1000Cut (2016-17)

The Cogburn Research Group (CRG) at Columbia University and the Virtual Human Interaction Lab (VHIL) at Stanford University have joined in collaboration to leverage advances in virtual reality technology to create visceral experiences of racism. The project integrates the groundbreaking research of Jeremy Bailenson, professor in the Department of Communication at Stanford and leading expert in human interaction in virtual spaces. with the emerging, innovative scholarship of Courtney D. Cogburn, assistant professor in the Columbia School of Social Work whose work challenges conventional notions of racism and broadly examines the role of racism in producing racial disparities in health.

Comprehensive Database of Investor Ownership and Governance (2016-17)

Federal securities law aims to give investors in American public companies transparency into the operation and ownership of the firm through disclosure. Historically, regulators and investors have focused these transparency efforts upon a classic problem of corporate law: the separation of ownership of the firm from control of its operations, due to the potential conflict of interest related to the use of corporate resources by managers. Thus, over the past two decades, a great deal of work has emphasized information regarding governance of public corporations. Under this Magic Grant, the team will create the first comprehensive dataset of institutional ownership of American public companies, and the governance characteristics of those institutions.

Formalinfree (2016-17)

We propose to build a tool to provide real‐time updates about the food quality in the markets in Bangladesh. Food adulteration in Bangladesh is a deliberate ‐‐ if not outright malicious ‐‐ move to contaminate food with toxic substances. It happens because there is always a shortage of food ‐‐ Bangladesh is roughly as large as the state of Illinois but has a population of 157 million people ‐‐ greater than that of Russia. Thanks to high demand and low transparency, manufacturers can hasten ripening processes with carbides and sellers can preserve fish in formaldehyde, and have little trouble finding buyers. This magic grant will quantify, monitor and relay information about these manufacturers and sellers.

GenderMeme (2016-17)

How much media do we read that is written from a male perspective? A lot. Do we wish that we could hear more diverse voices in the media we consume? Yes.  And can we do something about that? We believe so. GenderMeme is a product that takes in a stream of articles, and picks gender-balanced articles, from which it makes a magazine. (Imagine Flipboard, but with a newsfeed that has been designed for gender diversity). To do this, we will first perform a large-scale analysis of news stories, in order to understand it better, and we will also create a “thermometer” that summarizes the state of the media in real time.

Re(ef)source (2016-17)

Re(ef)source will distribute cameras designed to capture fluorescence and multispectral images to scuba divers in Florida in order to mine data from images of coral that can help us gauge the health of reefs in the area. This innovative idea combines new imaging modalities, crowd sourced data collection and analysis in a new way that will provide a model for participatory storytelling and citizen journalism in environmental reporting. Environmental reporting typically relies on scientific and government reports. The team will add a new dimension to climate change stories by empowering journalists to deploy their own sensors and tools to collect data directly from the environment, enabling a new type of environmental interview. Instead of relying on experts, they are turning the environment itself into a source.

RoughCut (2016-17)

Roughcut seeks to develop a system to support the process of making a rough cut. Some of the primary challenges of generating a rough cut include planning, capturing, and annotating footage, finding relevant video clips, and pairing audio and visual content. We are taking initial steps toward building a system to address these challenges and make the process of producing a rough cut easier and more time efficient. In our project we will support video teams by encouraging the camera crew to capture new perspectives. Having multiple viewpoints enables editors to have more flexibility in how they construct the narrative. We plan to explore new ways to interact with drones as professional journalistic tools.


Art++ (2014-15 and 2015-16)

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++ will offer 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 consists of Jean-Baptiste Boin, a PhD candidate in electrical engineering at Stanford University, and Colleen Stockmann, assistant curator for special projects at the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University.

Cuba Interconectada (2015-16)

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.

G:Drone – An Interactive Personal Drone Tour Guide (2015-16)

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 (2015-16)

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.

