Storytelling school

A Gen Z take on NFTs shows the future of news storytelling

Many Americans have a hard time understanding the concept of non-fungible tokens, or NFTs. Given the pace of technological advancement today, it’s understandable that people take time to catch up.

That’s why Christian Ocana, a senior at the University of North Carolina, developed a multimedia explainer on the new flagship, supporting a school curriculum in the process and winning first prize in this year’s Hearst Multimedia Innovative Storytelling Competition.

Christian Ocana

In addition to completing courses toward her undergraduate degree in journalism, with a focus on visual communications, Ocana, 22, is an innovation researcher at the Reece Innovation Lab. Operating under the aegis of UNC’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media, the lab is a team of developers, educators, and students who partner with various organizations, including media companies, to help them better understand and use state-of-the-art tools in their storytelling activities.

As an Innovation Fellow, Ocana is responsible for effectively communicating the lab’s mission and work, and the benefits of adopting the technologies the group engages with – virtual and augmented reality, artificial intelligence and the metaverse. The lab’s director of innovation, Steven King, told Ocana about the NFT Explainer story and was so impressed with what Ocana produced that he suggested his entry into the Hearst competition to a school counselor. .

“I guess that worked out well!” said Ocana, expressing his disbelief at his first prize, for which he received a $3,000 scholarship.

Humility aside, what Ocana has achieved could provide a glimpse of a not-too-distant future for MMJ’s story design.

According to the organization, entries in this stage of the Hearst Competition must “demonstrate original and innovative ways of telling stories and engaging with audiences using immersive digital tools and techniques.” Virtual, augmented and mixed reality, as well as 360-degree video – or what Hearst calls “emerging media” – should also be used, along with graphics, data visualization, animation, video, pictures and social media.

Ocana’s room, Nuanced or just neat? Here’s What’s So Clever About NFTs, is a combination of long, internet-compliant text, social media integrations, illustrations, graphics, and photos. There are also not one but two videos of four and five minutes each, including a Zoom interview with an expert source he connected with on Twitter, as well as a documentary featuring Ocana.

“This [documentary] The video took me many weeks and months working on a really goofy script and then sending it out for feedback and researching other videos on how to put as much information as possible in five minutes says Ocana. For structural inspiration, he turned to the portfolio of Vox producer Johnny Harris.

As well as having a friend around his shoots “in case something burns”, Ocana says he filmed himself and additional footage – including a humorous segment describing how any ubiquitous object, such as an egg , can have a unique intrinsic value attached to it. non-fungible – on a Sony Alpha 7 III camera that he recently bought himself. Adobe Premiere was used in the editing phase; Adobe Illustrator also helped with some of the graphics appearing in the video. He also generated a timeline of NFT history using the open-source graphic design platform Canva.

Ocana then presented his piece to his Reece Innovation Lab teammates who adopted avatars representing themselves – robots, foxes and deep-sea divers – in a metaverse projection room.

Meredith Hogan

Meredith Hogan, one of three judges in this year’s Hearst Multimedia Competition, who previously directed special multimedia projects for and is currently a senior creative producer at Red Element Studios in Seattle, said Ocana made “a great job of making a complex idea accessible” throughout his multi-faceted piece. “He does this not only through his in-depth and clear reporting on the ins and outs of the concept and application of NFTs, but also through the friendly, slightly ironic tone of its first-person video narration,” she continues.

Hogan isn’t the only figure in the news industry to take this versatile style of storytelling, knee-deep in new tools. Despite their reputation as tech-averse dinosaurs, King, chief innovation officer of the Reece Lab, says the leaders of the news organizations he deals with are far more open-minded about these developments than most might. suppose it.

Steven King

“They totally see it as ‘business changes,’ ‘things are different,'” King says. “They have been in business for 20 years, trying to make decisions in a tumultuous world…. What they know how to do is assess a situation.

For Ocana, if other news executives, producers, or MMJs discover his work and take inspiration from it, that would be the biggest compliment.

“I’m hoping someone will look at this project and say, ‘Oh, I can do a better job than that,’ and they will,” he says. “In a perfect world, I want a job like this to be super accessible to everyone.”