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Aug. 4, 2015, 9 a.m.
Mobile & Apps

Sunlight Foundation, Melody Kramer, and 20 other media/tech projects get Knight Prototype Funds

The ideas include Melody Kramer’s Media Public project, which would reimagine routes to public media membership and community engagement.

Knight Foundation is giving 22 media and technology projects the chance to get one step closer to reality with a little help from the Prototype Fund. The projects include open-source tools for sharing data among news organizations, a newsroom app that encourages better collaboration, and software that will make it easier to access public information from federal agencies.

Knight is awarding a total of $770,000, with each individual project receiving $35,000 to help test early ideas and build, as the name suggests, a prototype. (Disclosure: Knight is a funder of Nieman Lab, but not through the Prototype Fund.)

Many of the projects are targeted at making data more accessible, either to journalists or the general public: “Scrubadub,” by Datascope Analytics, is designed to help people “easily and ethically analyze unstructured text through a tool that scrubs personally identifiable information from raw text.” A team at Emerson College’s Engagement Lab wants to create a suite of tools that encourage journalists to use more data in storytelling. Bocoup, a Boston-based technology company, wants to build out “Voyager,” a system that could automate data visualization and be more intuitive to a user’s needs.

The Sunlight Foundation is receiving prototype funding for a government transparency program that would examine how foreign interests influence politics by analyzing data through the Foreign Agent Registration Act.

Melody Kramer, fresh off her time here as a Visiting Nieman Fellow, is receiving a prototype grant for her Media Public project.

The grant will help Kramer continue to examine ideas around broadening the meaning of membership in the world of public media. Media Public will create new ways for public media outlets to collaborate with the audience formerly known as members, in the hopes of sustaining organizations financially and creating a more engaged community. As Kramer wrote in her report:

More active donor relationships, which lead to greater donor loyalty, can be cultivated through building trust with people, increasing the number of two-way interactions with potential donors, and by teaching people the importance of the organization itself.

If you’re interested in helping out or getting updates on the progress, Kramer has created an email newsletter:

Below is the full list of projects that are part of this round of the prototype fund. In July, Knight also announced 12 Prototype Fund projects connected to the media as part of the Knight News Challenge. Along with the funding, project organizers will go through a six-month training process to prepare for a demo day. The deadline for the next round of the Prototype Fund is Aug. 17.

Collective Development by Anchorage Public Library and Code for Anchorage (Project lead: Meg Backus) (Anchorage, Alaska.): Opening library programming up to patrons by creating a participatory platform that will allow people to propose projects, workshops, or events that the library will facilitate. by CrowdVoice (Project leads: Esraa Al Shafei and Melissa Tyas) (Philadelphia): Creating an open source tool for efficiently collecting and distributing crowdsourced news and data that news organizations can brand, embed, and customize.

DataBasic by Emerson Engagement Lab (Project leads: Catherine D’Ignazio and Rahul Bhargava) (Boston): Training journalists and others to easily apply data to their storytelling through a suite of tools that includes learning activities and video guides.

Data Privacy Project by Data and Society (Project lead: Bonnie Tijerina) (New York): Making it easier for libraries to set up secure digital services and for librarians to help patrons better understand online privacy issues through a technical support network, software and documentation toolkits, and more.

Federal Agency Dataset Adoption by API Evangelist (Project lead: Kin Lane) (Los Angeles): Making it easier to access federal data for wider use by the public through an effort focused on processing the more than 5,000 datasets available at 22 federal agencies; the project will be driven by the software hosting and collaboration platform, GitHub.

Media Public: Putting the People in Public Media (Project lead: Melody Kramer) (Washington, D.C.): Enabling public media organizations to collaborate with audiences and each other through an online platform that will allow them to recruit volunteers to help with various activities.

Network Geography 101 by Data & Society Research Institute (Project leads: Ingrid Burrington and Surya Mattu) (New York): Teaching people what the Internet is actually made of by creating educational tools that will help users connect what they see on screens to the systems and infrastructure that makes the Internet possible.

