Articles by Sam Gill

  • Article

    What 2018 has taught us about building a stronger future for American democracy

    December 13, 2018 by Sam Gill

    What 2018 has taught us about building a stronger future for American democracy

    If the decline of trust in news has been a crisis decades in the making – and it has – then rebuilding the informed society will take time as well. Improving the data and the knowledge with which we diagnose the challenges and propose new solutions must be an essential part of that process.

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    Why combatting fake news requires people and technology — working together

    October 11, 2018 by Sam Gill

    Why combatting fake news requires people and technology — working together

    A map reflecting Twitter activity surrounding fake and conspiracy news stories among the most followed accounts around the 2016 presidential election. Read "Disinformation, 'Fake News' and Influencer Campaigns on Twitter."

    Concerns about the spread of misinformation online have raced into crisis mode.

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    Why Knight Foundation is investing in a new field of study on informed society in a digital age

    October 1, 2018 by Sam Gill

    Why Knight Foundation is investing in a new field of study on informed society in a digital age

    Strong democracies depend on freedom of expression and access to accurate information about community and public affairs. This is as true today as when freedom of the press was enshrined by the framers of the U.S. Constitution in the first correction they made to the governing principles of our country — what we call the First Amendment.

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    Should platforms be regulated? A new survey says yes.

    August 15, 2018 by Sam Gill

    Should platforms be regulated? A new survey says yes.

    In the two years since the 2016 election, the role major social media and technology companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter play in enabling (or corroding) an informed society has become an issue of increasing concern.

    It is well known at this stage that these platforms are a key destination for news. They regularly make decisions about who gets to provide information and who gets to see it. But as misinformation infects newsfeeds, and information echo chambers become the norm, should there be rules that govern their role as news editors?

    A new survey says yes — almost eight in 10 Americans agree that these companies should be subject to the same rules and regulations as newspapers and television networks that are responsible for the content they publish. The survey is part of a series of reports released by Knight Foundation and Gallup over the course of the year exploring American perceptions of trust, media and democracy.

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    A local approach to democracy-building

    August 9, 2018 by Sam Gill

    A local approach to democracy-building

    The Oval+ on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia. Credit: PORT Urbanism, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation

    Building stronger democracies starts with local communities. It is at the local level where we make the decisions that have the most immediate impact on our lives. Knight Foundation's Community and National Initiatives program focuses on supporting more informed and engaged communities through investments that attract and nurture talent, enhance opportunity and foster civic engagement.

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    How can democracy thrive in the digital age?

    July 30, 2018 by Sam Gill

    How can democracy thrive in the digital age?

    Photo by ydant on Flickr.

    In the wake of revelations that political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica improperly used Facebook data to influence the 2016 election, scrutiny of the social media giant continues. In the past month, Facebook has been hit with information requests from an alphabet soup of federal agencies ­— the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

    But the issue is about more than Facebook and has implications beyond breaches and rights to privacy. We’re experiencing a sea change in our relationship to a relatively small set of companies. Just a few brands — Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon — occupy many of our waking hours.

    They are where most of us entertain ourselves. They are where we meet and converse with friends. They are how many of us shop. They are where political debate is happening. The reality is that it’s harder and harder to transact our social, commercial and political lives in any kind of “offline” fashion.

    This matters for our democracy. The way we inform ourselves about public affairs has moved from the morning paper and evening news to a constant stream of mobile alerts. Political debates have shifted from in-person affairs to pseudonymous shouting matches. Our expectations for government and other institutions have shifted to an internet standard — any service that doesn’t deliver with Amazon Prime or Netflix levels of instantaneity is frustrating and obsolete.

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    Free speech on campus: New perspectives emerge from Gallup/Knight student survey

    March 12, 2018 by Sam Gill

    Free speech on campus: New perspectives emerge from Gallup/Knight student survey

    What’s clear to us is that the context cannot be taken for granted.Students at America’s colleges and universities see freedom of expression as at least in part contingent on their broader views and experience of the world.

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    A playful new layer of civic engagement: Why Knight teamed with Niantic to bring Pokémon GO to community events

    May 4, 2017 by Sam Gill

    A playful new layer of civic engagement: Why Knight teamed with Niantic to bring Pokémon GO to community events

    Photo by Paintimpact on Flickr.

    Knight Foundation has made significant investments in vibrant public spaces and places that can bring people in communities together. So it was hard not to take notice last summer when image and after image popped up on our Twitter feeds showing crowds of people—around the world—swarming public places at all hours. As we quickly learned, they were playing Pokémon GO, a location-based, augmented-reality game made by the Silicon Valley firm Niantic, Inc.

    The premise of the game is simple—find and catch as many Pokémon (cute, cartoonish creatures) as you can. But the technology underneath may presage an important new phase of our digital future.

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    What does it mean to be a learning organization?

    February 27, 2017 by Sam Gill

    What does it mean to be a learning organization?

    Social change is messy and complicated, and it can take a long time to come to fruition, typically by way of a winding, sometimes meandering, path. Such a context requires patience, comfort with complexity, and the humility to recognize that bets are just that—guesses about what might work over time.

    Certainly, monitoring and evaluation have an important place in assessing the strength of investments over time as well as the yield (or unanticipated consequences) of past efforts. What is often missing, however, is sufficient clarity about the problem or challenge a bet is intended to address.

    At Knight Foundation, we are beginning to use the term learning organization to describe not simply the rote mechanics of surfacing insights from past and present work, but to also encompass the ability and judgment to identify addressable challenges, formulate smart bets, and then rigorously interrogate and scrutinize those bets and the contours of the problems they are meant to attack.

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    What if? Navigating the uncertainties of our potential futures

    January 19, 2017 by Sam Gill

    What if? Navigating the uncertainties of our potential futures

    Beginning in late 2015, Knight Foundation began a journey to get a better handle on how the conditions surrounding our work could change. We started by asking: “How will people be informed and engaged in our democracy between now and 2026?

    We were not trying to predict the future. Rather, we sought to develop plausible stories about what alternative futures might look like to facilitate discussion over critical questions on how to best fulfill our mission today and tomorrow.

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    Let’s talk about free speech

    September 22, 2016 by Sam Gill

    Let’s talk about free speech