Journalism, computer science students to unveil eight collaborative projects

Next week, journalism and computer science students from Northwestern’s “Collaborative Innovation in Journalism and Technology” class will unveil the prototypes they’ve built over the past 10 weeks. And you’re invited to see what they’ve come up with.

The students have been working since April, when I and my Knight Lab colleague, Associate Prof. Larry Birnbaum of the computer science department in the McCormick School formed eight interdisciplinary teams out of the 27 students enrolled in the class (11 journalism master's students, 13 computer science undergraduates, two engineering master's students and one undergraduate who's double majoring in journalism and computer science). We gave them a list of broadly defined project ideas, asked them for their preferences and tried to assign students to ideas they were most interested in.

The projects they will be presenting are:

  • ChatterTrack: Analyzes and visualizes what followers of a Twitter account are tweeting about.
  • Slimformation: Tracks the kinds of content a user is viewing and provides advice on how to improve his or her "information diet."
  • MusicRx: Modeled after the BookRx project developed at the Knight Lab, recommends music based on the content of a user's tweets.
  • Sensus: Helps journalists find newsworthy data in the U.S. Census.
  • twXplorer: Enables journalists to explore and save tweets about a topic they are interested in.
  • Timeoutline: Lets publishers tie together multiple articles about a topic over time into a timeline-based navigation system.
  • SportsTweet: Intended for a sports-centric broadcast, such as ESPN SportsCenter, visualizes the hot topics being discussed by sports fans on Twitter.
  • onMessage: Helps journalists or people interested in politics track the topics candidates talk about on the campaign trail.


In general, we strive for a mix of projects relevant to journalism and media: tools for journalists, software for publishers, and applications that could be useful or fun for media consumers.  We use an agile-development approach; teams are expected to present an updated version of their project each week.  Every team has a functioning prototype now. Between now and the final presentation, the students will be improving and extending what they've built so far.

This is the second time Larry and I have taught this course together. It's a lot of fun for us because we enjoy seeing the journalism and computer science students learn to communicate and collaborate. It's also fun because many projects end up evolving in ways the faculty could not have anticipated. Some projects end up being further developed by the professional staff here at the Knight Lab.

Please RSVP for the event on MeetUp (Details: 6:30pm (Chicago time), Wednesday, June 12 at the McCormick Tribune Center Forum). If you can't attend in person, we'll be streaming the presentation at http://bit.ly/Collab-Inno-Spring13.

We hope you'll join us, in person or on the live stream. Want to get a sense of the issues the students have been wrestling with? Check out the class blog, Tech Media Street.

About the author

Rich Gordon

Professor and Director of Digital Innovation

Journalism/tech intersection, my passion for 25 years, data journalism, Miami Herald web director, now hacker journalism.

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