Sep 20. Joanna Coles visits Brown


On September 15, the Brown Institute welcomed Joanna Coles, Hearst's first Chief Content Officer. Coles spoke to about 100 students on the lawn outside the Mathematics Building on the Columbia Campus. Just a week before her visit, Coles was promoted from Editor-in-Chief of Cosmopolitan, a position she held since 2012, to the head of content at Hearst.

We asked her about her time as a journalist, an editor and now as a collaborator with technology firms. Coles spoke of her experiences with platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Google. Personally? "Twitter is an art form," she said. But professionally, she's seen friction between tech and "content," the stories we prize as journalists. Part of her new job is to figure out whether Hearst should try to repackage its material to reach the audiences of a particular platform, or partner with tech startups to create new platforms and build new audiences starting with Hearst content. Coles is a member of the board of Snapchat, and described her experience designing Cosmopolitan content for the app's new Discover feature. Coles said that Shapchat's Discover is "the hottest emerging platform for news." We also asked Coles about other aspects of the tech and content divide, including the well-known gender gap in fields like computer science. 


In addition to tech talk, we asked Coles about Cosmopolitan. Just a day before her visit, the magazine had published a controversial interview with Ivanka Trump. Coles said "I'd like to think the Cosmo reader wants to know about mascara and the Middle East." She gave credit to Helen Gurley Brown, longtime Cosmopolitan editor and founder of our institute, for changing the magazine and producing real journalism. Of course she also said that HGB would probably have been the first to take a selfie or to send a sext. Finally, Coles commented on Cosmopolitan as a magazine. Despite her commitment to new platforms, she believes print will survive. Her own media diet includes time alone with stacks of magazines "absorbing the nutrients." 

Coles also had some advice for our students. The rate of change in our industry is only accelerating, and this cohort is facing a complex, yet exciting, world of new platforms and new opportunities for journalism. New journalists, she said, need to be well informed and pay attention "when everyone else turns away." As for a work ethic? "You're not working hard enough!"  She also spoke about the strength of loose ties in finding your next job. Oh and when we offered her a bottle of champagne in gratitude for her time at Columbia she advised, "Never drink on a story. It's the path to ruin and madness."

Thank you, Joanna Coles for taking the time out to visit our school. It was a gift! 


Sep 19. Art++ wows Cantor, Stanford Daily


Brown's magic grant team, Art++ is wrapping up their two-year project with a bang. On September 16, an exclusive VIP Reception was held as a preamble to the Cantor Art Center and Anderson Collection's Annual Members Reception. A packed room of art patrons, as well as a few supporters from the engineering program including Dean Persis Drell and Prof. Gordon Weitzstein, had an opportunity to see both the history and backroom of the application, as well as get a demonstration in the Cantor exhibit using the Art++ technology. . 

The Stanford Daily has also focused in on this engaging application. In an article dated 16 September, reporter Christina Pan gave an overview of the origins of the project, and some of its impressive results.  

The Art++ Demonstration exhibit remains open at the Cantor Arts Center through September 26. 

Sep 07. Brown welcomes Joanna Coles, September 15 @5:30pm


The Brown Institute is pleased to welcome Joanna Coles, newly named chief content officer at Hearst (pictured above in the construction site that was the Brown Institute 2 years ago). We could think of very few guests who could speak so perfectly both to our institute's history (being founded by Helen Gurley Brown) as well as to our unique mission crossing journalism, technology and entrepreneurship. Here is a brief bio.

Joanna Coles has held the position of editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan, the world’s largest women’s media brand, since 2012, and was named an editorial director of Hearst in 2014. Coles joined Hearst in 2006 as editor-in-chief of Marie Claire, where she co-created and executive produced the docuTV series "Running in Heels," and appeared as the mentor on "Project Runway All-Stars," after orchestrating the brand's partnership with Emmy Award winning "Project Runway."  The British-born editor moved to the U.S. in 1997 as the bureau chief for The Guardian before moving on to The Times of London. She has been the recipient of numerous awards for her leadership in journalism and media over the course of her career.

Coles sits on the board of directors of Snapchat. She is also on the board of Women Entrepreneurs New York City, an initiative to expand female entrepreneurship with a focus on underserved women and communities.

... and on Tuesday, September 6, Joanna Coles was named Hearst's first chief content officer! Her talk will be held on Furnald Lawn just outside Pulitzer Hall.

Fleece blankets will be provided!

Aug 23. Brown to host first Media Innovation Showcase


The Brown Institute will be hosting its first ever Media Innovation Showcase on September 29. We’ll be celebrating another year of stellar Magic Grant projects with presentations, demos, food and drink at Stanford University.

Check out the event website to RSVP and see event details.

Aug 15. Allison McCartney in WaPo on Millennials and the Election

Brown @Stanford's Allison McCartney was recently quoted in the Washington Post's article, "For millenial voters, the Clinton vs. Trump choice 'feels like a joke.'"

