Nonny de la Pena



Fast Company’s Co-Create Magazine called NONNY de la PENA one of the 13 People Who Made the World More Creative. She is the pioneer of Immersive Journalis, a groundbreaking brand of nonfiction that offers fully immersive experiences of the news using virtual reality gaming platforms.

Nonny’s project Hunger in Los Angeles creates the feeling of “being there” as a real crisis unfolds on a food-bank line at the First Unitarian Church. Hunger was called “one of the most talked-about” pieces at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. Her other projects include the MacArthur funded Gone Gitmo, a virtual Guantanamo Bay Prison; Cap & Trade, an interactive exploration of the carbon markets built with Frontline World and CIR; Ipsress which investigates detainees held in stress positions; and Three Generations, a newsgame on the California eugenics movement that premiered at 2011 Games For Change. She also co-founded the Knight News Challenge winner, an online collaborative video editing platform that hosted users from 126 different countries.

A graduate of Harvard University, she is an award-winning documentary filmmaker with twenty years of journalism experience including as a correspondent for Newsweek Magazine and as a writer whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times Magazine, Premiere Magazine, and others. Her films have screened on national television and at theatres in more than fifty cities around the globe, garnering praise from critics like A. O. Scott who called her work “a brave and necessary act of truth-telling.”

Immersive journalism

Nonny presented an early cut of her film Immersive Journalism describing her experience building the virtual reality and 3D environments to convey the sight, sounds, and feelings of the news.

‘Immersive journalism’ is the production of news in a form in which people can gain first person experiences of the events or situation described in news stories. Well-crafted journalism always aims to elicit a connection between the audience and the news story. The fundamental idea of immersive journalism is to allow the participant to actually enter a virtually recreated scenario representing the news story. The participant will be typically represented in the form of a digital avatar – an animated 3D digital representation of the participant, and see the world from the first-person perspective of that avatar. In an immersive system such as a Cave (Neira, Sandin et al. 1992) the person may see their own real body, and their avatar only through shadows and reflections in virtual objects in the environment, though other online people could also see the avatar directly. In a system such as a head-tracked head-mounted-display (HMD) the person will see their avatar substituting their own body from a first-person point of view. Ideally, depending on the extent of body tracking, the movements of the virtual body will match those of the movements on the person?s real body.

The participant can enter the story in one of several forms: as oneself, a visitor gaining first-hand access to a virtual version of the location where the story is occurring, or through the perspective of a character depicted in the news story. Whether visiting the space as oneself or as a subject in the narrative, the participant is afforded unprecedented access to the sights and sounds, and possibly, the feelings and emotions that accompany the news. [Further details are available here.]