Creating Technology for Social Change

Moments of Profundity: Key Takeaways from the 2012 MIT-Knight Media Conference

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Michael Maness leads the Knight Journalism & Innovation Program. In the closing presentation of the conference, he takes the stage to present “moments of profundity”: the key takeaways and open questions generated over the past two days.

Is the fury of collecting dismissing the story? Are we losing the stories in the race to archive absolutely everything?

Fingerprints are all over data. Data is a human creation. This is one of the most important things to understand.

We are wrestling with media authenticity; we are seeing the rise of trust networks in reporting. Who has credibility? How do you build credibility?


Data is not magical. We have heard over and over again that we want transparency, but again, they have human fingerprints all over them.

What does place even mean anymore? Place and locality have become unhinged from geography. Geography is layered and important in new ways.

Humans aren’t dead, despite the rise of drones and algorithms. We still need boots on the ground reporting. We can’t completely wipe out the need to have a human perspective on things.

There seems to be a future-past thing going on about how we used to tell stories. Potentially, the new media we have is moving into a pre-aggregated environment. Now we can tell stories like we did in the past, but with new formats.

Pace and the chase–is speed killing the story? Are we losing the art of storytelling? How can we make sure that we’re taking the time to create those things and understand their contexts?

Story or data—which comes first? One belief is that they are one and the same. We are exploring how these two interact and how we can continue to integrate them in more seamless and compelling ways.


The mystery spot between data and insights. It’s easy to trick what data sets are. Do we need some new sort of data literacy? When we’re looking at data or analytics, how do we generate insights from that?


Michael concludes by thanking the people involved in making the conference a success: the livestream team, The Moth, Dan Sinker and the organisers of the Mozilla hackathon, Chris Sopher, John Bracken, Halley, and the communications team from the Knight Foundation. He also thanks the MIT staff, Ethan, Sasha, Jim Paradis, and Mitch Resnick, and Lorrie LeJeune.