Future Projects Media is one of the 2018 winners of the Journalism 360 Challenge. See all the winners.
- Josephine Holtzman, Co-Founder and Lead Multimedia Producer, Future Projects Media
- Isaac Kestenbaum, Co-Founder, Future Projects Media
- Therese Condit, UX Designer/Project Manager
- Anders Pearson, Developer/Senior Systems Architect, Appsembler
This project will develop location-aware, immersive, audio-first stories using binaural and ambisonic recording technology and GPS platform, putting a remote story in direct dialogue with the listeners’ immediate surroundings to create a heightened sense of connection and empathy across space and time. Spacialized 360 audio experienced in-situ allows a layering of realities, which can create powerful connections and disconnections that make the most abstract and remote news stories feel more immediate, tangible and accessible (for example, a 360 audio story about coastal erosion in a remote Alaskan Arctic village experienced outside while walking the 1-mile length of the village).
Surprisingly, previous immersive audio experiments in radio have pursued it only as a companion to video; very few news outlets have fully explored the possibilities, techniques and potential of 3D sound stories unencumbered by visuals. The power of 360 sound alone as an immersive storytelling medium continues to be de-prioritized, especially in the landscape of new media journalism. 360 video can “place” us in locations, but immersive, location-aware audio has the unique ability to put the listener in two places at once, creating a layered experience that juxtaposes two realities and puts them in dialogue with one another. Practically speaking, listening to one immersive soundscape while visually experiencing another can create “portals” to lead to serendipity and continuity, but also highlight disconnects and cognitive dissonance.
So how is this different than any podcast or mobile listening experience? This project would create immersive stories meant to be experienced “in situ” or in locations that directly connect to the content in some meaningful way. Stories would not be tied to one specific location (which proves too much of a barrier to entry) but would instead utilize location-aware technology to place the stories in relevant locations. Think Pokemon Go, but news!
This would not be a one-to-one relationship between location and story — this news event happened here. But rather, finding locations that are more obliquely relevant to news stories in order to heighten connections. For example, a story about rising sea levels would be “located” for the listener by the nearest body of water or coast line. A binaural war dispatch would sonically place a listener in the 360 experience of combat while walking a quiet block to work. A walk through a field of migrant workers would be synced to the produce aisle at the local grocery store to make disparate connections between food source and consumption. A story about immigration would be synched to a local bus stop or court house.
Each story would be recorded in such a way that puts the listener “in the shoes” of the story subject or of the reporter on the ground.