City Research Online

Virtual reality and journalistic culture: an actor-network theory approach

Mabrook, R. (2019). Virtual reality and journalistic culture: an actor-network theory approach. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


This study examines the relationship between VR and journalistic culture, with a special focus on role perceptions and ethical ideologies. It identifies the dramatic changes in journalistic practice and the emerging cultures of work in VR content creation. The study focuses on how these changes interact with normative ideals, such as facticity, accuracy, objectivity, detachment and transparency, drawing on Actor Network Theory (ANT) and sociological explorations of journalistic culture. ANT enabled the researcher to trace every actor involved in VR content creation, allowing the technology to be an object of study. The sociological explorations of journalistic culture then allowed the researcher to situate the VR culture in a broader context. The researcher used methodological triangulation of semi structured interviews with fact-based content creators and social semiotic analysis of VR content to provide a holistic understanding of VR journalism. The researcher conducted semi-structured interviews with a purposive sample of thirty fact-based content creators between November 2017 and April 2018. She then conducted a social semiotic analysis of a purposive sample of sixteen VR pieces produced by Al Jazeera, the BBC, The Guardian, The New York Times and PBS, the US public broadcaster. The findings indicated that the significant change of journalistic practice in VR does not reflect a corresponding change in content creators’ normative understandings of journalism. Content creators insist that their normative understandings remain unchanged. They uphold ideals of facticity, accuracy, objectivity and detachment, and emphasise transparency as a means of demonstrating journalistic rigor. Content creators actively seek creative ways to address normative challenges and maintain their jurisdiction in VR. They adopt an exceptionist ethical ideology, in which they allow journalistic ideals to guide their work and remain pragmatically open for exceptions to prevent potential negative consequences. Content creators are, thus, outcome-oriented journalists, who make situation-based ethical judgments guided by their normative understandings. The findings also indicated that the emerging cultures of work in VR are not new, they have long existed in narrative, entrepreneurial and interactive data-driven journalism. VR is, indeed, a stage within the long continuum of shifting journalistic practices, representing the constant attempt of journalists to remain truthful to journalistic norms while adapting to change.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Departments: Doctoral Theses
City, University of London (-2022) > School of Arts & Social Sciences
School of Arts & Social Sciences
School of Communication & Creativity > Journalism
School of Communication & Creativity > School of Communication & Creativity Doctoral Theses
[thumbnail of Mabrook, Radwa.pdf]
Text - Accepted Version
Download (4MB) | Preview


Add to AnyAdd to TwitterAdd to FacebookAdd to LinkedinAdd to PinterestAdd to Email


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics

Actions (login required)

Admin Login Admin Login