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. 

Apr 15. Photography, Expanded: Announced!

The Brown Institute, in conjunction with Magnum Foundation, is pleased to announce Photography, Expanded, weeks of events focused on the intersection of photography, digital narrative and journalism. The events, along with brief descriptions, can be seen below:

Photojournalist Maria Turchenkova - Reception honoring her as the 2015 Paul Klebnikov Russian Civil Society Fellow
6PM, Monday, April 15 at the Brown Institute
Details at

Signs of Faith: Bridging Cultures through the Power of Image
7PM, Wednesday, April 22 at the Brown Institute
Panel discussion with Alysia Steele, author of “Delta Jewels,” and Chie Nishio, photographer of Brooklyn’s Lubavitch Community
Details at

Photography, Expanded Panel: Digital Interventions
6PM, Tuesday, April 28 at Aperture Gallery
A panel featuring Lance Weiler, Lina Srivastava, Jonathan Harris and Christopher Allen, exploring how image-based interventions inform, activate, and strengthen communities, not only on social media, but also in the physical world.
Details/RSVP at

Tow Tea: Curating Digital Photography
4PM, Thursday, April 30 at the Brown Institute
Join Susan Meiselas, Magnum photographer and President of Magnum Foundation, and Yukiko Yamagata, Associate Director of Open Society Foundations Documentary Photography Project as they discuss the intricacies and issues that arise when curating digital photography. In this era where our screens and our psyches are saturated by images, can photographic narratives on social justice issues still elicit an emotional response from a viewer? What is the role of documentary photography in this new, saturated digital landscape?
Details/RSVP at http:/

Photography, Expanded Lab
Saturday-Sunday, May 2-3 at the Brown Institute
A two-day lab joining selected Columbia Journalism School students with leading practitioners—photographers, journalists, designers, and engineers—to collaborate to develop new projects focused on social justice or human rights issues. 
Details at

Mar 31. Finding and telling stories at Internet Scale - April 14


Please RSVP 

The astounding growth in data gathering, processing, storage and networking capabilities over the past decade has opened the prospect of revolutionary advances in everything from medicine to media -- if the data can actually be exploited properly. A key bottleneck is providing insight and understanding around what is important about the data, and what it means to people who need to make decisions and take action based on those data. As part of our Media Innovation Lunches at Stanford, Prof. Larry Birnbaum will outline his work in finding important and interesting patterns in data (especially social media) and in automatically generating stories based on those data to convey insights to people. Prof. Birnbaum will focus on applications to media and journalism and on the technology originally developed at Northwestern, that has led to the start-up Narrative Science

Birnbaum is a professor of both Computer Science and Journalism at Northwestern, Head of its Computer Science Division and Co-Director of its Intelligent Information Laboratory. He is also Co-Founder and Chief Scientific Advisor of Narrative Science, Inc. Birnbaum's research focuses on automatic content generation with an emphasis on applications to media and journalism. Together with students and colleagues, he has published more than 130 papers on these topics and holds 23 U. S. Patents. He received his B.S. and Ph.D. Degrees in Computer Science from Yale Univerity. 

The Media Innovation Lunch will take place on April 14 at noon in Packard 202 on the Stanford Campus.

Mar 30. EVE Online panel


EVE Online is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (or MMORPG) set 22,000 years in the future. As many as 15 million people have tried the game, with up to half a million players inhabiting the EVE universe at one time. Unlike other games, EVE has a uniquely player-driven design, resulting in a seemingly limitless number of story lines, communities and allegiances -- a recent Bloomberg Business article described EVE as a kind of "controlled experiment in human nature." The game has earned a devoted following, with relationships between players forming over years, often translating between online and offline relationships. As a result of these relationships and interpersonal connections, EVE Online has produced a universe-sized narrative, extending beyond the game itself into cross-platform formats like books and online wikis. 

Join EVE Online's Creative Director Torfi Frans Ólafsson and Microsoft Research member Jessa Lingel as they describe attempts to tell the story of this massive world and its inhabitants. They will discuss EVE as a platform for the collective production of narrative, the potential for games as storytelling platforms and the interlacing of technology and communities in conceptualizing the future.
The discussion will take place in the Brown Institute at Columbia University at 6pm on Monday, April 27.

Mar 29. Brown, NYU and NewsCorps make data viz toolset


 from tne NYC Media Lab has posted a great alrticle on Medium, "Why media companies are rushing to partner with universities." Featured in the piece is a reference to the Brown Institute's collaboration with NYU and NewsCorp to develop data visualization tools for journalists. 

