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 Winter 2019 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.

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 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, COMM 395 and EECS 397/497. For Winter, it meets Tuesday and Thursday 2:30-4:20pm. Applications are due by Nov. 7th at midnight.

Applications for Winter 2019 are closed.


Frequently asked questions

  • When are Applications Due?

    Applications are due by midnight on Nov. 7th.
  • When will I know if I got in?

    We are hoping to let students know 1-2 days after the deadline (Nov. 7th).
  • 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, COMM 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 Winter 2019.

Auditing the News Evaluating 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.

Designing Information Spaces for Augmented Reality

Immersive technology allows creators to engage users in new and novel ways, many of which can make the interactions users have with information easier or more meaningful. This project will look at a four different storytelling formats that exist today (a cooking blog, a sports broadcast, a web interactive and a podcast) and reimagine them for augmented reality using tools like Torch for iOS and Magic Leap’s Create tool.

Iterative Story Design Play-Testing Augmented Reality

This project will build on the work of the Location Based Storytelling Studio group from Fall 18 which produced and ran an initial play-test for an AR game about climate change. During Winter 19, we will continue play-testing and refining the game while gathering feedback from players through surveys and interviews. Can playing a game really impact attitudes about climate change? Which is more impactful--a game designed for “fun” or a game that’s more transparent about its educational goals?

Juxtapose Improving a Storytelling Tool

Juxtapose helps storytellers compare two pieces of similar media, including photos, and GIFs. It’s ideal for highlighting then/now stories that explain slow changes over time (growth of a city skyline, regrowth of a forest, etc.) or before/after stories that show the impact of single dramatic events (natural disasters, protests, wars, etc.). This popular tool could be more useful to storytellers and web-makers if it had a couple of key features that have come up in user feedback. Auto aligning images and animated GIF social sharing are two features that would be of great improvements.

Personalize My Story Automatically Adapting News Article Text for Individual Users

Algorithmic news curation aggregators (e.g. Google News) are sometimes known to personalize the selection of stories shown to individuals. But far less is known about the potential for article-level personalization in which an article is automatically re-written to appeal to different types of users, perhaps even adapted to each individual. Could this be used to manipulate, persuade, inform, or engage people more effectively? The goal of this project is to prototype one or more templates for automated news articles that adapt to different types of people or individuals based on a given user model based on the types of information a news site might know (e.g. gender, age, race, location, interest-level, etc.). These templates will be used to produce personalizable news articles that are published to the web.

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

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.