You shoot and edit video. What’s so hard about it? “My ten year old son can do it”, many think quietly to themselves. This is a battle I’ve faced for many years as a new media scholar and practioner.

Virtual and augmented reality is  more complicated than traditional forms of digital storytelling because in order for it to be effective, it must be produced and consumed for an immersive experience. The viewer needs to feel part of the environment. This involves images and sounds. Quite frankly, the quality of your VR experience will determine your opinion of the story you are viewing. While inexpensive headsets used with the mobile phone are acceptable, you can not possibly understand the nuances and possibilities of an immersive experience until you’ve had one.  

Early adopters are just now exploring how, why, and when to use the technology. In fact, initiatives and grants are appearing regularly to help faculty and professional staff identify best practices . As an early adopter I look forward to sharing what I’m learning with you.

The future is here so strap on your VR headset and hang on! oculus-rift-consumer-edition

Published by


Dr. Gina Marcello is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication, Graphic Design & Multimedia at Georgian Court University in Lakewood, NJ.