UCSC computer scientist a winner in 'news challenge' for innovative project

Michael Mateas

Twelve media innovation projects have been selected as winners of the 2010 Knight News Challenge, a contest that funds new-technology ideas that will shape the future of news and civic media.

Michael Mateas, associate professor of computer science at UC Santa Cruz, proposed one of the winning projects - announced today by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Mateas will share a $378,000 award with Ian Bogost, associate professor at Georgia Tech University's School of Literature. The pair's proposed project, "The Cartoonist," is envisioned as a news-site tool that will lead to a type of interactive editorial cartoon.

"When users answer a series of questions about the major actors in a news event and make value judgments about the newsmakers' actions, the Cartoonist will automatically propose game rules and images," Mateas said. "We believe the games will attract people to host news sites, inspiring them to explore the news."

The foundation's Knight News Challenge is a five-year, $25 million international contest to fund digital news experiments. The winners this year will receive $2.74 million as part of the fourth round of the five-year contest.

"The free flow of shared information is essential for communities to function in a democracy. More each day, that information flows through and because of digital technology," said Alberto Ibargüen, president of Knight Foundation. "Until someone figures out the next big thing - the next killer app that might provide blockbuster connectivity and information sharing to masses of people - we can use the Knight News Challenge to experiment with ways to learn how to think in different ways about information sharing so we might discover the future of news."

Already, past projects have been adopted by other media organizations and are having an impact:

  • Hnews, which allows readers to see the source of information in online articles, is being tested by the Associated Press and 250 newspapers.

  • DocumentCloud, which allows reporters to share source documents, is being used by ProPublica, the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune.

  • Spot.us, the community-funded reporting site, has had stories published in the Oakland Tribune and the New York Times and has expanded to Los Angeles.

"The future of news is being advanced every day by Knight News Challenge winners, who are bringing critical information to communities in new ways," said Jose Zamora, Knight Foundation journalism program associate.

For more information about the contest and the winning projects visit www.newschallenge.org.

About Michael Mateas

Mateas, a faculty member in UCSC's Jack Baskin School of Engineering, is the first holder of the MacArthur Foundation Chair at UCSC. The endowed chair provides $80,000 annually for a five-year term to support Mateas's teaching, research, and public service activities.

An expert on computational media and computer game design, Mateas wants to radically expand the expressive power of "serious games." The term "serious games" refers to the application of computer game technologies in areas such as education, training, and public policy.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation advances journalism in the digital age and invests in the vitality of communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. Knight Foundation focuses on projects that promote informed and engaged communities and lead to transformational change. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.