Mar 09. Magnum Foundation Lab


Applications are due 5pm EST on Tuesday, March 31, 2015.

The Brown Institute is pleased to announce a unique set of events, co-organized with the Magnum Foundation, called the "Photography, Expanded Lab: Digital Narratives." Selected Columbia Journalism School students will join other selected participants - practicing photographers, journalists, designers, and engineers - to collaborate to develop new projects focused on social justice or human rights issues.

The documentary landscape has been radically altered by massive cultural and technological shifts over the past decade – from the emergence of social media reporting and smartphonography to data journalism. Photographers and journalists are now faced with incredible new challenges and opportunities to shape visual storytelling for social impact. So while independent reporters are adopting emerging digital tools, news corporations and media startups are also moving strategically into interactive journalism, to produce more immersive and shareable stories.

The Photography, Expanded Lab is comprised of a panel presentation, followed by a two-day intensive workshop. The panel will examine a wide range of innovative approaches to documentary storytelling across digital media, while the workshop offers a deeper dive into the application of online and interactive strategies and tools for long-form documentary photography stories.

Selected participants are required to attend both the evening panel on Tuesday, April 28 and the two-day lab on Saturday & Sunday, May 2 - 3. Interested Columbia Journalism Students can read more about the event and apply here.

Mar 04. Maneesh Agrawala, Next Director of Brown @ Stanford


Prof. Bernd Girod today announced on behalf of Stanford University that Prof. Maneesh Agrawala has agreed to serve as the next Director the Brown Institute at Stanford. Prof. Agrawala is currently a faculty member at UC Berkeley. He will be joining the Computer Science Department at Stanford in the fall at which point he will assume his new role as Brown Institute Director.

Prof. Agrawala's own research interests are an ideal match with the mission of the Institute. He has done seminal work on design principles for visual communication, interactive tools for digital storytelling, and the perceptual and collaborative aspects of visual analysis techniques. His teaching, which includes courses in visualization, human computer interaction, and computer graphics, connects computational thinking and design thinking. He also co-taught the very first short course on computation and journalism at SIGGRAPH 2008.  Stanford is very fortunate to have Prof. Agrawala return to Stanford after completing his PhD degree here 13 years ago, and Prof. Agrawala is very excited about his new role at Brown!

Prof. Girod will to continue to lead the Institute until the end of the acadmic year, and will stay involved as a regular faculty member and a member of the Institute's Advisory Boar

Mar 03. Countdown to Magic Grant Deadline!

The deadline for Brown Institute Magic Grants and Fellowships is now FIVE DAYS away (March 8)! Recall these are funds that can support you for either a short term (like a summer) or for a longer project (like a year) for up to 150k. We are interested in the interplay between story and technology — perhaps creating a new platform for finding and telling stories, or telling a unique story in a new way.

At Columbia, to help you best formulate project proposals, we are offering 1-on-1 office hours. To attend a 1-on-1 slot, you must first submit a 1-2 paragraph project pitch to so that we can best help you refine your idea. These 30-minute slots will be held in the Brown Institute with both myself and with Michael Krisch, and are on a first-come basis. Make your request online at

Lastly, if you have any questions about the process or a potential grant/fellowship, you can also email us at

Good Luck!

Mar 02. Brown space in Metropolis Magazine


The February issue of Metropolis Magazine features the Brown Institute Space! Its unique program is discussed in detail with the institute's architect and lighting designers.

Last fall, the university opened a state-of-the-art, high-tech newsroom on the ground floor of its 1912 McKim, Mead, and White–designed historic Pulitzer Hall. The renovated space was a gift from longtime Cosmopolitan editor Helen Gurley Brown in memory of her late husband, David. “I think the school wanted to create a space that shows it is actively addressing the very significant shifts in journalism,” says Marc Tsurumaki, principal of LTL Architects. “So incorporating digital interaction, flexibility, and fluidity into the media lab was really important.”Leaving the floor plate as open as possible, the New York–based architects removed most of the space’s interior partitions and subdivided offices. They opted to house the office spaces via a suspended mezzanine above a series of meeting rooms overlooking a large collaborative work environment.

Congratulations to LTL Architects and to BuroHappold Engineering and to everyone who helped design and construct our home. Thank you!

Feb 26. Gordon Wetzstein on light field displays

Stanford professor Gordon Wetzstein was our guest speaker at a recent Brown Media Innovation Lunch. If you weren't able to attend, you can watch a video of his talk here

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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