Pushing media into new spaces.

Knight Lab Studio is an interdisciplinary class where Northwestern students, faculty, and professional staff work together at the intersection of storytelling, design, and technology: all media and platforms are fair game. As we work on these problems, we produce cutting-edge digital work, research, and thought — innovating across every part of the media-making process.

Our process combines user and audience research, design thinking, critical and analytical work, iterative building, storytelling, new technology, and a healthy dose of experimentation--often within the confines of a single, specific problem.

Applications for the Spring 2018 Studio class are closed. We can let you know when we announce the next round of projects!

Zach Wise
The Podcast Discoverability group present their findings to the rest of the studio class.
Emily Withrow
Members of our "Navigable VR" project group practice using the GoPro Omni VR camera.

About Studio

Join us to build new tools and tell new stories.

Applications for Spring 2018 are closed.

Each quarter, we pull together multidisciplinary teams of Northwestern students, faculty, and professionals to collaborate on projects we believe are important for the future of media. That could mean everything from making obscure data more available to journalists to solving questions around how to best navigate space in virtual reality. The Lab places students at the center of these important problems for 10 weeks. We work together to identify problems and to find solutions.

The class is a team-based, cooperative lab experience for students who want to create and explore new tools, stories, story forms, and physical devices.

Our most successful students are driven and motivated; they possess the curiosity and determination to drive and sustain a project from start to finish. They are comfortable with ambiguity, and have a strong desire to identify lines of questioning and paths to find the answers. We expect students to spend at least six hours a week on the project outside of class, preferably with your team, preferably in the Knight Lab space. Synthesizing the work you do and communicating it clearly to your teammates and to the instructional team will be crucial; you should expect to spend a portion of each week doing this.

The class is cross-listed as JOUR 342/442, GEN_ENG 395 and EECS 397/497. For Fall 2018, it meets Tuesday and Thursday 2:30-4:20pm. Applications were due by May 17th at midnight.

Frequently asked questions

  • When are Applications Due?

    Applications are due by midnight on May. 17th.
  • When will I know if I got in?

    We are hoping to let students know by May. 20th.
  • When is the class held?

    Tues/Thurs, 2:30-4:20pm.
  • What does this count for?

    You can take this course for JOUR 342/442, GEN_ENG 395 or EECS 397/497 credit.
  • I’m not sure I’m technical enough.

    Some, but not all, of our projects require technical know-how. And all of our projects have important non-technical roles.
  • I applied last time but didn’t get in.

    Ugh, that sucks. But we’d love for you to try again! We admire tenacity, and a new round of projects requires a new round of people.
  • How long is your application?

    It’s low-key and takes about 8 minutes to fill out.

Project Results

Prototypes, research, guides and presentations from projects that have run in the Knight Lab Studio.

  • How to translate live-spoken human words into computer "truth"

    Our Knight Lab team spent three months in Winter 2018 exploring how to combine various technologies to capture, interpret, and fact check live broadcasts from television news stations, using Amazon’s Alexa personal assistant device as a low-friction way to initiate the process. The ultimate goal was to build an Alexa skill that could be its own form of live, automated fact-checking: cross-referencing a statement from a politician or otherwise newsworthy figure against previously fact-checked statements...

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  • Bringing Historical Data to Census Reporter

    A Visualization and Research Review

    An Introduction Since Census Reporter’s launch in 2014, one of our most requested features has been the option to see historic census data. Journalists of all backgrounds have asked for a simplified way to get the long-term values they need from Census Reporter, whether it’s through our data section or directly from individual profile pages. Over the past few months I’ve been working to make that a reality. With invaluable feedback from many of you,...

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  • Guide to shooting 360° video

    Before embarking on any 360° video project, we strongly encourage you to ask why. It is true that a spherical video can transport and immerse viewers in a way that is hard to replicate with traditional film, but which shouldn’t be used for the sake of creating 360° video. We encourage content creators to ask themselves the following questions before deciding to shoot in 360: Are we transporting the viewer to a place they cannot...

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  • Stitching 360° Video

    For the time-being, footage filmed on most 360° cameras cannot be directly edited and uploaded for viewing immediately after capture. Different cameras have different methods of outputting footage, but usually each camera lens corresponds to a separate video file. These video files must be combined using “video stitching” software on a computer or phone before the video becomes one connected, viewable video. Garmin and other companies have recently demonstrated interest in creating cameras that stitch...

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Projects

Projects that have run in the Knight Lab Studio.

Upcoming Projects

Knight Lab Studio projects running in Fall 2018.

Resurrecting History for VR

Automated Photogrammetry. As AR and VR increasingly becomes the focus as we move away from smartphones, media organizations will have to find ways to produce content native to those mediums. These same organizations have a wealth of stories that continue to have value over time. Flat video and photo will become less desirable as we continue to move into these new spaces. Previous projects in the lab have surfaced an opportunity to take existing video and process it using photogrammetry software to produce a 3D model.

Creative Co-Author

Creative Co-author is a creative writing enhancement tool that focuses primarily on pounding out the first draft. It is type-ahead cranked up to eleven. It types ahead, lurks behind, and generally peers over your shoulder while you pound out words in a speed-draft writing reverie.

This second iteration of the co-author will build on the research done in the first iteration and focus on moving from concepts developed in that research to a working interactive anti-writer’s-block tool. In particular, we will improve work recommendations by considering context, look into UX improvements to enhance author flow, and will move to sentence-level generation for richer creative inspiration.

