Computer Scientists and Journalists Must Work Together
October 24, 2014
Nick Diakopoulos

Editor’s Note: Nick Diakopoulos is co-chair of the Computation + Journalism Symposium 2014 organizing committee.

Copious amounts of data, and the algorithms that manipulate that data, now undergird some of society’s most important functions, from what news we consume to how police manage public safety.

How must the Fourth Estate evolve and adapt in the face of this quantitative turn in society? And how can we harness computing to become a deliberate force of positive social impact in journalism and civic life?

It’s with these questions in mind that we convene over 250 journalists, technologists, and researchers at Columbia University in New York Friday and Saturday for the third installment of the Computation + Journalism Symposium. The meeting brings together the thinkers, doers and storytellers working in the interdisciplinary hybridization of journalism and the computing and data sciences.

As in past years, we expect there to be a healthy knowledge flow and transfer between journalists and technologists; technologists learning about journalistic use-cases and journalists learning to apply new technologies for finding and telling stories.

This year, in addition to curating invited content and panels for the program, we also solicited academic papers from the burgeoning community of people working in this space. The response was truly impressive — we received 45 paper submissions across a range of topics. They included  descriptions of data and computing-driven stories, new platforms, teaching innovations and research. We think this diversity of research and practice — and bringing  journalism and technology together in the same place — holds much promise for pushing the field forward.

The 15 papers that were accepted as oral presentations at the conference were invited to submit an article to AJR about their work. Thirteen chose to do so. Our hope is that publication on a site read by journalists those who care about journalism will help spread these ideas more deeply into the industry and create a new model for academic / industry knowledge sharing.

You’ll find these contributions spanning the gamut, from computational approaches to fact-checking or rumor detection, to the use of UAVs (i.e. drones) for mapping news events and even the use of artificial intelligence technology to find stories.

Other contributions accepted for the conference program will be presented as posters,  showing off new visualization techniques, journalistic platforms, impact studies, applications of data mining and other things. AJR will also bring you live coverage from the symposium.

In true digital spirit, demos and posters will be shown on monitors or pico projectors thanks to the Brown Institute for Media Innovation, which is hosting the event.

The symposium will also include a keynote by Cornell information scientist Jon Kleinberg on information flows in online networks, as well as panels on the accountability of algorithms, the use of data mining techniques in journalism, the opportunities for teaching data skills in journalism and the challenge of crowdsourced news investigations.

A special thanks is in order for the interdisciplinary organization and sponsorship of the event by Columbia University, Georgia Tech, and the University of Maryland, as well as additional sponsorship by Yahoo! Labs. Our conference committee, which spanned both disciplines, was instrumental in selecting a strong program. And the editors of AJR have been wonderful to work with in bringing this special “issue” to you.


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