Digital Storytelling: Shaping The Future Of Journalism With Professor Robert Hernandez

Ben Lee

Ben Lee

CEO and Co-founder of Neon Roots

Ben Lee is the co-founder and CEO of Neon Roots, a digital development agency with a mission to destroy the development model and rebuild it from the ground up. After a brief correspondence with Fidel Castro at age nine, Ben decided to start doing things his own way, going from busboy to club manager at a world-class nightclub before he turned 18. Since then, Ben has founded or taken a leading role in 5 businesses in everything from software development to food and entertainment.

“How do we tell stories?”  It’s the question that journalists have always asked themselves, should always ask themselves, and for generations, their story-telling techniques remained tried and true.  Newspapers, magazines, television: this is how the masses absorbed their information… but the times they are a-changin’.

The rapid advent of new technologies has opened up a world of possibilities for young journalists, and Professor Robert Hernandez at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism is working to make sure that new tech is embraced to its fullest by future storytellers.

Putting the AR in Journalism

Neon Roots had the pleasure of working with Prof. Hernandez and the talented students in his AR Storytelling and Journalism class.  Through our collaboration, the students were able to develop the ARchive LAPL app, which allowed users to learn about and interact with the Los Angeles Public Library through a fully immersive augmented reality experience.  That mobile app has since been released to the public and is currently available at the iTunes store.  You can learn even more about it in a recent blog post. digital storytellingdigital storytelling

The Glass in is the Class

But augmented reality is only one emerging technology, and last semester Prof. Hernandez and his students set their sights on Google Glass.  After a 15 week hackathon of research, development, and rigorous testing, the Glass Journalism class unveiled their Glass Genius app.

The first-of-its kind Glass journalism class brought together a diverse group of students from those pursuing Public Relations to Augmented Reality to DIY Designers.  Collectively, they utilized Glass to share an assortment of POV stories and interactive experiences.

The Glass Genius App is now available as an APK (Android application package) which can be side-loaded in your Glass.  The amount of thought and detail the class put into the creation of this app is what truly sets them apart and keeps Los Angeles development shops like ours excited to collaborate with them.

Through voice commands the app can launch a speed-reading news app, a video explorer app showcasing POV short videos, or launch an audio knowledge engine that can bring up a wealth of information by simply saying a few key words.

You can get all the info you need at Glassjournalism.io.

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digital storytelling

Virtual Reality Bytes

This semester Prof. Hernandez and his students will be exploring the integration of Virtual Reality and journalism as they look for solutions using devices like the Oculus, MozVR, Google Cardboard, and others.  It’s interesting to hear just how much the students get to become content creators, shaping the semester as they pitch ideas that will ultimately end up as a tangible app in a user’s hand or in this case, attached to a user’s face.

The Bright Future of Digital Storytelling

That’s what’s truly special about Prof. Hernandez’s classes.  This isn’t simply educating young journalists on the possibilities of tech integration; they aren’t just talking about it.  They are building these products, fully functional apps and devices that are setting precedents and shaking journalistic tradition at its very core.

digital storytellingThey’re bringing diverse students together to explore storytelling in journalism using all the tools available and considering all the tools on the horizon.

Journalism by its very nature cannot remain stagnant.  The world is changing, so the way we share what’s happening in it has too as well.  Prof. Hernandez assures that his classes will continue to ask the question, “How do we tell stories?”

They will continue to take the lead for journalism in wearables, VR, AR – whatever new tech springs up from the buzzing minds of developers, and they’ll continue to show us what the first draft of these integrations will look like.

Development shops like Neon Roots will continue to play our role, filling in knowledge gaps, using our experience in app and product development to make sure these visions are realized.  Collaboration while always be paramount.

So what will an article, a news story, relevant modern journalism look like in the future?  Prof. Hernandez’s and his classes are as good a measure as any.