Location-based Storytelling with Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality allows creators to tell stories in the places where they actually happened. For the purpose of this project, we’ll be working with the concept of physical accessibility on campus. We will use the Unity game engine and a framework developed at Knight Lab so that we can quickly experiment and refine our ideas. We’ll spend some time early in the quarter looking at AR experiences from museums and tourist attractions as well as games like Ingress and Pokemon Go. From there, we’ll build an app and start testing it with users, refining ideas as we go along. We’ll consider the differences between gamified apps that include scavenger hunts or challenges and AR applications that lay out information in a more traditional way.

Oscillations: Immersive Virtual Experiences in the Performing Arts

Based on the outcomes of Oscillations project in Winter and Spring quarters, this project will continue exploring using the latest VR production techniques to create engaging VR experiences. Students will record performances using motion capture and use machine learning to teach a computer to improvise a performance.

Sidebar: Context without Clutter

Publishing a story requires a constant balancing act: you have to get to your point, but you don’t always know whether your audience is fully up-to-speed on the content. Or maybe in your research you found some really fascinating information, but you have to admit it’s kind of a distraction from your main point. The web was developed on the promise of linking between documents, but too often a simple link fails -- it doesn’t give the reader much sense of what sort of information is at the end of the link, and it runs the risk of sending your audience off down a rabbit hole, never to return to your work.

Story for You: Writing stories for people who don’t want to read them

Studies have shown that people on opposing sides of political issues use fundamentally different language to discuss their views. One of the effects of this is that people living in News Filter Bubbles can immediately notice and then discard stories that use the terms associated with their opposition.

Watch Me Work: Search driven by your own writing

As we work, we often need information to support our thinking. This often requires turning away from the work, pulling up an engine and then typing in a query. If you are writing, however, the queries that we need are already embedded in the text of the document we are authoring.

Design Research

Inspiration and Ideation

Audience Engagement and Onboarding with Hearken

Students are working closely with the team at Hearken, and are gaining valuable insights into how important audience engagement is to our media landscape.

Civic Engagement with City Bureau

As local news organizations shrink, many civic advocates fear that no one will be monitoring the day-to-day processes that make city governments run. As part of their innovative approach to closing news gaps and promoting civic engagement, Chicago’s City Bureau has developed their “Documenters” program to train citizens to observe and record public meetings. As they develop this team of citizen journalists, they are now considering the complementary question: what is the most effective way to make the work they produce available and useful to Chicagoans?

For this project, the Northwestern student team will conduct design research and prototyping to explore solutions. Students will be expected to be in close contact with City Bureau’s team, with current documenters, and with engaged citizens who want to stay informed about what’s happening at the heart of these civic processes. Students should be prepared to go out into Chicago to meet with these people face to face for interviews, observations, and prototype testing.

ProPublica Illinois

Students will design, develop, prototype and test one tool for community engagement, with a likely focus on the listening and information gathering stage.

Writing and Designing for Chatbots

Students will examine conversational user interfaces—that’s to say, using chat as a medium to interact with a bot.

Mixed Reality

Virtual, Augmented... It's all Reality

Augmented Reality Visualization Tool

Based on the outcomes of our a Exploring AR Visualizations project in the Winter, this project will take the unique forms of visualizations discovered and develop a tool that makes it easy for storytellers to build and embed augmented reality visualizations in their stories and projects.

Exploring Data Visualization in VR

An experimental design project, in which we students are analyzing methods for communicating data visually and exploring how those principles might be transferred and transformed in a 360 environment.

Oscillations: Immersive Virtual Experiences in the Performing Arts

Recent breakthroughs in neuroscience and immersive technologies provide mechanisms for engineering an entirely new mode of performance art — one that engages audiences to unprecedented degrees.

Photojournalism in 3D for VR and Beyond

In this project, students will use modern approaches to making 3D images both with hardware and software processing.

Product

Our most solution-oriented projects.

Creative Co-Author

Creative Co-author is a creative writing enhancement tool that focuses primarily on pounding out the first draft. It is type-ahead cranked up to eleven. It types ahead, lurks behind, and generally peers over your shoulder while you pound out words in a speed-draft writing reverie.

Factchecking Flow

While Artificial Intelligence is all the buzz, there are a lot of opportunities for technology that augments human intelligence instead of replacing it. An important but time-consuming part of editorial review is verifying all facts in a story. Is there a way we can augment the capabilities of writers and editors to make this work faster and better? Building upon promising results in the Winter edition of the studio class, we will continue developing a system which makes humans more effective in this phase of publishing a story. This project will be a combination of theory and practice: the focus will be on developing a functional system that is as ready for release as possible, but we will keep our eyes out for "stretch" opportunities and invest some time exploring how they might take shape.

Story for You: Writing stories for people who don’t want to read them

Studies have shown that people on opposing sides of political issues use fundamentally different language to discuss their views. One of the effects of this is that people living in News Filter Bubbles can immediately notice and then discard stories that use the terms associated with their opposition.

Storyline: Charts that tell stories.

One of the most common problems we see in data storytelling is how and when to introduce an editorial layer onto a visualization. Mobile devices afford us very little real estate to work with, and interactivity must be limited. But without a “story” layer, users are left without the context to understand what events might impact or inform a trend. They see something going up or down but don’t see why. “Storyline” will be a tool for creating stories around line graphs.

Sensors

Using sensors to collect information about our environment.

Environmental Reporting with Sensors II

Sensor journalism uses sensors to collect information about our environment. It opens new possibilities for journalists enabling them to collect and process data that might not be available or at a level of detail not previously available.

Environmental Reporting with Sensors

Sensor journalism uses sensors to collect information about our environment. It opens new possibilities for journalists enabling them to collect and process data that might not be available or at a level of detail not previously available.

SensorGrid API and Dashboard

SensorGrid is Knight Lab's experimental prototype environmental sensor wireless network system. This project will focus on the design and development of the web API and user dashboard for SensorGrid data management and presentation.