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WaterAid use virtual reality to tell the story of the aftermath of Nepal’s earthquakes

WaterAid has recently launched its first virtual reality documentary, Aftershock. The film immerses viewers in the unique challenges faced by hill-top communities in Nepal to restore access to water in the aftermath of last year’s devastating earthquakes.

Aftershock uses virtual reality technology to tell the story of plumber Krishna Sunuwar, 58, taking on the challenge of repairing the community’s damaged water system.

Produced and directed in-house by the WaterAid film team, Aftershock is set against the stunning backdrop of Nepal’s mountain communities.  Aftershock can be viewed on a laptop, but for the most immersive virtual reality experience viewers are encouraged to use a VR headset or cardboard viewer. The app is currently available for download via the Playstore and Cardboard app and iOS. 

WaterAid film producer Catherine Feltham said: “Virtual reality gives us the opportunity to take people closer to our work than ever previously possible. By using this new medium we hope to engage supporters in the reality of where we work and the challenges we face as well as inspire them by proudly showing how we work alongside fantastic community members and project partners.  The beauty of this medium is that it allows the viewer to be fully immersed and we look forward to seeing the reactions of people all over the world as they are transported to Kharelthok.”

Aftershock was funded by HSBC as part of WaterAid’s global partnership with the HSBC Water Programme.

The film is unquestionably beautiful, partly due to the stunning surroundings in which is was shot, but I still sit on the fence when it comes to virtual reality. I showed this film to my children, aged 8 and 9. One of them was totally engrossed. It was great hearing her talk through the story with her headset on and ask so many questions afterwards. For my eldest daughter the experience merely made her feel sick. One of the the other problems I find with VR is the amount of memory it takes to download the app. This film was 1.4GB and I had to delete loads of other apps in order to view it. 

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I applaud WaterAid for experimenting with this new medium which will undoubtedly continue to improve and become more popular in the future. The story is fascinating and the aesthetics of the production are incredible. I appreciate the attempt to immerse viewers in the reality of the destruction and work that needs to be completed. My youngest daughter was fascinated and wanted to take the headset (and my mobile phone) to school to show her whole class. Like other recent VR films such as Clouds Over Sidra and Waves of Grace, I’m unconvinced that the film warrants the large expenditure. I suppose it depends on the main objective of the film, e.g. fundraising versus education or advocacy. For education purposes I think it has huge potential, but that might depend on whether it is possible in the future to drastically reduce the file size of the films.

 Banner image: WaterAid/Adam Ferguson
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Social Media TV Shows in Uganda

#TAG is a social media based television show which was launched in 2014 Urban TV, Uganda. It was established to capture the voices of people who are increasingly expressing their opinions and lifestyles online as opposed to communicating via traditional media. Last week, Uganda’s largest TV station, NTV also launched it’s own social media show called #TIMELINE256. I spoke to (actually it was via Twitter DM message) presenters from both shows to find out more.

#TAG was chosen as a title to highlight the show as a place where online conversation can be aggregated. Dan Mumbere, #TAG presenter said “The show is designed to capture social media conversations and uses platforms like Skype and Google Hangouts to present them. The show has effectively captured the moods and views of the online community on policy issues like the elections, budget process, financial bailouts and so on. The model we have used in the past is to document trends, but we are increasingly exploring options of setting the trends by introducing, moderating and trending critical conversations on social media, social issues affecting our target audience ( youth) including governance and policy

Many social issues have been covered since the shows inception including #LetGirlsBeGirls, #RegulateBodaBodas and #NoToHumanTrafficking. The show acts as an extended voicebox which can amplify voices and ideas via mainstream television.

#TIMELINE256 was launched last week on Uganda’s largest television station NTV Uganda. The show is aired three times a day at 9.00am, 4.55pm and 10.00pm. Brian Mulondo presenter of the show said “One of the purposes of the show is to encourage viewers and especially Ugandans to start trends, but also to contribute to global hashtags. We want to encourage responsible social media use and our long term goal is to develop the show into something similar to Al Jazeera’s The Stream”

To encourage participation from non social media users, presenters on the show go out to the streets to seek views. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram enable people to participate using their preferred medium. They are also in the process of creating a WhatsApp broadcast list where people can subscribe to receive weekly episodes. Brian added “The intention of these platforms is to encourage citizen journalism and widen participation in discussions around topics important in Uganda.”

According to a recent paper ‘Assembling the Impact of Social Media on Political Communication and Civic Engagement in Uganda‘ social media participation in Uganda is mostly educated urban youth. The majority of Uganda’s population live in rural areas, with little infrastructure to support social media usage. Other problems include illiteracy and the asymmetric distribution of content. Individuals’ social media networks tend to be homophilous, meaning that social media influencers in Uganda are often connected to one another. Kiranda (2015) believes that mass media is bound to geographical communities, whereas social media platforms tend to be bound by peers and like minded individuals. To this extent, #TAG and #TIMELINE256 have the potential to amplify social media discussions to wider national audiences as well as educating citizens on the power of online debate.

 

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International Development Videos 2016

I started curating videos about International Development in 2013. There was no particular criteria, I wanted to showcase a few videos that inspired some emotion within me. Some of the videos were thought provoking, others were inspirational, innovative, educational or brought a tear to me eye. Since then I have been on SAIH’s Rusty and Golden Radiator Panel which aims to critique the use of video in humanitarian communications. Below are a few videos I’ve found interesting this year.

Here are links to videos that caught my eye in 2014 and 2015.

UNICEF – #SyriaCrisis: 5 Years in 60 seconds

Adopt a Dane Foundation – Africa is rescuing old people from Denmark

 

Project Literacy – The Alphabet of Illiteracy

Charity:Water – Fight Dirty With Us

Plan International UK – What do girls really learn at school? Learn without fear

Islamic Relief – Countries in Conflict

UNICEF – A storybook wedding – except for one thing

WaterAid – Manpons 

UNICEF – Unfairy Tales: Malak and boat

Save the Children – Still The Most Shocking Day

WaterAid – Claudia Sings Sunshine on a Rainy Day

Plan International – Mamie’s Dream

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Save the Children – Still the Most Shocking Day Video

So, I did have insider information that a sequel was on it’s way, but I knew little more than that. Here it is, the follow up to Save’s The Most Shocking Day. I wasn’t quite sure what to think when I heard there was going to be a “sequel” and didn’t know what to expect. The new video is indeed quite shocking, sobering, depressing. It made me incredibly sad watching it – all the time thinking of my own two children who are a similar age to the child portrayed in the video.

A couple of questions spring to mind: Will it get as many views as the first video and Will it encourage people to donate? I’ll let you decide….

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Barbie White Saviour Complex

This semester I’ve been teaching on a Humanitarian Communication module for the BA Media and International Development degree at UEA. Whilst planning my lecture on social media and development, I can came across this hilarious new Instagram account – Barbie Savior. It has over 5,000 followers in less than 5 weeks and I’m sure that this will increase at a rapid rate. Big respect to whoever came up with this very funny parody of the White Saviour Complex. It reminds me slightly of the Humanitarians of Tinder site set up a couple of years ago. It’s great that people are taking the time to come up with inventive ideas to raise awareness of the potential harm of voluntourism. Shame that a couple of Bratz Dolls have made it into some photos. That’s just wrong.

Two of my personal favourites – Barbie #Slumfie

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Barbie Dancing

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