Mapping Monuments & Memory (2015-2016)

Mapping Monuments & Memory Across the Former Yugoslavia is a creative collaboration between journalism and landscape architecture that investigates so-called Spomeniks, a series of futuristic World Word II monuments scattered across the six former socialist republics in the former Yugoslavia. The project aims to explore, document, and map the monuments and, through a combination of interviews, drone-photography, 3-D-modelling and architectural visualization, tell the story of the Spomeniks. This visually rich narrative will reveal the complex spatio-cultural history of these giant monuments in the landscape. The team consists of Jorgen Samso Nielsen, M.A. from the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University, Mark Thomann, Adjunct Assistant Professor at Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning & Preservation and director of the landscape studio wHY Grounds in New York City, Kira Appelhans, landscape architect and lecturer at University of Pennsylvania and renowned photographer Iwan Baan. Samso Nielsen and Thomann are Fellows of the Brown Institute and this is their project for the year.

Nueva Nación (2015-16)

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.

Open Contractors (2015-16)

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.

On the Brink of Famine (2015-16)

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. "On the Brink of 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, and Evan Wexler, 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.

Cannabis Wire (2014-15)

Cannabis Wire will create a highly visual and interactive data driven single-subject news site aiming to simplify the complexities of cannabis legalization and its role in the broader drug war and criminal justice system. The Cannabis Wire team consists of Alyson Martin and Nushin Rashidian, alumnae of the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University and co-authors of A New Leaf: The End of Cannabis ProhibitionProject web site.

Earnings Inspector (2014-15)

In direct response to criticisms of the rigor of business journalism, Earnings Inspector will provide business journalists a new tool to make the methods of forensic accounting more accessible. By sifting through a database of accounts of all public U.S. companies, Earnings Inspector will use fraud detection algorithms to report the likelihood of manipulated earnings. The Earnings Inspector team consists of Caelainn Barr, Cecile Schilis-Gallego and Daniel Drepper, students at the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University.

Reframe Iran (2014-15)

Journalists can glean remarkable insights into the social and cultural tensions of a region by studying the lives and experiences of its artists. These insights are particularly important in countries whose cultures have been misconstrued by traditional reporting in mainstream media. Built on this notion, Reframe Iran will present 40 profiles of Iranian artists living both in Iran and abroad, using text, photo, and the innovative medium of immersive video. The Refame Iran team consists of Matt Yu, PhD candidate in electrical engineering at Stanford University, and Alexandra Glorioso, Joao Inada and Matteo Lonardi, students at the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University.

Science Surveyor (2014-15)

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, director of science and environmental journalism and assistant professor at the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University; Laura Kurgan, director of the Spatial Information Design Lab at the Graduate School of Architecture, Preservation and Planning at Columbia University, and Juan Francisco Saldarriaga, associate research scholar and adjunct assistant professor of urban planning at the Graduate School of Architecture, Preservation and Planning at Columbia University. The Science Surveyor proposal also includes representation from Stanford – Laura Moorhead and Cheryl Holzmeyer, a Ph.D. candidate and a postdoctoral research fellow, respectively, at the Graduate School of Education, and Juan Pablo Alperin, a Ph.D. candidate with the Public Knowledge Project.

Visual Genome (2014-15)

Visual Genome seeks to enable journalists to effectively gather crowd-sourced breaking news images and videos in near real time, extract meta-data and relationships from these images, and utilize them to enhance the quality of their articles and reports. The Visual Genome team consists of Ranjay Krishna, a graduate student in computer science at Stanford Engineering, and Justin Johnson, a PhD candidate in computer science at Stanford Engineering.

Web Transparency (2014-15)

By revealing the mechanisms behind previously opaque advertising schemes at an arbitrarily detailed level, the Web Transparency project unveils today’s commercial and political tactics that are used to funnel consumers and citizens’ attention. The Web Transparency team consists of Charles Berret, a PhD candidate in communications at Columbia University, Cecilia Reyes, an undergraduate in computer science at Columbia University, and Max Tucker, a software developer at the Institute for Software Research.

