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Immersive journalism project strikes a chord at global forum

PhD candidate presents her signature work in Switzerland

Nonny de la Pena

PhD candidate Nonny de la Pena presented “Project Syria” at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland.

At the 2014 World Economic Forum held last month in Davos, Switzerland, Media Arts + Practice PhD candidate Nonny de la Pena presented her signature work in immersive journalism on the Middle Eastern conflict.

“Project Syria” transforms a YouTube clip of an attack in Aleppo into an immersive experience created in a virtual reality. The innovative work offers an offbeat perspective on the conflict.

“Davos was an extraordinary opportunity to reach some of the world’s top leaders on one of the most important stories of our day — Syria,” De La Pena said. “The fact that immersive journalism can make people feel as if they are present on scene was clearly evident as our piece, which puts people on the streets in Aleppo, moved numerous folks to tears.

“We hope that we have increased the volume of the conversation through ‘Project Syria’ because Syrians are truly suffering from the inaction, and the world needs to be aware of their plight,” she added.

De La Pena, who has been working in immersive journalism while pursuing her PhD in Media Arts + Practice at the USC School of Cinematic Arts (SCA), has had success with her other immersive journalism pieces “Hunger in Los Angeles” and “Gone Gitmo.”

“Nonny’s innovative work is not only very important for the world community, but it’s exemplary of the work coming out of the Media Arts + Practice PhD program,” said SCA Dean Elizabeth M. Daley. “The suffering in Syria seems so far away, but with immersive journalism, it becomes palpable. Hopefully, Nonny’s work will lead to action for the people who need help. It has the potential to inspire tangible changes in the world.”

The PhD in Media Arts + Practice is a doctoral program that allows students to explore the expanded field of the cinematic arts, with attention to design, media art, emerging technologies and critical thinking. They are then required to both produce scholarly research and create innovative media.

“I am delighted by the international attention that Nonny has received for her work at the World Economic Forum in part because it nicely validates the boundary-pushing work being done by all of our students, but it’s also a testament to Nonny’s own drive and commitment to creating media that will change the world,” said Holly Willis, chair of the Media Arts + Practice division at SCA. “Immersive journalism exemplifies the hybrid, interdisciplinary work taking place in the division as we explore the ways in which we can harness the incredible power of the cinematic arts for entirely new domains. How can we rethink not only journalism but the book, democracy, activism, learning, architecture, history and more.”

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Immersive journalism project strikes a chord at global forum

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