Oct 23. Art++ Magic Grant featured in the New York Times

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Colleen Stockmann and Jean-Baptiste Boin are featured in a lovely piece in the New York Times on the digital revolution's touch on museums.  Colleen describes their Magic Grant project Art++ as giving “you more points of access into an artwork, so that it keeps you in the moment of looking, almost as if someone is guiding you through the painting or sculpture.” Congratulations Colleen and Jean-Baptiste!

In addition, the article interviews R. Luke DuBois, a partner with the Brown Institute and NewsCorp on a grant to develop a new programming language for journalists. 

Oct 22. Stanford Magic Grant Team Earns City Recognition

The Magic Grant team Crowdsourced Democracy Team at Stanford was recognized on Oct. 15 by the City of Vallejo, Calif., for a digital voting system and their work on crowd sourced democracy.

The team – which includes the Widescope and Synapp projects – and which is lead by Professor Ashish Goel, received an official proclamation for the team’s work from the City of Vallejo.

Proclamations were presented to the team by Councilmembers Dew Costa and Miessner for the Cycle 2 vote, held September 27 through October 6, 2014.

The work is a continuation from the digital voting system implementation in the 49th Ward in Chicago earlier this year. 

The City of Vallejo partnered with the Crowdsourced Democracy Team to provide a convenient and secure digital voting platform, as an alternative to traditional paper ballots. The digital platform was used at several satellite locations. Nearly a quarter of the 3,744 residents who voted in Vallejo cast their ballot using the digital platform. On Sept. 10, an electronic sample ballot was posted on the Participatory Budgeting website to acclimate voters with the digital interface and encourage electronic voting.

“Our mission is to scale up collaboration and decision making,” Professor Goel said.  “The Participatory Budgeting process in Vallejo is a glowing example of democracy at its best, and we feel privileged to help in a small way.”

Benefits of the digital platform include automatic tabulation of votes and automatic randomization of the order of projects for each voter. Voters also had the option of comparing projects based on their perception of the community benefit the project would provide.

“This was an important step towards getting widespread distribution for our tools. We also got valuable data which we are now analyzing and can hopefully present at the next Brown meeting,“ Prof. Goel said.

Anilesh Krishnaswamy and Sukolsak Sakshuwong contributed coding the interface and the algorithms. David Lee and Pranav Dandekar also contributed to the project. “Tanja Aitamurto was absolutely instrumental in developing this partnership, and of course the Brown Institute for providing both funding and an eco-system for this research,” Prof. Goel said.

Oct 14. Magic Grants take top prizes at NYC Media Lab Summit


One hundred students and faculty from nearly a dozen NYC area universities participated in a demo session during the NYC Media Lab Annual Summit hosted at The New School in mid-September. A panel of judges, consisting of NYC Media Lab board members and corporate member advisors, recognized the most promising demos from the day. Three winners were selected, each reciving a $1,750 cash prize. Of the three, two were Brown Magic Grantees! Congratulations to CityBeat (a 2013-2014 Magic Grant) for its first prize, and to NewsRover (a 2012-2013 Magic Grant) for its second prize! Read all about the event here.

Oct 10. Brown Media Innovation Base Camp - Call for Applications

The Brown Institute for Media Innovation at the School of Engineering at Stanford University and the Graduate School for Journalism at Columbia University invites you to apply for the inaugural Media Innovation Base Camp on January 16-18, 2015 at Stanford University. The Base Camp is a great starting point for students who plan to apply for a 2015/16 Brown Magic Grant in March-April 2015.

At Base Camp, you will work in interdisciplinary, bicoastal teams to develop new ideas and plans for exploratory one-year “Magic Grant” projects with the potential to bring true innovation in the media world. The typical Magic Grant project demonstrates the viability of the underlying ideas by implementing a prototype and/or creating an innovative media product. Brown Fellows, industry experts, and faculty will be at hand to provide feedback, guidance, and support.

After two days of teamwork, ad hoc research, and brainstorming, punctuated by faculty lightning talks, all teams will pitch their proposals to each other and to a panel of judges.


A winning team will be selected by a panel of faculty and industry experts and receive a seed grant of up to $15,000 to develop a full Brown Institute Magic Grant proposal. Successful Magic Grant proposals can be awarded up to $300,000 in 2015/16, with potentially larger follow-on funding, if the project is selected as a flagship project. The panel may pick more than one winner; winners automatically advance to the Magic Grant finalist round. Teams with promising proposals will receive an “Honorable Mention,” and will be encouraged to submit a Magic Grant proposal via the normal 2-stage review process. 

Applications & Deadline

Up to 10 Stanford students and up to 10 Columbia students will be accepted to Base Camp. The Columbia 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 are inviting applications from graduate and postgraduate students. You don’t need to have a fleshed-out idea about a media innovation to apply -- the Base Camp will give you space to develop ideas. The application should include the following items:

A resume and your latest academic transcript

A short description (maximum 200 words) of your vision for the future of media. How will technology transform media? How might business models for media evolve? How do you think production and consumption of media will change?

A short description (maximum 200 words) of an idea or area of media innovation that intrigues you and that you would like to develop further at Base Camp.

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

If you are a student at Stanford, please submit your application or address questions to Tanja Aitamurto at Stanford applications are due by 9pm PST November 20th.

If you are a student at Columbia, please submit your application or address questions to Michael Krisch at Columbia applications are due by November 7th.

Oct 10. The Brown Institute Concert Series


We are pleased to announce that the Brown Institute at Columbia will host a monthly concert series, a moment of rest during an otherwise busy semester. We will have live musicians, and of course there will be light refreshments and plenty of socializing before and after the performances. The goal is to mix music with data, code and journalism. What could be finer?

