Knight Blog

The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Internet native news networks, what's working in #opengov and more for #civicmedia day 2

June 19, 2012, 9:24 a.m., Posted by John Bracken


Yesterday was a busy first day of the MIT-Knight Civic Media conference. You can catch up via the conference liveblog. Highlights included first panel, Dan Sinker’s summary of the hack session, the announcement of the Knight News Challenge winners and details about Knight’s new prototype fund with Michael Maness and Joi Ito.

We’re going to keep the momentum going today with four more panels. Like yesterday, the #civicmedia will be livestreamed.

Things kick off at 9:00 a.m. ET with a discussion of Internet Native News Networks led by Christina Xu of the Awesome Foundation. Presenters include Hong Qu, of UpworthyIvan Sigal of Global VoicesCharlie Sennott of GlobalPost and David Wertime of Tea Leaf Nation.

At 10:30 a.m. ET, Susan Crawford will lead us through a discussion of Open Gov: What’s Gone Wrong, What’s Gone Right? Particpants will include Mark Headd of Code for AmericaMike Norman of and Chris Vein, Deputy United States Chief Technology Officer for Government Innovation.

Seven lessons learned about social impact games

June 19, 2012, 8:50 a.m., Posted by Mayur Patel


The prevalence of games in people’s lives is undeniable. Nearly three-quarters of all American families play computer and video games. Increasingly, businesses, nonprofits, funders and governments are tapping into this trend, experimenting with games to unlock existing social challenges. Yet, what are games good for and when are they most effective?

Last month, we completed an in-depth evaluation of two-real world social impact games Knight funded to bring individuals together to address local challenges: Macon Money, an alternative form of local currency to connect residents to each other and to attract and expose people to local business in Macon, Ga; and Battlestorm, a youth-based game to improve hurricane preparation awareness and habits in Biloxi, Miss.

We’re excited to share the results of these two experiments today at the 9th Annual Games for Change Festival! While a lot has been written about the impact of digital games on learning, less attention has been paid to the effects of real-world games – i.e., games that are played out in the physical world. We hope the insights gathered will encourage funders, researchers and gamers to explore the potential of these games with us and help move the field forward.

In addition to the main study, we’ve created an interactive data visualization synthesizing the Macon Money findings and an infographic poster on Battlestorm.

Here are seven lessons about the effectiveness of the two real-world games and how games can be leveraged for social impact in communities. 

1.       Making Exploration Safe – Games are powerful liberating structures that allow people to test new patterns of behavior in a playful and secure environment. In Macon Money, residents took advantage of their free currency to experiment with new spending habits: 46% of players surveyed spent their bills at a local business they’d never frequented before, and 92% of those players report returning to those businesses after the game.

Winners in Knight News Challenge: Networks

June 18, 2012, 1:35 p.m., Posted by John Bracken

Four months after opening the Knight News Challenge on networks, I’m happy to announce the six winners. We selected them after reviewing 1,100 applications over the last three months.

For us at Knight, the fun part starts now. Over the next month, we’ll sit down with each of the winners to ask one question: “How can we help?” In fact, we’ve already started. Each project has different needs, but we’re talking with each of them about how to measure their progress, how to better communicate their work and how to handle back office tasks such as accounting and hiring.

Without further ado, the six winners of the Knight News Challenge on networks:

Behavio (formerly known as Funf):
Nadav Aharony, Alan Gardner, Cody Sumter
$355,000 program related investment
Behavio will enable users to collect and anonymously share data from their mobile phones. It will collect data such as video, movement, location and available light. Users can then analyze, visualize and draw insights from that data.  

My colleague Elizabeth Miller interviewed Nadav, Alan and Cody after they won the News Technologies Accelerator Competition that Knight Foundation sponsored at SXSW earlier this year. Some of what Nadav told Elizabeth highlights the open approach that we found appealing. “We intentionally give the freedom of configuration to the user and hope that they’ll tell us what works and what doesn’t,” said Nadav.

Felipe Heusser, Jeffrey Warren
$360,000 grant
PeepolTV will build an interactive collection of every livestream on the planet, searchable by map, tags, semantic analysis and other attributes. The project aims to help users document events as they take place, for example by tracking a protest through a collection of livestreams shown on a map of the area.

In an email, one of our external reviewers called PeepolTV a “big, ambitious project” that could become “a channel guide for the entire Internet...having a directory to find out what's live on the web right now would be invaluable."

Last yearJeffrey Warren and Felipe Heusser took home $2,000 for winning second prize in the MIT Knight Civic Media Conference Collaboration Contest. This year, their project (originally called Streaming Screaming) will receive a $360,000 grant.  Warren is a co-founder of 2011 News Challenge winner Public Laboratory; Felipe is an Ashoka fellow and a Berkman fellow at Harvard and founder of Fundación Ciudadano Inteligente.