Teaching journalism with virtual worlds

Joshua Fouts writes, "Rita J. King and I are premiering *today* a new documentary exploring the potential of immersive virtual journalism as a tool for empowering global journalism as the industry continues its transformation amidst the current upheaval and collapse. The documentary comes out of a project we did with the Larry Pintak at the American University in Cairo in which we brought a group of 8 Egyptian political activist bloggers into Second Life to explore the potential of the space for empowering and augmenting their work. We were fortunate that our first effort brought a high ranking US State Department official, James K. Glassman, who was then US Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy. Some interesting issues came up."

The Launch of a Journalistic Experiment: The Virtual Newsroom of the American University in Cairo


  1. I just want to say that I _still_ don’t know anyone who has ever used Second Life. In fact, I’m fairly certain I don’t even know anyone who knows someone else who’s used it. I’m quite certain the only people who use it are the journalists who write about it.

  2. At #1: did you see the video? Don’t let SL scare you, it’s just another environment, like a conference room in the “real world”, except, now they didn’t have to pay travel costs to get the people together for a conversation.
    Don’t be afraid for technology you (or your friends) haven’t used yourself (yet).
    I think it’s a smart thing to do and a great way to cut down on costs, time and resources that don’t have anything to do with the actual goal/purpose (a conversation between people).

  3. I use Second Life…on the rare occasion. I’m fascinated by the possibilities of it but it’s buggy and I have only one real friend there. I also am not good at manipulating my avatar!

  4. @Blutec.

    I think I kinda get where #1 is coming from though. Isn’t Second Life notorious for having high numbers registering to use it, yet there is a lot of drop off?

    So whilst a SL type environment may well be the future it most certainly is not the present.

    Anyway, I always get disappointed by these things in a “SF, you lied to me” kinda way. “Waaahh…it was so much cooler in Neuromancer.

  5. SL made a big splash with the non-game playing (specifically non MMORPG playing) world when it came out. For those who had never experienced what it’s like to move an avatar around in an virtual world, it was (maybe still is for some) exciting.

    But, after spending time in SL, exploring its options for my organization, I’ve yet to see what it offers that more well established forms of communication do not.

    I watched a few minutes of this video, but found that the addition of the video of avatars moving about in approximates of their owners real world location didn’t do anything for me. The cuts to the group of bloggers “seated” in a semi circle and their closeups as they discussed their reactions added no credibility, believability, or anything else to the piece. In short, there was no addition of value to the audio.

    So while it might be fun for some, for me, SL is just a glorified chat room with the occasional attack of a giant flying phallus to spice things up.

  6. I’ve been doing research in Second Life for almost two years. Like any nonvirtual environment, many more people visit than move in; I don’t see it as a criticism of Paris that it has a lot of tourists, or of the institution of libraries that many people get a library card and only use it once.

    Second Life does have a mature population of residents who use it for a variety of reasons. For people who want to meet in a discussion, educational or support group setting, it’s particularly useful, because of the element of avatar copresence. Interactions that are face-to-face are simply much richer than interactions in a text-only environment. Millions of people use internet BBs and fora to meet with others who share their interests while being geographically dispersed. Virtual worlds like Second Life can make this a more human, deeper experience.

    For people who are marginalized, homebound, isolated, or at physical risk in the real world, I’ve found in my research that using Second Life can be a transformative and liberating experience. I’m glad to see another example of this experience of doors opening in this video.

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