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 Fall 2021 Studio class are closed. We can let you know when we announce the next round of projects!
Build new tools and tell new stories.
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 times. 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 and EECS 397/497. For Fall, it meets Tues/Thurs, 2:00-3:50pm.
Applications for Fall 2021 are closed.
Frequently asked questions
When are Applications Due?Applications are due by August 18th at 9AM.
When will I know if I got in?Students will know if they are accepted before Northwestern registration opens. Typically we contact students 1-2 days after the deadline (August 18th at 9AM).
When is the class held?Tues/Thurs, 2:00-3:50pm
What does this count for?You can take this course for JOUR 342 and 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.
How do I apply?The link to the application is on each project page. Below is a link to the application, just make sure you read the project descriptions first.
Apply to a Project
Prototypes, research, guides and presentations from projects that have run in the Knight Lab Studio.
Building AR Journalism Experiences to Educate and Inform
In Spring of 2020, one of the Knight Lab Studio teams focused on exploring how Augmented Reality can be used to create experiences and tools...
Exploring and Understanding the Storytelling Potential of GIFs How GIFs are used across different platforms
From memes to animated data visualizations, GIFs have become a staple in the way we communicate digitally to express ideas, feelings, and concepts. GIFs are...
Designing Information Spaces for Augmented Reality
In the winter quarter of 2019, our team explored how Augmented Reality can benefit different types of journalism. Over the course of the class, we built...
Transforming Stereographs into Point Clouds
Virtual and augmented reality, though often used for gaming purposes, may be turned to a more academic or journalistic purpose. Throughout the fall, we explored...
The Hammer Without A Nail Oscillations is a New Art Form Making Meaningful Impact
Imagine a classroom of elementary-aged students. They appear to be sitting cross-legged on the floor or walking around the room, but in reality, they’re dancing....
Context Without Clutter
Unlike literature, articles are scarcely allowed to fully flesh out the worlds that they exist in. Brevity and intentionality are often required to keep audiences...
Prototyping Spatial Audio for Movement Art
One of Oscillations’ technical goals for this quarter’s Knight Lab Studio class was an exploration of spatial audio. Spatial audio is sound that exists in...
Comparing Motion Capture Techniques for Movement Art
With Oscillations’ connection to the movement arts, it made sense to experiment with existing motion capture technology to find accurate, consistent, and scalable ways to...
Oscillations Audience Engagement Research Findings
During the Winter 2018 quarter, the Oscillations Knight Lab team was tasked in exploring the question: what constitutes an engaging live movement arts performance for...
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...
Projects that have run in the Knight Lab Studio.
Artificial intelligence (AI) drives innovation at news organizations around the world. Journalists use algorithms to find patterns in data to inform investigations and identify breaking news. Automation enables more efficient news production. AI helps drive subscriptions and personalize news for consumers. Yet AI advantages are largely limited to larger, national and international media. Many small, locally focused newsrooms lack the resources and skills to understand the potential of AI and are afraid to commit to experiments without a clear payoff.
The Knight Foundation has funded an initiative to help local news organizations expand their use of AI, harnessing it for long-term sustainability. As part of this effort, The Associated Press and the Knight Lab are developing a scorecard for AI newsroom readiness. The benchmark will help news organizations determine whether they are ready to implement AI systems.
In this Knight Lab Studio project, students will work with AP’s technology leaders and Knight Lab to develop a framework for testing and assessing a newsroom's AI readiness. This includes researching best practices, interviewing those news outlets already using AI, and those who wish to. It also includes evaluating and recommending effective product designs for the scorecard to maximize its usage and performance.
Coding skills are not required to participate in this project.
For all the good we’ve achieved, the web has evolved into an engine of inequity and division; swayed by powerful forces who use it for their own agendas. — Internet pioneer Tim Berners-Lee
What do Bitcoin, security and journalism have in common? Not much at the moment, but as Web3 and smart contracts on blockchains are starting to take off and decentralize power in finance, their application in other industries and governments is getting a lot of people excited.
Platforms like Twitch are growing audience at break-neck speed thanks in part to covid lockdowns. But we haven’t seen as much interest among most news organizations. When we do see legacy news organizations streaming to places like Twitch or YouTube live, they simply stream their broadcast instead of creating native content that allows user engagement. The form tends to be much more casual and success tends to come from interacting with the audience to a degree we rarely see from a news organization. For this project, a team of students will build on the results of the previous quarter in which students experimented and prototyped news live-streams and created guides and insights into streaming on Twitch. The goal for this project is to create workflows, tools and resources for journalists to leverage Twitch as a platform for journalism.
Over the past few years, we have seen increased attention to the problem of bias. AI systems built on a substrate of machine learning are increasingly being seen as biased. Automated information delivery systems (e.g., Facebook, twitter) are using algorithms that, by their nature, are biased in the type of news they recommend. And we now have an entire class of language models constructed using millions of documents that are demonstrably biased. One could argue that bias is impossible to avoid but this project is an attempt to do so.
Alexa, Siri, Google Home, Cortana—smart speakers and agents are now used by about 20% of US homes. People use them to ask about weather, set timers, play games, get information, or listen to the news. But are these devices delivering high-quality news and information or could they be misinforming and sharing “junk” news? This project aims to find out. By developing an audit method that defines what queries to audit and systematically collects data on the results over time for those queries from several different smart speakers, the project will allow for an assessment and comparison of news quality from these different devices.
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.
An experimental design project that explores visualizing data in three dimensions for augmented reality. Visualizations that can be examined and inspected by physically getting closer or understood by walking around them, open up exciting possibilities for how we communicate complex ideas and data that reveals hidden truths.
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.
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 project will build upon prototypes and research conducted in the Fall 2019 Studio class, but participation is open to any interested student. As the open-web continues to die, storytellers need tools that help them create sharable artifacts suitable for a variety of social networks and platforms. Brevity and portability are of the utmost importance. This project is concerned with designing a tool that allows novice storytellers to create simple 5 frame (5 images) GIFS that when combined with text for the post, are sharable on a variety of platforms and social networks. This iteration of the project will be focused on UX and UI design and building a sustainable application for the creation of visual stories saved in the GIF file format.
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.
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.
The average person today that has a smartphone, walks around leaking information about themselves over radio signals. WiFi, bluetooth and NFC radiate personal information into the public airwaves. These signals can tell you a lot about a person without their knowledge. To raise awareness around privacy and security for digital devices, this project will seek to create a “mirror” that reflects back information that is radiating out from anyone who stands in front of it. Frequencies include: RFID cell phones, WiFi, bluetooth, Misc RF at 900Mhz 2.4Ghz 5Ghz