The use of immersive technology will bring to Cal State San Bernardino the devastation of an earthquake that rocked Syria and Turkey earlier this year, killing tens of thousands and forcing many more out of their homes.

“Immersive Storytelling & Marginalized Communities: Capturing Turkey/Syria Earthquake Survivors’ Stories Using 360-degree Technology,” will take place at noon Pacific Time on Tuesday, April 18, on Zoom.

The program will be presented by CSUSB’s Extended Reality for Learning (xREAL) Lab, the university’s Center for the Study of Muslim and Arab Worlds, and the Center for Media, Religion and Culture at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Register online at the “Immersive Reporting Panel” webpage to obtain the link for the livestream.

CSUSB alumnus Naim Aburaddi, now a doctoral student at the University of Colorado, Boulder, will be joined on the panel by Saleh Ibrahim and Mohamed Saad, who were on the ground filming in south Turkey. They will share their experiences, some of the survivors’ stories, show the videos, and explain more about the 360-degree technology they used. 

They are using the footage to produce a 360-degree documentary to raise awareness of the humanitarian crisis facing the Syrian refugee population in Turkey, one of the most impacted communities and the least to be reported on.

The team hopes to not only raise awareness, but also increase empathy with the refugees to increase humanitarian aid to this population that is not fully covered by governmental support since their status is temporary in Turkey.

The idea was proposed by Aburaddi, who lost one of his Syrian friends and his whole family in the earthquake. A team of scholars, students and staff at the xREAL Lab, in cooperation with the Immersive Media Lab and Mimesis Center for Documentary and Ethnographic Media at the University of Colorado, Boulder, started on-ground reporting on March 13 of the aftermath of the earthquake using immersive technologies such as 360-degree filming.

With a small starting fund from both CSUSB and the University of Colorado, Boulder, the U.S. team hired a mobile team in Istanbul that left for Adana airport in southeastern Turkey on March 14. The Turkey team, led by Ibrahim and Saad, started filming the aftermath of the earthquake that left hugely devastated areas in south Turkey, using a 360-degree camera, in order to provide viewers with multidimensional stories of the victims.

According to Al-Jazeera, more than 50,000 people were killed as a result of the earthquake and its aftershocks. Al-Jazeera reports that “nearly 530,000 people have been evacuated from the disaster area in Turkey alone and the Turkish government has said that 173,000 buildings have so far been recorded as collapsed or severely damaged, with more than 1.9 million people taking refuge in temporary shelters or hotels and public facilities.”

The numbers on Syria are not very accurate and are hard to report. The project team hopes to make a small dent in the massive global aid and recovering efforts. For more information, please contact Ahlam Muhtaseb, CSUSB professor of media studies, at or (619) 757-9870.


The same CSUSB team, led by Muhtaseb and James Trotter, the assistant director of Academic Technologies and Innovation at CSUSB, started a similar project for immersive reporting on the Gaza Strip in Palestine last year. The earlier project, titled The Phoenix of Gaza, is intended to provide viewers with multidimensional stories of people in Gaza beyond the stereotypical images that associate Gaza with only violence.

The website of the project will be officially launched next month and it will include story telling using immersive technologies such as 360-degree filming and VR recreated spaces in Mozilla Hubs. In summer of 2020, and at the peak of the pandemic, Muhtaseb and Trotter started covering the plight of Palestinians in the Shatila refugee camp (Beirut, Lebanon) using immersive first-person reporting.

About xREAL: Extended Reality for Learning (xREAL) Lab with Information Technology Services (ITS) at California State University, San Bernardino is an interdisciplinary technology innovation hub that brings together faculty, students and staff to imagine and design immersive learning experiences with 3D modeling and printing, augmented reality, mixed reality, virtual reality, motion caption and machine learning technologies. Each year, xREAL works with faculty fellows and undergraduate and graduate students across disciplines to provide a vision for future teaching and learning, mentorship and hands-on experience for the students, and sustainable innovation for the larger campus community. xREAL work is made possible thanks to generous support from CSUSB President Tomás D. Morales and vice president for Information for Technology Services Sam Sudhakar.

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