Jack the Ripper – Shadow Over Whitechapel – a playable documentary in virtual reality

What if we could give audiences a documentary story they could remember with their entire body and not just with their minds? An experience so intense that it feels authentic… An immersive experience so memorable that it could make you ‘feel’ hunger…

Jack the Ripper – Shadow Over Whitechapel is the ultimate cold case.

It’s a prototype for a VR game and a social and historical documentary wrapped up as one. We’re working on how to create acceptable templates for merging archive and talking heads (traditional factual production conventions) within a game framework in VR. In the process the player learns about Victorian Society, how they treated immigrants, refugees and women. We experience first hand what poverty meant to the millions who lived and worked in doss houses. We learn about the state of forensics, law, and journalism of the era. In this way the user discovers that many things haven’t changed, as we face similar societal prejudices 125 years on.

Each new generation produces its own form of realism or social reality and its own regime of truth telling. The draw of new technologies is often driven by the next generation, who respond to new forms of storytelling that inevitably challenge established journalistic ways, norms and values.

This brings risks, but, has any generation been comfortable with how it recreates ‘the real’?

We will ask:

  • How do we make journalism meaningful to generation Z?
  • How do we best use new technologies at our disposal, especially virtual reality?
  • Can journalism’s remediation into immersed worlds help make it more meaningful?
  • Can it reinvigorate flagging audiences, especially amongst the young acculturated to the click bait of social media?

Talk and demonstration led by Professor Janet Jones, London South Bank University.

With special thanks to Co-producers: Auroch Digital

Image credit: Auroch Digital