The »next big thing in human-machine interaction« is how Kai von Lewinski, editor of the book Immersiver Journalismus, refers to virtual and augmented reality. That was the reason behind the »Immersive journalism – technology, effect, regulation« conference at the University of Passau in March 2018. Now the transcript publishing house has put together the papers presented there in a collected volume in a Media Studies edition.
At first glance, the book seems to be an eclectic collection of papers. Unlike the valuable standard work Augmented und Mixed Reality für Medien, Marken und Public Relations [Augmented and mixed reality for media, brands and public relations] by Dirk Schart and Nathaly Tschanz, Kai von Lewinski’s book traces an arc from examples of best practice to technology, psychology, law, media ethics, and regulation, with a clear focus on journalism. That makes the book unique in this form and offers a good, quick overview of a wide range of discussion topics related to x-realities, as virtual, mixed and augmented reality are called today. After all, it is not intended as a text book like VR-Journalismus [VR journalism] by Manuela Feyder and Linda Rath-Wiggins.
In Kai von Lewinski’s book, Andreas Mühlberger, for example, describes in his article »The psychological impact of immersive media« how virtual reality has so far particularly been used in clinical psychology and psychotherapy to treat anxiety disorders. He quotes a study that indicates that phobias manifest themselves more intensely when the subjects see a spider in virtual reality on a head-mounted display than when they do not see it, but are told that it is sitting in front of them on the table.
In relation to journalism, however, Mühlberger has to scratch the surface once again and can merely point to gaps in research, rather than providing answers. »The question of the extent to which experiencing traumatic experiences in VR can lead to post-traumatic stress disorders or other psychological problems, which is becoming particularly relevant in connection with war reporting, remains unanswered.« However, he writes, these problems are not yet prevalent at the moment, »as the preliminary form of VR, 3D video, is often still used for immersive journalism today.« By this, Mühlberger presumably means not 3D videos but 360° videos. These are not seen in the sector as a preliminary form of VR, however, but, in contrast to VR, as depicting reality without additional animations, for example.
The majority of the other papers have a closer focus on journalism. In one very useful essay, Christoph Neuberger from the Freie Universität Berlin makes programmatic considerations on how the results of communication studies could be incorporated into media law. Additionally, the Director of the Weizenbaum Institute discusses how the question of whether innovative media formats should be regulated can be examined. Dominic Habel, on the other hand, looks at the topic of advertising law and immersive journalism, demonstrating that advertising in XR can be of interest to the sector, given its high level of interaction and suggestive power. His observations are particularly of interest, for example, on the question of how the principle of separating editorial content from advertising can be upheld in VR formats.
With such a diverse range of approaches, the book offers interesting food for thought in the field of immersive journalism. It is undoubtedly worth reading – not least in order to encounter topics that may not be immediately apparent when VR and AR are one-sidedly reduced to journalistic production.
Schart, Dirk; Tschanz, Nathaly (2017): Augmented und Mixed Reality für Medien, Marken und Public Relations. 2nd edition, Konstanz: UVK.
Feyder, Manuela; Rath-Wiggins, Linda (2018): VR-Journalismus. Wiesbaden: Springer VS.
This review first appeared in rezensionen:kommunikation:medien, January 7, 2020, accessible at https://www.rkm-journal.de/archives/22059.
About the reviewer
Markus Kaiser is Professor of Digital Journalism, Media Innovation and Change Management in the Communications Sector at Nuremberg Tech.
Translation: Sophie Costella