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Demystifying Media

 

How can we use technology to tell compelling and worthwhile stories, engage audiences, and make a living in the bargain?

Those were some of the questions I got to explore during a recent visit to the University of Oregon. Fellow Brit Damian Radcliffe, who is the Carolyn S. Chambers Professor in Journalism at UO, invited me when he heard that I was over in this part of the world, and so I found myself as a guest in the Demystifying Media series, which aims to give students a real taste of what working at the coalface of the creative industries is really like.

Tech Trends Demistifying Media University of Oregon Journalism School Alice Bonasio Consultancy

The Demystifying Media series aims to give students a real taste of what working at the coalface of the creative industries is really like Click To Tweet

The highlight of my tour was a talk I delivered in a rather large auditorium to about 200 of these bright young minds Click To Tweet

Now, I’m extremely lucky that in my line of work I get to talk to lots of really interesting and intelligent people who are doing amazing things, so my bar is set quite high. Add to that the fact that I’m quite a jaded and cynical journalist (is there any other kind?) and I really wasn’t expecting to be quite so impressed by a group of people who (it still hurts me to think it, but there it is) are young enough to be my kids. But impressed I was – both by how informed and by how enthusiastic they were. If we’re going to salvage the world from the mess it’s currently in, we’re going to need this sort of fresh energy and creative thinking.

 

Tech Trends Demistifying Media University of Oregon Journalism School Alice Bonasio Consultancy

Over several days I visited both the Eugene and Portland campuses and was a guest in several classes and seminars where budding journalists (as well as people looking to career paths in PR, Advertising and other communication and media industries) asked insightful questions and engaged in thoughtful debate around the many difficult issues that face us in a world rocked by disruption of every kind.

Disruption is here to stay. Get over it because the only thing you can count on about the future is that everything is going to keep changing Click To Tweet

Tech Trends Demistifying Media University of Oregon Journalism School Alice Bonasio Consultancy

The highlight of my tour was a talk I delivered in a rather large auditorium to about 200 of these bright young minds. You can check it out below, but the TL;DR version of it goes pretty much like this:

Disruption is here to stay. Get over it because the only thing you can count on about the future is that everything is going to keep changing. Don’t count on having a job, or on jobs even existing. Instead, develop a flexible, modular skillset and deploy it creatively, like an entrepreneur. For the professionals who manage to master this, disruption presents an opportunity rather than a threat.

Tech Trends Demistifying Media University of Oregon Journalism School Alice Bonasio Consultancy

I was then interviewed by the students for the University’s TV and Radio programs as well as the Demystifying Media podcast which you can listen to here.

Don’t count on having a job, or on jobs even existing. Instead, develop a flexible, modular skillset and deploy it creatively, like an entrepreneur Click To Tweet

 

It was also fantastic to be able to talk to a range of students, from pre-major to postgraduate. In the University of Oregon School of Journalism & Communication, those postgraduate courses are based in Portland, where they had recently opened their Reality Lab, a state-of-the art immersive facility for students, housed in a lovely historic building in the heart of the town.

My host was Donna Davis, who is the Director of the Strategic Communication Master’s program, and as I arrived for my class, her students were busy exploring the Sansar virtual world under the expert guidance of Second Life legend Bernhard Drax and Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg. We were also joined by fellow guest speaker Lisa Peyton, who is Immersive Media Strategist at Intel.

Students were exploring the Sansar virtual world under the guidance of Second Life legend Bernhard Drax and Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg Click To Tweet

Tech Trends Demistifying Media University of Oregon Journalism School Alice Bonasio Consultancy

Over the next few years, we’re going to see platforms emerging that will test different ways of blending the real and the virtual worlds Click To Tweet

My own contribution was a discussion on why the Social VR space is so exciting, but also of the many difficulties and pitfalls that developers and content creators face in creating the immersive social platforms of the future.

Immersive technology is not about one type of hardware or experience. At its core this is about a fundamental shift in the way that people interact with information – and with one another.

In a digital age where so many of our social interactions are mediated by technology, what even constitutes a real experience any more? Click To Tweet

In a digital age where so many of our social interactions are already mediated by technology, what even constitutes a “real” experience any more? That’s a particularly pertinent question for journalists in the context of a “fake news” age.

Over the next few years, we’re going to see platforms emerging that will test different ways of blending the real and the virtual worlds. That will also shape new ways for people to interact with one another socially. Humans are inherently social creatures, and the kinds of things we do in the physical world, as well as our newer social media practices such as sharing YouTube Videos, Facebooking baby pictures and inventing Twitter memes will start being blended into immersive experiences as the spectrum of those technologies becomes more pervasive.

What are the difficulties and pitfalls that developers and content creators face in creating the immersive social platforms of the future? Click To Tweet

Tech Trends Demistifying Media University of Oregon Journalism School Alice Bonasio Consultancy

There is a sea change coming where soon we will start demanding higher levels of engagement, interactivity and emotional connection afforded by immersive media. Click To Tweet

Which platform will emerge dominant, or will we see a more pluralistic model than with the previous social media wave? For me the question is not so much who will be “the Facebook of VR,” but perhaps how do Facebook and other social media platforms fit into this evolving landscape. As VR experiences become more commonplace, they will provide content that we will want to share through social media, much like our real-world experiences do. What we will need to figure out is how this interplay between existing social platforms and VR will play out.

These are extremely exciting times to be a creative communicator, whichever branch(es) of the creative industries you happen to choose Click To Tweet

I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but after these discussions I felt I had better questions, and that’s a great outcome in my book. I also came away with a sense that there is a real appetite and urgent need to equip this next generation of communicators with the tools to tell their stories in an immersive medium, creating experiences rather than passive content. There is a sea change coming where soon we will start demanding those higher levels of engagement, interactivity and emotional connection afforded by these new media.

Which platform will emerge dominant, or will we see a more pluralistic model than with the previous social media wave? Click To Tweet

Tech Trends Demistifying Media University of Oregon Journalism School Alice Bonasio Consultancy

The rulebook on immersive storytelling is yet to be written, and those entering the industry now have the opportunity to be among its pioneers Click To Tweet

These are extremely exciting times to be a creative communicator, whichever branch(es) of the creative industries you happen to choose. The rulebook on immersive storytelling is yet to be written, so people entering the industry now have an awesome opportunity to be among its pioneers. If the ducklings I met are anything to go by, they’re up to the challenge though.

For companies looking to get into Immersive technologies our VR Consultancy service offers comprehensive support in strategic deployment of Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality

Alice Bonasio is a VR Consultant and Tech Trends’ Editor in Chief. She also regularly writes for Fast Company, Ars Technica, Quartz, Wired and others. Connect with her on LinkedIn and follow @alicebonasio on Twitter.