Students at Kennesaw State University near Atlanta are set to embark on an experiment in using virtual reality technology to bring to life the stories of children caught in the juvenile justice system, says the Columbia Journalism Review. The project, which received a $35,000 grant from the Online News Association's $1M Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education, aims to create mini-documentaries that give voice to children who are often marginalized in traditional coverage of juvenile justice issues by the confidentiality that is designed to protect them.
Protecting confidentiality in a typical broadcast story when a child is heard as a disembodied robot voice or seen as a pair of hands or a silhouette can dilute the story's impact. Kennesaw State, which runs the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, has experience doing these kinds of stories—and even their best work shows the limitations confidentiality can pose. Students will use machinima, a technique first developed by gamers to make mini-movies of their exploits in video games. Journalism Prof. Len Witt say he and his team have already begun to recruit students and hope to have two begin working over the summer to set up the architecture.