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.

Now Accepting Applications for Spring 2019 Projects. Application deadline is Feb. 22nd at 9AM.

Zach Wise
The Podcast Discoverability group present their findings to the rest of the studio class.

Join Us

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 Podcast Discoverability group discuss design options.

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 and EECS 397/497. For Spring, it meets Tues/Thurs, 2:30-4:20pm. Applications are due by Feb. 22nd at 9AM.

Projects running in Spring 2019.

This quarter we're putting together multiple teams for each project.

Automated Fact Checking

There's more information than ever, and often, the audience is left wondering whether they should trust what they hear. What systems could we build that help people simply answer the question, "is that true?"

Fact FlowEfficiency for editing. Credibility and trust for publishing

Editorial fact-checking is a mess at best and readers don't see the benefits. Typically they doubt it happens or don't appreciate the work it takes to make it happen. On the editing side, almost everyone who does it uses an antiquated process derived from print production habits even though most writers and editors are drafting in Google Docs. This can be better. Let's make it better for both editorial and readers!

Music Magazine

Music fans today have trouble finding the stories they want to read. Following all your favorite artists on social media is overwhelming, and searching Google turns up page after page of irrelevant junk. We'll build a system that finds just what a fan wants to read.

Questions?

Reach out to professor Zach Wise. Want to stay in the loop? We can let you know when we announce the next round of projects!

Frequently asked questions

  • When are Applications Due?

    Applications are due by Feb. 22nd 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 (Feb. 22nd at 9AM).
  • 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 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.

Project Results

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

  • The End of Writer’s Block

    Whether you’re a New York Times Bestselling Author starting a new novel or a student working on a short story for class, writer’s block is a familiar feeling to everyone. As you begin writing, before you know it, you find yourself staring at a blank screen, searching in vain for inspiration. What if there was a tool that could help a writer not only find new ideas but ensure that those ideas were somehow related...

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  • Giving Audiences Agency Over Art Our Work with Oscillations Dance Studio

    What will art look like in a more technologically advanced world? Ubiquitous computing makes art more readily accessible to anyone–I can look at any a photo of any painting in history in mere seconds using google, and you need only walk outside to see that nearly everyone walks around with headphones playing music from all over the world. When art becomes accessible on a personal level, all people develop specific tastes for the pieces they...

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  • Bringing Depth to History

    From books to radios to television, humans have always searched for ways to communicate ideas and stories in the most vivid, realistic manner possible. AR and VR simply seems to be the next step in bringing our stories to life. 360 videos make it possible for audience members to see beyond the narrow lens of the video camera, and AR and VR modeling bring far-away places and objects straight to our mobile devices. The methods...

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Projects

Projects that have run in the Knight Lab Studio.

Design Research

Inspiration and Ideation

Auditing the NewsEvaluating News Quality on Smart Speakers

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.

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.

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.

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.

Story for YouWriting 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

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.

Privacy Mirror

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

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.