Aug 12. Maneesh Agrawala featured at the Commonwealth Club

As a MacArthur Foundation Genius Grantee, Stanford Brown Director Maneesh Agrawala, together with digital artist Camille Utterback, were welcomed by the Commonwealth Club of California as guest speakers this past week in an event entitled "Meet the Geniuses: Inside the MacArthur Foundation's Creative Thinking Awards." 


Aug 01. Brown Grantee reports on Expanded Panama Canal

Brown Grantee Ana Graciela Mendez, along with Walt Bogdanich and Jacqueline Williams, have written a story on some complications arising following the openeing of Panama's newest canals, in "Fender Benders on Water? (See: Expanded Panama Canal)" in the July 30, 2016 edition of the New York Times. 

Jul 23. Brown Institute wins Collaboratory Fellows Grant at Columbia

The Brown Institute, alongside the Center for Spatial Research, is pleased to announce our selection as inaugural recipients of Columbia University’s Collaboratory Fellows Grant with Points Unknown: New frameworks for investigation and creative expression through mapping.

Aimed at advancing education that combines data science or computational expertise with domain expertise, the Collaboratory Fellows Grant is intended to support pairs of instructors (one with data science or computational expertise and the other with domain expertise) to develop and co-teach new educational offerings that can help fulfill the data literacy requirements of a discipline, specific cohort of students, or domain.

Points Unknown will offer journalism students formal training in GIS and web-based mapping, both as a product in stories and as an important tool for reporting. Concurrently, the program will provide GSAPP students an introduction to spatial data analysis through the lens of journalism, helping them use investigative methods that can be integrated into a design process.

Jointly founded by the Data Science Institute and Columbia Entrepreneurship, The Collaboratory@Columbia is a university-wide program that seeks to provide the resources and tools required to ensure that all Columbia University students receive the education and training that they need to lead in today’s data-rich world.

Jul 13. Brown Institute Makes Magic at Stanford’s Cantor Arts Center

The Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University and the Brown Institute for Media Innovation are pleased to announce the launch of Art++, an augmented reality (AR) mobile app created for art museum visitors. Heralded as the cutting edge of media, augmented reality refers to any technology that superimposes graphics onto a user’s normal field of vision, often through a camera viewfinder or headset. The app’s release coincides with the July 13 opening of Art++ Technology and Art Lab, a Cantor exhibition that showcases the capabilities of Art++ by featuring artwork that visitors can explore through augmented reality. Click to read more...


Jun 30. Announcing the 2016-2017 Magic Grants!

We are pleased to announce the winners of the 2016-2017 Magic Grants. In these projects you will find a number of fantastic interdisciplinary collaborations that are formed within as well as between our two universities -- from drone technology and advanced computer vision aiding video editing; to virtual reality creating visceral experiences of racism; to new "imager as sensor" research opening environmental reporting on our world's coral reefs. This was our most competitive year to date!

Here is a brief description of the seven winning projects -- fuller writeups are available below. 

1000 Cut Journey from Harlem to Soho - A collaboration bettween the Cogburn Research Group at Columbia University and the Virtual Human Interaction Lab at Stanford University to leverage advances in virtual reality technology to create visceral experiences of racism 

Re(ef)source - Combining new imaging modalities, crowdsourced data collection and analysis that provides a model for participatory story telling and citizen journalism in environmental reporting

The Comprehensive Database of Investor Ownership and Governance - A team from the Business and Law schools at Columbia will form the first-ever public, free data on the institutional owners of America’s largest companies (asking whether and how they serve as setters of average Americans’ savings)  and create an institutional governance index summarizing information on the advisor’s management, customer characteristics, and regulatory, civil, and criminal fraud history

Formalinfree: Tackling food adulteration in Bangladesh - In the markets in Bangladesh, high demand and low transparency means that manufacturers can hasten ripening processes with carbides and sellers can preserve fish in formaldehyde, and have little trouble finding buyers for the adulterated food -- this project will help quantify, monitor and relay information about food contamination in these markets

We Can: A Geography of New York Canners - Oral history, illustration, “analog data visualization,” and sensor driven tracking, creates an immersive web platform to narrate the world of canners, people making a living collecting cans and bottles on the street

RoughCut: Developing Novel Video Capture and Editing Tools for Journalists - A video editor must have access to good footage to build an initial video sequence, called a rough cut -- our project, a hybrid of drone technology and machine learning, addresses the key challenges of making a rough cut, planning, capturing, and annotating footage, finding relevant video clips, and pairing audio and visual content.

GenderMeme: A “Diversity-Aware” News feed - A product that takes in a stream of articles, and picks gender-balanced content, from which it makes a magazine -- imagine Flipboard, but with a newsfeed that has been designed for gender diversity

Congratulations to our winners! Please check back to see how these projects develop over their funding year. Longer descriptions of the projects are available below.

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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