January 31, 2014

Creating a Virtual Syria

Trojan Nonny de la Pena’s Immersive Journalism Hits Big in Davos

At the 2014 World Economic Forum, held in mid-January in Davos, Switzerland, the pressing issues of the day were discussed in lectures, panels and meetings. One of the pressing topics being examined at the conference is the ongoing war in Syria and Media Arts + Practice Ph. D. candidate Nonny de la Pena brought her signature work in Immersive Journalism to the discussion of the middle eastern conflict. De La Pena’s piece, Project Syria,  transforms a YouTube clip of an attack in Aleppo into an immersive experience created in a virtual reality display worn by the participant. This groundbreaking work offers a unique perspective on the conflict, providing context for the suffering in Syria even as it transforms participants into the experience.

"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,” said De La Pena. “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 and an array of deep emotions.  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.”

Nonny De La Pena, who has been working in immersive journalism while pursuing her Ph. D. in Media Arts + Practice, has had success with 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 Ph.D. Program,” said 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 Ph.D. in Media Arts + Practice within the School of Cinematic Arts is a unique doctoral program, which 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, the Chair of the MAP 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.”

For more information on De La Pena’s work, please visit: http://www.nonnydlp.com/