Widescope and Synapp (2013-15)

Widescope and Synapp, a 2013-14 Magic Grant recipient, will receive renewed funding to scale up the current systems to achieve widespread usage and impact by partnering with governments, schools, and media organizations. Additionally, the team will further develop and implement algorithms and mechanisms for more effective aggregation and collaboration, all in an effort to posit online social media as an enabler of deliberative and participatory democracy. The Widescope and Synapp team consists of David Lee, a PhD candidate in electrical engineering at Stanford Engineering, and Sukolsak Sakshuwong, a graduate student in computer science at Stanford Engineering.

Bushwig (2013-14)

A Columbia School of Journalism documentary film student and a PhD candidate in the Rutgers University School of Communication and Information will tell the story of a drag renaissance taking place in Bushwick, Brooklyn, that is enlisting and extending social media platforms for the “identity curation” that happens in the drag community.

CityBeat (2013-14)

A collaboration between The New York World housed in Columbia Journalism School, and the Social Media Information Lab at Rutgers University, this project will look for newsworthy events in the patterns of real-time, geotagged social media feeds.  (Half of this project’s budget will come from the Tow Center.)

Ensemble (2013-14)

Ensemble is a Web platform created by Joy Kim and Justin heng that provides structure to collaborative storytelling. In Ensemble, one person is assigned the responsibility of managing creative direction, and can then enlist a crowd of friends or strangers to perform various tasks – such as contributing narrative direction or developing a character's back story – with an ultimate goal of creating more engaging stories by drawing from the different personal viewpoints and experiences of a group.

The Declassification Engine (2013-14)

A partnership between faculty and students in the Departments of History, Statistics and Computer Science at Columbia University, this project will probe the limits of official secrecy by applying natural language processing software to archives of declassified documents to examine whether it is possible to predict the contents of redacted text, attribute authorship to anonymous documents and model the geographic and temporal patterns of diplomatic communications.  (Half of this project’s budget will come from the Tow Center.)

Gistraker (2013-14)

A collaboration by Richard Socher and Rebecca Weiss, Gistraker is a Web application that analyzes the sentiment of language used in news media. Users will be able to create filters and explore visual summaries of how different media outlets cover specific actors or issues of interest, which could reveal instances of media bias.

NewsHub (2013-14)

A team of graduate students and recent graduates of the Columbia School of Journalism and the School of Engineering and Applied Science will create a system for tracking censorship in authoritarian regimes post-publication (i.e. when a story is revised or deleted after publication).  The team will create real-time assessments and monthly reports of journalistic improprieties around the globe.

Storytelling with Augmented Reality (STAR) (2013-14)

A project proposed by Hao Su, Matt Yu, Roland Angst and Peter Vajda, STAR will experiment with using augmented reality software on mobile devices in combination with location –and viewpoint-aware storytelling. The group hopes to foster more interactive and immersive storytelling by displaying a video stream of virtual content that overlaps with live images of the physical world as viewed on a mobile device.

Connecting the Dots: Building Dynamic Maps of News (2012-13)

Team Members: Dafna Shahaf and Seth Myers of Stanford. Faculty Advisor: Jure Leskovec.

The NIFTY site


Dispatch: A Mobile Publishing Protocol for Conflict Reporting (2012-13)

Team Members: Kanak Biscuitwala and William Bult of Stanford; Mathias Lecuyer and Madeline Ross of Columbia. Faculty Advisors: Prof. Augustin Chaintreau, Prof. Monica Lam, and Prof. Susan McGregor. Industry Partner: Chris Haseman (Tumblr).

Project Tumblr.

Personalized TV News (2012-13)

Team Members: David Chen, Andre Araujo, Sam Tsai, Maryam Daneshi, Huizhong Chen, and Peter Vajda of Stanford; Brendan Jou, Hongzhi Li, and Joe Ellis of Columbia. Faculty Advisors: Bernd Girod and Shih-Fu Chang.

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