For the first installment of the Brown Institute Concert Series, we'll explore the inherent connection between music and mathematics.

Music has the power to communicate to the deepest, most primitive, subconscious part of our brain, and yet it is nothing but audible patterns and ratios. In J.S. Bach’s lifetime, musicians were seen as scientists, not artists. And even today, many of our greatest composers use sophisticated mathematics and acoustics to create moving works of art. Composer/architect Iannis Xenakis used graphs and formulae to imagine sounds that had never been heard before. Georg Friedrich Haas uses precise ratios from the science of acoustics to create otherworldly soundscapes.

For our first concert on Friday, November 14 at 6pm, we’ll present works by these two legendary composers alongside music by younger and equally scientifically-minded composers, Oscar Bianchi and Christopher Burns, performed by the stellar violinist Miranda Cuckson (“an artist to be reckoned with” - Gramophone) and cellist Paul Dwyer.

These concerts will be monthly affairs. For our December concert, titled “Resistance,” politically-charged field recordings will be woven into music. We’ll hear a work called Resistance by Aaron Einbond, using recordings from the Occupy Wall Street protests and Come Out by Steve Reich using recorded testimony of a participant in the Harlem Riot of 1964.

Oct 04. Computation+Journalism Symposium Schedule Announced

The 3rd Computation+Journalism meeting had 45 submissions, from which we culled a number of invited talks, demos and papers. Additionally, we've curated several panels and a keynote speaker. The full schedule is listed here. Registration is now open, and the event is free for students. We hope to see you October 24 and 25!

Oct 03. David Cohn to speak on Object-Orientated Journalism

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Join us for Brown^2 Bag Lunch Speaker Series at Stanford

Object-Oriented Journalism: Case Circa

by David Cohn, Founding Editor & Chief Content Officer, Circa

Friday, November 7th, 2014, 12pm (noon), Y2E2 101, Stanford University

Object-oriented journalism atomizes the content into pieces, which can be re-used and circulated in several contexts. David Cohn tells how Circa, one of the best-known journalism start-ups, applies object-oriented journalism in practice. With offices in San Francisco and New York, the company has raised $4 million in funding from some of the top investors.

Prior to Circa, David Cohn founded a pioneering platform, Spot.Us, for crowdfunding journalism, which was later merged with the American Public Media’s Public Insight Network. Cohn was also involved in an early crowdsourcing initiatives like the Assignment Zero, NewAssignment and OffTheBus with the Huffington Post. He is an adviser at the SXSW Accelerator Competition, MatterVC, NewsTrust.Net (TruthSquad) and Global Editor’s Network. In 2010, Cohn was named one of the “Ten Under 30” by Folio magazine and in 2013 Columbia’s Journalism School gave him the Alumni Innovation Award.

Please RSVP by 11/2/2014 using this link. If you have questions, please contact the Stanford Program Manager Kelly Yilmaz at the Brown Institute. Lunch will be provided. 

Oct 02. Drag and Facebook's Identity Problem


Brown Institute Magic Grantee Jessa Lingel co-authored a piece for The Atlantic on Facebook's recent public apology. According to their article

After aggressively suspending the accounts of dozens of drag performers, in some cases demanding they submit legal ID to keep their profiles alive, yesterday Facebook apologized to the drag queens and the broader queer community supporting them. Their policy of requiring only “real names” in users’ profiles will now allow whatever “authentic name they use in real life.”

Adam Golub and Jessa based their Magic Grant, Bushwig, on the inadequacy of social networks like Facebook to deal with the issue of identity. Bushwig began with the idea that it's not only drag queens that deal with complex notions of identity. As Jessa points out in her Atlantic article,  

But maintaining multiple identities online is not just for drag queens. We all perform versions of ourselves. When we use two different platforms, reserving one for our professional life and another for our side interest, we’re separating two sides of ourselves using the tools available to us. When we complain about our parents commenting on our Facebook posts aimed at our friends, we’re wishing we could maintain different public faces on a platform that prefers to push them together.

The Bushwig Magic Grant has produced a Drag Arts Archive and is planning a public installation that deals with notions of identity through drag culture.

Sep 29. Sherlock Holmes and the Internet of Things

This weekend the Brown Institute hosted Sherlock Holmes and the Internet of Things, an experiment, led by the Digital Storytelling Lab at Columbia, in new forms and functions of storytelling. Roughly 25 storytellers, game developers, makers, creative technologists, experience designers and journalists participated in a special one day story lab. An experiment in co-authorship – Sherlock Holmes and the Internet of Things invited 25 participants to step into a collaborative design space. Together participants prepared the groundwork for a storyworld that will play out globally through a series of connected objects that become conduits for a re-imaging of Sherlock Holmes. Recently entered into the public domain, Sherlock Homes will provide the foundation for an exploration into new forms and functions of storytelling. 
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Sep 26. Gaia Global Circus concludes Latour Week


On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evening, Compagnie AccenT and Soif Compagnie presented Gaia Global Circus at The Kitchen in Chelsea, followed by Q&A sessions with the troupe and Prof. Latour.

On Friday, following the presentations, New York Times contributor Laura Collins-Hughes reviewed the show, which can be read at Through Gaia Global Circus, Latour addresses one of "the great questions of ecology: our failure to feel much of anything in the face of the climate crisis," writes Collins-Hughes. The play, "calls to mind in a visceral way why we need to keep this home of ours healthy." 

Exeunt also reviewed the play saying Gaïa Global Circus sets the bar high for future endeavors into the growing  'climate theater' niche."

More details and a summary of Latour's week-long visit can be found at

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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