RIT Develops Mobile Application for Real-Time Digital Conversation During ‘Imagine RIT’

Supported by the Knight Foundation, ‘Rise Above the Crowd’ debuts at festival

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A. Sue Weisler

RIT professors Andrea Hickerson and Victor Perotti are the program directors for Rise Above the Crowd.

Rochester Institute of Technology will receive nearly $155,000 for development of a digital mobile application to boost journalistic coverage during a community event this spring—thanks to the support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The application, called Rise Above the Crowd (rise.rit.edu; Twitter: @riseaboveRIT), will be accessible on mobile devices and on interactive screens across campus during its formal launch at the fourth annual Imagine RIT: Innovation and Creativity Festival on May 7.

Imagine RIT is a campus-wide event that showcases the innovative and creative spirit of RIT students, faculty and staff. Visitors experience the breadth and depth of RIT through interactive presentations, hands-on demonstrations, exhibitions and research projects set up throughout campus. Last year, the event attracted more than 32,000 people, including 5,000 students.

RIT program directors for Rise Above the Crowd, Andrea Hickerson, assistant professor of journalism at RIT’s Department of Communication in the College of Liberal Arts, and Victor Perotti, associate professor in RIT’s E. Philip Saunders College of Business and founder of RIT’s Digital Business group, explain how the application will work:

• Prior to the festival, anyone can register to begin exploring pre-event content created by RIT students. This will include photos, stories and tweets describing the exhibitors, activities and opportunities at the 2011 Imagine RIT event.

• Festival visitors will “Rise Above The Crowd” by sending pictures and videos, tweets and texts from their mobile devices (cell phones, smart phones or tablets) to our application. They will also use these devices to vote for their favorite submissions. Prizes will be awarded to crowd favorites as well as those judged best by RIT media experts.

• Submissions will be displayed on large screens throughout the campus, creating a real-time electronic conversation. The crowd-contributed media will be dynamically displayed to highlight the most recent and highest ranked content at any given moment.

• After the festival, individuals may revisit the accumulated catalog of media, exploring electronically the many things they were unable to see in person. Optionally, they may elect to receive ongoing updates about specific exhibits of interest to them.

Hickerson says the Knight Foundation grant, which includes Gold Sponsorship for the 2011 festival, is a benchmark for journalism education and demonstrates the innovations made possible through interdisciplinary partnerships. RIT’s collaborative model utilizes the diverse expertise the university is known for: communication, photojournalism, data visualization, new media design, film and animation, entrepreneurship, software engineering and game design.

“The news industry and journalism as a craft and profession have been dramatically changed by the introduction of digital information sources—and the Knight Foundation recognizes that these technological advances have forever changed the way people obtain and share information,” says RIT President Bill Destler.

“Rise Above the Crowd challenges the university to create and prototype new models for sharing information and actively engaging participants in the festival’s innovative events,” says Jess Goldfin, special assistant to the president of Knight Foundation. “We hope the app is a model for informing and engaging people in future events, gatherings and debates.”

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation advances journalism excellence in the digital age, through an array of media innovation projects and other initiatives. Since 1950, the foundation has granted more than $400 million to advance quality journalism and freedom of expression—focusing on projects that promote informed and engaged communities and lead to transformational change. (www.knightfoundation.org)

Note: Rochester Institute of Technology is internationally recognized for academic leadership in computing, engineering, imaging technology, sustainability, and fine and applied arts, in addition to unparalleled support services for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. RIT enrolls 17,000 full- and part-time students in more than 200 career-oriented and professional programs, and its cooperative education program is one of the oldest and largest in the nation.

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