Aug 21. Brown & Magnum parter -- Photography Expanded


The Brown Institute at Columbia’s School of Journalism is proud to partner with the Magnum Foundation to launch the 2015 Photography, Expanded Fellowship, an initiative that supports innovation at the intersection of technology and documentary practice and cultivates interdisciplinary ideation and production. This fellowship offers an opportunity for photographers to collaborate with technologists to expand their practices and to develop new forms for narrative storytelling to more effectively address social issues.

Magnum Foundation and the Brown Institute for Media Innovation are proud to award Photography, Expanded Fellowships to Peter DiCampo‘s “What Went Wrong” and Zun Lee’s “Fade Resistance.” Zara Katz and Lisa Riordan Seville will also receive a project development grant for Women on the Outside. These three projects exemplify the mission of the Photography, Expanded Program through their exploratory approaches to collaboration, exhibition, and dissemination. Pushing at the seams of documentary practice, they seek to fill representational gaps within the non-fiction paradigm of photography.

Based at the Brown Center for Media Innovation, Photography, ExpandedFellows will work with designers, coders, and advisors to develop platforms for sharing and engaging the public with their projects. Photography, ExpandedFellows will present their work during the Photography, Expanded Symposium on November 1st. 

Read more about the photographers that were selected and their projects. Congratulations to this cohort!

Aug 18. The Transparency Series begins!

The Transparency Series is a unique set of seminars and hands-on workshops that bring new technology and design ideas to the Columbia Journalism community. Our goal is simple — help students learn new ways to find and tell stories, new ways to inform and entertain. Each topic will commence with a Friday evening panel discussion and will follow with a Saturday hands-on workshop centered around building.

Students attending three of the seminar-workshops over the course of the year will receive a graduation award indicating the extra breadth they sought out during their time at the J-School.

The first in the series is August 29 on Data Visualization, and will be led by Amanda Cox from the New York Times. Have a look at the complete program here.

Jul 11. C+J 2015


Computation+Journalism Symposium 2015, October 2-3, New York City

Paper and panel proposals due August 14, 2015

The Computation+Journalism Symposium is a celebration and synthesis of new ways to find and tell news stories with, by, and about data and algorithms. It is a venue to seed new collaborations between journalists and computer and data scientists: a bazaar for the exchange of ideas between industry/practice and academia/research.

We are pleased to invite both papers and panels that explore the interface between data and computer science and journalism. We divide submissions into one of four categories.

Stories, visualizations, or other interactive experiences exemplary of outstanding journalism produced about or with data, code and algorithms.

Platforms that support journalistic work and which enable new ways of finding, producing, curating, or disseminating stories and other news content.

Research papers which explore a question of interest in journalism or information studies, or in data and computing science, as it relates back to journalism and news information.

Pedagogical innovations, describing how technology can be used in the teaching of journalism, or journalism can be used in the training in data and computer science and other branches of engineering.

This year, we are also soliciting panel proposals in these categories. A panel will consist of between 3 and 5 participants and a moderator, and should be thought of as a discussion on a topic of interest to the computation and journalism communities. Our goal with this line of solicitation is to surface new topics and extend the reach of the meeting to new communities.

We will judge sumissions in the separate categories - stories, platforms, research and pedagogy - on their own merits, but all should be reflective and seek to share knowledge that leads the field forward. For instance, submissions about stories or visualizationsmight explain the story as well as how it was enabled or constrained by technology; platform submissions might detail what is unique about the platform and how its design affords journalistic work; and research submissions might articulate a research question and contribution to state-of-the-art knowledge.

All submissions will be reviewed by experts in the field, and accepted papers will be invited to present the work in demo and oral sessions at the symposium. This year we anticipate relationships with two journals, the American Journalism Review and Digital Journalism, to help publish the proceedings of the symposium.

The work presented at last year's symposium can be found here.

Jun 13. In Face on Facebook

2014-2015 Magic Grantees Jessa Lingel and Adam Golub have just published a paper from the Bushwig project. "In Face on Facebook: Brooklyn's Drag Community and Sociotechnical Practices of Online Communication" appears in the June issue of The Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, and is likely the first paper published on how drag performers use social media. Here is their abstract.

Recently, Brooklyn has seen an explosion of drag culture, with dozens of performers taking the stage in any given week. Social media plays a vital role for members of this community, simultaneously allowing self-promotion and community solidarity. Drawing on focus group interviews, we analyze the communication practices of Brooklyn's drag performers, examining both the advantages and drawbacks of social media platforms. Using conceptual frameworks of faceted identity and relational labor, our discussion focuses on affordances and constraints of multifaceted identity in online contexts and theories of seamful design. We contend that by analyzing online communication practices of drag performers, it becomes possible to identify gaps between embedded ideologies of mainstream social media technologies and the localized values of outsider communities.

The full article is available from the journal site (you might need a subscription to view the articles in this journal). Congratulations to Jessa and Adam!

