This year, our winners reach across and between our two campuses, and then out into the world. Read about the winners.
Call for 2016-2017 Magic Grants
Deadline: March 7, 2016
The Brown Institute is accepting proposals for 2016-17 Magic Grants. Learn more
Second Base Camp
The second basecamp of this academic year will be held at Stanford January 15-17.
2015-16 Magic Grants Awarded!
Competition was stiff this year, and we had to make some hard choices. The winners this year range from experiments with interfaces for personal drones to the coming of the internet in Cuba. Read about all the awards!
Lisa Riordan Seville and Zara Katz, fellows of our Photography Expanded program, and photographer Zora J. Murff are exhibiting an installation of photography, video and, yes, data visualization, at the Photoville festival in Brooklyn Bridge Park. "Women on the Outside" accompanies Kristal Bush as she drives from Philadelphia to the state prisons in Smithfield and Huntingdon. Kristal knows these routes well - she runs a van service that takes families and friends to visit their loved ones in prison. "Women on the Outside" is about one trip in Kristal's van and the relationships between the women who rode with her. The Village Voice wrote that the exhibition "conveys the bonds, and moments of joy, that take shape amid this new kind of family." The installation was also mentioned in The New York Times's coverage of Photoville.
The Brown Institute partnered with the Magnum Foundation to support Riordan and Katz with this project. Our own Michael Krisch contributed some powerful data depictions of the Pennsylvania prison system, putting Kristal's ride into context. Photoville closes Sunday, September 25. See it if you can.
The Brown Institute began it's 2016-2017 Transparency Series with a day-long workshop on opinion polls. Harry Enten and Neil Paine from FiveThirtyEight introduced 25 students to the complexities of modern polling. Many organizations conduct polls. But they can provide different, often conflicting impressions of public opinion. Enten, a political writer, and Paine, a sports reporter and data journalist, introduced students to the broad strategies and technical tools for making sense of poll results. Part art, part science, their approach rarely considers a single poll in isolation, but is instead informed by deep knowledge of the polling organizations, historical precedents for specific relationships between polls, and computational methods combining poll numbers.
Enten has an impressive portfolio of stories and shared his experiences with students. This was not a dry, technical exercise. Enten's work is computational, but he is a first rate journalist. He cautioned students not to dive into a data set without a basic question to answer. We followed his process with exercises using the Roper Center's extensive archive of polling questions. This incredible resource provides a detailed view of the public's opinion over decades. Enten shared his other "go to" data sources and data analysis strategies, using some of his reported stories as examples. Paine introduced R, an increasingly common tool among data journalists. (In the first Transparency Series session of 2015-2016, Amanda Cox of the New York Times demonstrated her use of R for creating visualizations.) Through a handful of basic constructions, we learned how to implement Enten's strategies, and, in the process, experienced simple programming as a powerful tool for finding stories in data.
We can't thank Enten and Paine enough for sharing their weekend with us. It was an incredible glimpse into an extremely timely topic.
The Brown Institute was delighted to host a portion of the New York Media Lab Summit 2016. The day-long event featured talks, demonstrations and workshops, and was billed as a platform for the best "talent in digital media from universities in NYC and beyond." Brown organized a session on The New York Times's coverage of the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Joe Ward, Sports Graphics Editor for the outlet, and Rodrigo De Benito Sanz, a Graphics and Multimedia Editor, spoke to a standing room only crowd of over 100. They explained the special role that Sports plays as a testing ground for new ways to tell stories. Ward and Sanz gave us a rare view into their creative process, talking us through custom backend publishing systems to unique consumer-facing experiences. And of course, they walked us through their impressive visuals and interactives - it was hard not to appreciate the artistry, visual sophistication and attention to detail. Given the complexity of the Times's coverage, it's perhaps not surprising that Ward and Sanz have started preparing for the next Olympic games in PyeongChang, South Korea. They're only 16 months away!
Every year, Brown seek new ways to connect research with leading media innovators, and we are happy to announce that we named DJ Spooky, aka That Subliminal Kid, Paul D. Miller, as the Brown Distinguished Media Innovator for 2017. DJ Spooky's work ranges from creating the first DJ app to producing an impactful DVD anthology about the "Pioneers of African American Cinema". According to a New York Times review, "there has never been a more significant video release than Pioneers of African-American Cinema." The prolific innovator and artist also created 13 music albums and is about to release a fourteenth. Called "Phantom Dancehall", it is an intense mix of hip hop, Jamaican ska and dancehall culture. Paul D. Miller will engage in Brown-related collaborations all year, and his residency will culminate in a week-long series of lectures, workshops and performances at Stanford University starting April 10, 2017.
DJ Spooky's lectures are part of the new Brown Institute Lecture series at Stanford, which we launch with Internet pioneer and founder of archive.org Brewster Kahle on October 11, 2016.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.