Justin Ide/Harvard Staff Photographer
"Harvard affiliates Kara Oehler (from left), Jesse Shapins, and James Burns have won the Knight News Challenge, a fiercely competitive international contest, and will use the funding to develop a prototype software called Zeega, an open-source web platform designed to make collaborative multimedia documentaries cheaper and easier to produce.
Three Harvard affiliates — two fellows and a graduate student — have won the Knight News Challenge, a fiercely competitive international contest that funds digital news experiments that use technology “to inform and engage communities.”
There were 16 prizewinning projects selected from 2,500 submissions. The awards were announced today (June 23).
Contestants from Harvard have won a few times during the five-year life of the Knight contest, but never for as much money — a grant worth $420,000, said Colin Maclay, managing director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society. The competition is “insane,” he added. “Getting into Harvard College has nothing on this.”
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which sponsors the competition, calls its winners “journalism futurists.” They are described as thinkers and designers who employ emerging technologies to make citizen journalism more accessible, compelling, and intellectually rich.
Starting Sept. 1, the three Harvard team members, who were Knight finalists last year, will use their 18-month funding to develop a prototype software called Zeega. The open-source web tools will be designed to foster new genres of investigative journalism and media art, making collaborative multimedia documentaries cheaper and easier to produce.
The Knight project “grows out of a unique combination of documentary arts and experimental media research we’ve been doing within Harvard and beyond,” said Jesse Shapins, one of the three winners. He is a Ph.D. student in Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, where he also lectures in architecture.
James Burns, who graduated in May with a Harvard Ph.D. in economics, is a creative technologist and relational knowledge fellow at the metaLAB (at) Harvard. Shapins and Burns worked together on courses such as Media Archaeology of Place and The Mixed-Reality City, which have used test versions of Zeega, with support from the Presidential Instructional Technology Fellows program..."