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Knight Lab starts school year with new innovations

The start of a new school year brings new innovations for the Northwestern University Knight Lab.

The Knight Lab, a joint initiative between Medill and the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, has launched six web applications in the nearly three years since its founding. The lab aims to develop software that is relevant and useful for people in the media world.

This fall, the team of engineers and journalists are creating some of their most innovative projects yet. Some of these projects are already underway:

  • Story Map provides a narrative thread for map-based stories, like TimelineJS with geography.
  • Untangled, inspired by the needs of Medill Watchdog, is designed to help journalists capture, analyze, understand and visualize the relationships among people, businesses and organizations.
  • Slimformation helps users better manage their online intake with an “information diet.”

The Knight Lab’s completed projects have already made a mark in the media world. TimelineJS, which uses Google spreadsheets to create a simple yet interactive storytelling format, has been featured on the websites of Al Jazeera America and Le Monde. More than 170,000 timelines have been created with the platform since its launch in early 2012, and altogether the timelines have generated more than 10 million views.

The Knight Lab, which is fueled by fresh ideas and skilled programmers, is offering involvement opportunities for Northwestern students. An open house will take place on Oct. 1 from 4-7 p.m. in Fisk 109. Additionally, brown bag lunches are being offered on Thursdays, from noon to 2 p.m., as an informal way to foster the exchange of ideas.

“In addition to the goal of producing software, we consider ourselves to be active participants in the media community,” said Rich Gordon, professor and director of digital innovation at Medill. “We are in the business of preparing the next generation of tech literate journalists and journalism-literate techies and technologists. A big part of what we do here is to have student experiences that bridge these two worlds together.”

Opportunities for students are available in the writing, social media, research or design aspects of the Knight Lab. Undergraduate fellows from the Knight Lab have received the AP-Google scholarship, developed their ideas into functional tools and gone on to work on the graphics teams of top market publications.

“There are now, all over the world, journalists and innovators who are creating new things that help people become better informed,” Gordon said.