Wednesday, December 01, 2010

A pitch to the Knight Newschallenge

The Knight News Challenge is closing its call for proposals in just a few hours. The Newschallenge has a very good submission process. Pitch a short idea. If it's good, you'll be invited to make a full proposal. The Foundation will get involved and coach. That's the way to support innovative seed projects. The approach is quite similar to that of the Swedish Knowledge Foundation back in the 90s, which led to a number of groundbreaking initiatives, such as Hyper Island, the first Swedish education for modern media executives, today a successful international operation (disclosure: I was the director of research funding).

Here is an pitch for the Newschallenge by social network analysis wizzard Marc Smith and myself. We are suggesting the next generation news research and analysis tool.

Unwind the spin, map news angles and points of view with ZANGLit (short for “news-angle it”).
ZANGLit is a simple tool for understanding which players stand where and how they talk. We do it by combining word clustering and social network analysis.
Today, Google News lists news outlets covering a story. It groups stories with similar key words - one list for “Turkey and stuffing”, another for “Turkey and NATO”. But it remains up to the user to identify news angles, to discern interests behind angles, and to recognize language that is typical for interest groups and angles. This requires familiarity with the topic and the players and good analytic thinking.
ZANGLit goes further than Google News. ZANGL a story to map the news angles, points of view, interest groups and typical language belonging to them.  With this, you will get a picture of the politics around a story. 
Example: Breaking News. A bus with NATO troops blows up in Afghanistan, hit by a missile fired from a drone. The many casualties include U.S. soldiers. NATO country officials condemn the attack. Turkish officials criticize the way U.S. troops are managed. Different news angles appear: one focuses on the insurgency’s new capabilities, another focuses on discussions between the U.S. and NATO partners on when to leave Afghanistan (will the attack accelerate or delay pull-out? – different points of view). A third examines disagreements within NATO, and between the Turkey and the U.S. Different news outlets pick different angles. Social-media comments add a layer of information to the story’s structure and audience.
ZANGL the story and you will map angles, points of view, and clusters of players.
How do we do it? For example, proponents of a NATO pullout use expressions that opponents don’t use. The Twitter-sphere boils with discussion: we see who refers to whom, who links to which news stories, the language they use and we map it. Among the millions agreeing and disagreeing, different angles, points of views, and different choice of words - people cluster into islands in the social/language-space, visible to those who can master the latest knowledge and algorithms in social-network analysis and the visualization of complex data sets. 
For example, we can show that the expression “Global warming” is becoming mainly used by the nay-sayers. The environmentally conscious are talking about “climate change”. Social network analysis of Twitter shows this.
Using open-source platforms, adding our own development, we develop tools for understanding the ongoing battles around the stories. Journalists will use these tools to map the stakeholders and identify the core concepts and clusters in coverage. Sources and topics can be discovered in these maps, highlighting alliances and antagonisms within the population of a story's stakeholders.
It will be free for all to analyze the news. We are considering earning money by selling analysis relevant for the stock market, following brands in the same way as we can follow news stories.

David Nordfors is the co-founder and Executive Director of the Stanford Center for Innovation and Communication, which runs the Innovation Journalism initiative at Stanford.  He is a Senior Research Scholar at Stanford University's H-Star Institute. He coined the concepts of Innovation Journalism (2003) and Attention Work (2006) and started the first innovation journalism initiatives, in Sweden (2003) and at Stanford (2005). Nordfors is a member of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on the Future of Journalism, a part of the World Economic Forum Global Redesign Initiative. He is an adjunct professor and advisor to the Dean at the Samy Ofer School of Communication at IDC Herzliya in Israel. He is a visiting professor in Journalism and Mass Media at the School of Government, Social Sciences and Humanities, Tecnologico de Monterrey, Mexico. He is also a visiting professor and senior media advisor for Innovation Journalism at the Deutsche Welle Akademie, Deutsche Welle, Bonn, Germany. He serves as advisor to the executive director of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities. Nordfors is a member of the advisory board of DISCERN investment analytics, and several other non-academic organizations.
Marc Smith is a sociologist specializing in the social organization of online communities and computer mediated interaction.  Marc founded and managed the Community Technologies Group at Microsoft Research in Redmond, Washington and led the development of social media reporting and analysis tools for Telligent Systems. At Microsoft, he developed the “Netscan” web application and data mining engine that allows researchers studying Usenet newsgroups and related repositories of threaded conversations to get reports on the rates of posting, posters, crossposting, thread length and frequency distributions of activity.  Smith is the co-editor with Peter Kollock of Communities in Cyberspace(Routledge), a collection of essays exploring the ways identity; interaction and social order develop in online groups. Along with Derek Hansen and Ben Shneiderman, he is the co-author and editor of Analyzing Social Media Networks with NodeXL: Insights from a connected world, a guide to mapping connections created through computer-mediated interactions (forthcoming Summer 2010 onMorgan-Kaufmann).
Smith received a B.S. in International Area Studies from Drexel University in Philadelphia in 1988, an M.Phil. in social theory from Cambridge University in 1990, and a Ph.D. in Sociology from UCLA in 2001. He is an affiliate faculty at the Department of Sociology at the University of Washington and the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland. Smith is also a Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the Media-X Program at Stanford University.

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