Sep 16. Base Camp is back! Now for the Fall Session!


What is Base Camp?

The Brown Institute for Media Innovation at the School of Engineering at Stanford University and the Graduate School for Journalism at Columbia University invite you to apply for the second annual Media Innovation Base Camp on November 6-8, 2015 at Columbia University in New York. The Base Camp is a great starting point for students who want to explore the interplay between story and technology, creating new ways to delight and inform.

Our goal with Base Camp is to help students at each university develop new ideas that might lead to a one-year “Magic Grant” project -- You can read about the Magic Grant program here. At Base Camp you will work in interdisciplinary teams, with members from Stanford and Columbia. Brown Institute Fellows, industry experts, and faculty will be on hand to provide feedback, guidance, and support. You don’t need to have a fleshed-out idea -- the Base Camp is designed to give you space to develop your ideas, collaboratively.

Applications & Deadline

Up to 15 Stanford students and up to 15 Columbia students will be accepted to Base Camp. (Stanford students’ travel expenses will be covered by the Brown Institute.) At Stanford, applications are open to all student levels -- undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral. At Columbia, we invite applications from graduate and postgraduate students. The application should include the following items:

1. A resume and, if you are currently a student, your latest academic transcript

2. A short description (maximum 300 words) of your vision for the future of media. How will technology transform the kinds of stories we tell, or how will telling new stories lead to new technologies? How might business models for media evolve? How do you think production and consumption of media will change?

3. A short description (maximum 300 words) of an idea or area of media innovation or a story that intrigues you and that you would like to develop further at Base Camp.

4. A short explanation about why you should be invited to attend the Media Innovation Base Camp.

If you are at Stanford, please address questions to Tanja Aitamurto at and if you are a student at Columbia, please address questions to Michael Krisch at

Submit your application to Applications are due by 9 PM (local time) on October 17, 2015.

Sep 15. Telling stories with maps


The world has always been a connected system, and it's only becoming more so. As a form of journalism, maps contextualize the world by visually linking events to each other and to their geographic surroundings. If your story prompts questions like "What caused this to happen where it did?" or "Does this happen the same way in other places?", a map can probably help illuminate things for your readers. Once the exclusive domain of specialized practitioners, new tools make it easier and easier to analyze spatial data and publish maps online. This series represents a kind of crash course in dealing with geographic data, designing elegant maps, and interpreting spatial data. 

Join Laura Kurgan of the Spatial Information Design Lab at Columbia on Friday September 25 at 5pm in the Brown Institute space for a lecture on cirtical thinking about maps. On September 26 from 10a-5p, Derek Watkins will lead a hands-on workshop about journalistic uses of maps (this event required registration, which has now closed). It should be a great two days!

Sep 14. First All Hands Meeting of 2015-16 Season


On September 11 and 12, both halves of the Brown Institute came together for the first "All Hands" meeting of its 2015-16 granting period. The event started with a wrap up of projects that were funded in beginning in 2014. These included a novel meta-tagging tool for images called VisualGenome, a 3d immersive video on Iranian artists titled Reframe Iran, and a tool called SearchLight to help journalists spot differences in the behavior of online services like search engines and ad servers. It was gratifying to see how far these projects had come in a year, producing prototype platforms, academic papers and rich pieces of journalism. 

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In the second half of the day, the incoming grantees and fellows worked through a project mapping exercise designed in partnership with the Magnum Foundation. Emma Raynes and Kate Fowler did an excellent job walking us through a methodical process to create a "map" of what the groups need to do over the year. Each project map included the team's goals, their collaborators, their "assets," and some notion of what success would look like. The teams were assisted by a group of facilitators, professionals with experience in their project area. The facilitators came from MoMA, The Met, The New York Times, The New Yorker, Microsoft Research, The Marshall Project, NYU and Betaworks. Quite a group!


We are grateful to everyone who helped make our meeting a success! Check back with us periodicallly to see how the projects are going! You can find a complete list of the new grantees and fellows here.

Aug 21. Brown & Magnum Partner -- 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!

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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