May 27. 2015 Internet Trends

Brown Advisory Board Member and partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Beyers, Mary Meeker, just released her 2015 Internet Trends report. Meeker has been publishing these reports since 2001, and TechCrunch calls them "the closest thing you'll get to gospel." You can read the full 197 page report, or the highlights edited by TechCrunch.

May 27. Virtual Reporting


The Brown Institute, in collaboration with the du Pont Awards and the Online News Association, presented a panel on reporting using virtual reality (VR). VR offers journalists the ability to immerse viewers, transporting them to new places and situations. How are these technologies being applied? How are stories being told? What devices help create narratives? Is narrative even necessary?  Prior to the panel, attendees experimented with various VR headsets to get a sense the potential of VR.

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The panelists included Raney Aronson, FRONTLINE's Deputy Executive Producer (@raneyaronson), Fergus Pitt, senior fellow The Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University (@fergle),  Joao Inada, team member of our own Magic Grant VR project "Reframe Iran,"  and Gabo Arora, UN Senior Advisor, producer "Clouds Over Sidra" (@gaboarora). The panel was moderated by duPont's Lisa Cohen. The panelists had experience producing VR documentaries, wrestling with issues about their placement in the frame ("Do you just leave the camera in the middle of the street and hide or are you in the shot?"), about how to provide viewers context for what they are seeing ("Is this a typical town in this part of Africa or has something bad happened here?") and how story emerges ("What happens if a viewer is looking in the other direction when something significant happens?"). This is our first partnership with du Pont and ONA and we're eager to explore more connections! 

May 22. Brown/Tow Thesis Award goes to Ariana Giorgi


Each year the Brown Institute and the Tow Center team up on a award for the Columbia J-School graduate whose thesis makes extensive use of computation, or in some way pushes the boundary of storytelling through a novel application of technology. This year the award went to Ariana Giorgi, a Dual Degree student receiving both her M.S. in Journalism and Computer Science. Her Master's project applied techniques she studied in her machine learning and natural language processing courses to partially automate the collection and organization of large quantites of data assembled from different sources. Her main focus was on the tradeoff between manual processing and automated or algorithmic techniques. The Brown/Tow Award comes with a $2000 prize. Congratulations Ariana!

May 21. ACM on Data Journalism

This month's Communications of the ACM includes "Putting the Data Science into Journalism." Our flagship project Science Surveyor is detailed as an example of journalistic technology, and the Lede Program is singled out as a new kind of journalism training! The article also contains some great quotes from attendees of the Computation+Journalism meeting we help sponsor. Read the full article.

May 11. 2015-16 Magic Grants Announced!

We are pleased to announce our 2015-16 “Magic Grants” - eight teams in all, comprised of students, faculty, alumni and post-docs from the Columbia Journalism School and the Stanford Engineering School. This year’s Magic Grant recipients were selected via a competitive process from nearly 50 proposals. Each project speaks directly to our mission - supporting new endeavors that inform and entertain in transformative ways.

The 2015-16 Magic Grant evaluation process included incoming West Coast Director, Maneesh Agrawala, who will pick up the reins from current director Bernd Girod. "We are very excited that Maneesh will be joining us as a faculty colleague at Stanford,” said Girod. “Together with East Coast Director Mark Hansen, Maneesh will take the Brown Institute to the next level.”

“With this group of Magic Grants, we have timely, powerful stories and incredibly novel uses of technology,” Hansen said.

This year’s winning projects include an interactive personal drone tour guide; a documentary filmed with immersive video technology, that maps the impact of the famine in South Sudan; and a “bicoastal” project that will allow journalists to analyze, visualize and interact with contractor data released by the Department of Defense. Individual Magic Grants can be up to $150,000, with funding reaching up to $300,000 for bicoastal projects, those having teams with members from both universities’ communities.

The Brown Institute is also, for the first time, providing funding for a so-called “flagship project.” A flagship project is a continuation of a particularly promising Magic Grant that can receive up to $500,000 for the following year. These special projects must be bicoastal, with substantial work carried out at both the Stanford School of Engineering and the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. Application for flagship status is by invitation only. This year’s flagship project is the Science Surveyor.

Science Surveyor (Bicoastal, Columbia and Stanford): One of the biggest challenges facing science journalists is the ability to quickly contextualize journal articles they are reporting on deadline. Science Surveyor is a tool that can help science journalists and others rapidly and effectively characterize the scientific literature for any topic by providing a contextual consensus, a timeline of publications surrounding the topic, and categorized funding. The Science Surveyor team consists of Marguerite Holloway, Laura Kurgan, Dennis Tenen, Juan Francisco Saldarriaga, Daniel McFarland, Dan Jurafsky and Sebastian Muñoz ­Najar Galvez.

Following is a complete list of the Magic Grants for 2015-16:

Art++ (Stanford): Meaning Augmenting Art with Technology, Art++ aims to improve the experience of visitors in a museum gallery by proposing a new way of delivering information to them. Using augmented reality, Art++ offers viewers an immersive and interactive learning experience by overlaying content directly on the objects through the viewfinder of a smartphone or tablet device. The Art++ team is being funded for a second year, and consists of Maricarmen Barrios, JeanBaptiste Boin and Jacqueline Lin.