Ombuds by Soapbox Systems (Project lead: Alex Kuck) (Charlottesville, Va.): Helping to preserve and protect free speech online through software that lets activists, journalists, and others working in conflict zones record statements through a peer-to-peer microblogging platform that is backed by a public record.

OSM Lite by Digital Democracy (Project lead: Gregor MacLennan) (Oakland, Calif.): Developing an easy way for people to create their own geo-data using software from Open Street Map, the project that creates and distributes free geographic data for the world.

Placelet by MIT Media Lab (Project lead: Elizabeth Christoforetti) (Cambridge, Mass.): Developing sensors that will collect data on movement, audio. and air quality in urban places to encourage more sensitive urban planning and design processes that will better serve communities.

Project Facet (Project lead: Heather Bryant) (San Francisco): Helping newsrooms plan and coordinate coverage across publishing platforms through an editorial workflow management app that fosters collaboration across teams and with outside partners.

Public Access to Pricing Personalization by Northeastern University (Project lead: Jason Radford) (Boston): Allowing people to see how retailers personalize their user experience and apply price differentiation through a website that will show personalized and non-personalized versions of common retail sites.

Real-Time Foreign Lobbying Mashup by Sunlight Foundation (Project lead: Bob Lannon) (Washington, D.C.): Bringing more transparency to the influence that foreign countries have over U.S. politics and policies through a tool that will highlight data collected under the Foreign Agent Registration Act; the tool will identify connections between foreign clients and their U.S. agents.

Scrubadub by Datascope Analytics (Project lead: Dean Malmgren) (Chicago): Helping researchers, journalists and others more easily and ethically analyze unstructured text through a tool that scrubs personally identifiable information from raw text.

SpeakEZ by School of Information Studies, CCENT Lab, Syracuse University (Project lead: Murali Venkatesh) (Syracuse, N.Y.): Helping the Burmese Karen refugee population in Syracuse, N.Y., get access to a range of resources using their mobile phones through an information system that uses interactive voice response.

Terrapattern Mining Tool by Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry at Carnegie Mellon University (Project lead: Golan Levin) (Pittsburgh, Penn.): Enabling journalists, citizen scientists, humanitarian workers and others to detect ‘patterns of interest’ in satellite imagery, through an open-source tool. For example, users could use the tool to identify destroyed buildings in conflict zones.

User-Friendly Application for Election Data by Johnson County Election Office (Project lead: Nathan Carter) (Olathe, Kan.): Making it easier for voters, journalists, candidates and others to access election-related information through an application that will compile this data and allow users to query and filter it according to their needs.

Vote Worker Data Project by Fair Elections Legal Network (Project leads: Bob Brandon and Jon Sherman) (Washington, D.C.): Making it easier to recruit election poll workers through a search tool that will allow citizens to look for opportunities to serve as poll workers, list their skills, and apply to positions.

Visualizing Thick Data by IIT Institute of Design (Project lead: Kim Erwin) (Chicago): Helping researchers and others visualize qualitative data through an easy-to-use, web-based application designed for fast, efficient data exploration.

Voyager by Bocoup (Project lead: Irene Ros) (Boston): Enabling people to explore and understand complex data sets quickly using visual tools that automate visualization processes and respond to user feedback; the project is a collaboration with the Interactive Data Lab at the University of Washington.

Your Next Representative by DataMade (Project lead: Derek Eder) (Chicago): Expanding, a website by UK-based Democracy Club, for collecting and presenting information on local and national political candidates, to the United States and around the world.

Virtual Reality for Journalists by University of Texas at Austin (Project lead: R.B. Brenner) (Austin, Texas): Helping journalists introduce virtual reality content into their storytelling through an open-source tool designed to make publishing simple, operating like a WordPress for virtual reality.

Photo of Apple Newtons by Grant Hutchinson used under a Creative Commons license.

POSTED     Aug. 4, 2015, 9 a.m.
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