Cuba Interconectada (Columbia): After decades of Castro control, change is coming to Cuba. The prospect of closer ties with the United States, and with that a greater access to the Internet, promises a revolution in a nascent community of local entrepreneurs. Cuba Interconectada will tell a story about change on the island by focusing on Cuban entrepreneurs; the way access to the Internet currently exists; and changes as the Cuban economy opens. The Cuba Interconectada team consists of Juanita Ceballos, Jika González and Dave Mayers.

G:Drone – An Interactive Personal Drone Tour Guide (Stanford): Currently, drones are used primarily for filming, farming, search and rescue, entertainment, and product delivery. The team will explore human-drone interaction through the use of drones as tour guides. This is a challenging research topic as it encompasses fields such as proxemics, the distance between the drone and the person or the group (social sciences), calculating the best path for the drone (computer vision), how users communicate with the drone (HCI), how the drone responds to users (HCI), and having the drone take pictures or movies of the visitors (computer vision). The G:Drone team is comprised of Dr. Jessica Cauchard and Jane E.

Generating Emotional Impact in Narrative (Stanford): We respond to stories not only because of the information they contain, but also because of the emotional impact. Creating emotional impact is challenging, but professionals know that there is a process, though hard to articulate at a level that novices can follow. The team will decompose the act of creating emotional impact into a process that novices can follow on a website in under five minutes. Eventually, the novices will perform as well as experts. This team is headed by Lydia Chilton.

Nueva Nacion (Columbia): Currently, no Panamanian media outlet has a serious data analysis team. Stories are often told without appealing to data and the context they might provide. Panama is one of the fastest growing economies in Latin America, but it also suffers from a large socio-economic gap and has a high corruption index according to Transparency International. Nueva Nacion will explore the government’s untapped numbers, giving way to many new and unexplored stories that would benefit the country, and possibly the region. The team consists of Ana Méndez, Alfonso Poschl and Gaspar García de Paredes. (Bicoastal, Columbia and Stanford): Modern reporting increasingly relies on using data as source of evidence—numbers on a page can prove trends and anomalies and add context to anecdotes told by sources. Fortunately, many government agencies release data openly on the web, but unfortunately much of this data is presented in a frustrating and byzantine manner., an open-source web dashboard that will allow journalists to easily analyze, visualize and interact with contractor data from the Department of Defense. The team is comprised of Alexandre Gonçalves and Allison McCartney.

Recipe for a Famine (Columbia): The United Nations warns that 2.5 million people are on the brink of famine in South Sudan. An ongoing civil war, extreme poverty and international apathy are creating a man-made catastrophe that we are witnessing in real time. Recipe for a Famine is an immersive documentary that explores the causes of famine and its human impact. In addition to the documentary, the team will create a VR 101 Toolkit to make high quality immersive video more accessible to more journalists. The team consists of Marcelle Hopkins, Benedict Moran, Evan Wexler and Andrew Blum, and is funded by the Brown Institute, and the PBS series FRONTLINE. The team was also awarded a Social Justice fellowship from the Made in NY Media Center by IFP.

Apr 22. Storytelling Tools - April 28 Brown Media Talk



Storytelling is essential for communicating ideas. When they are well told, stories help us make sense of information, appreciate cultural or societal differences, and imagine living in entirely different worlds. Audio/visual stories in the form of radio programs, audiobooks, podcasts, television, movies or animation are especially powerful by providing a rich multisensory experience. Technological advances have made it easy to capture stories using microphones and cameras readily available in our mobile devices. The raw media, however, rarely tells a compelling story.

The best storytellers carefully compose, filter, edit and highlight raw media to produce an engaging piece. Yet, the software tools they employ (e.g. Pro Tools, Premiere, Final Cut Pro, Maya, etc.) force tediously low-level work—selecting, filtering, cutting and transitioning between audio/video frames. While these provide flexible and precise control over the look and sound of the final result, they are notoriously difficult to learn and accessible primarily to experts. In this talk, Prof. Agrawala will present recent projects that aim to significantly reduce the effort required to edit and produce high-quality audio/visual stories.

Maneesh Agrawala is a Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of California, Berkeley. He works on visualization, computer graphics and human computer interaction. His focus is on investigating how cognitive design principles can be used to improve the effectiveness of visual displays. The goals of this work are to discover the design principles and then instantiate them in both interactive and automated design tools. He received an Okawa Foundation Research Grant in 2006, an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellowship and an NSF CAREER Award in 2007, a SIGGRAPH Significant New Researcher Award in 2008, and a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 2009. He will assume directorship of the Brown Institute of Media Innovation at Stanford in Fall 2015. 

Established in 2012, the Institute is a collaboration between Columbia and Stanford Universities. Our mission is simple: Sponsor thinking, building and speculating on how stories are discovered and told in a networked, digitized world.


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