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Information technology project wins award from Knight Foundation

Thu, 06/26/2014

LAWRENCE — University of Kansas researchers have won a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to help build a safer, more secure Internet.

Michael Williams, associate professor and director of special projects and innovation at the William Allen White School of Journalism & Mass Communications, is the project leader for CertiDig. The project will provide a seamless, secure method for authenticating information and data sources online while maintaining the privacy of the identity of sender and receiver.

“We find there is a significant need for safe, verifiable data transfer using the Internet,” Williams said. “Our product will make it possible to assure credibility of information by certifying the provenance of the information. This will be particularly useful in the growing area of micro personal data being transferred in the new world known as the `Internet of Things.’”

The School of Journalism’s Media Innovation Lab will lead the project. It is one of several labs that are part of the university’s Information and Telecommunication Technology Center. Perry Alexander, director of the center and professor of electrical engineering and computer science, and William Staples, director of KU’s Surveillance Studies Research Center and professor of sociology, are also part of the CertiDig research team.

The $35,000 award was one of 19 chosen from more than 700 submissions as part of the Knight News Challenge on Strengthening the Internet. The funding will help cover the cost of software development as part of a six-month proof-of-concept construction of the proposed CertiDig idea. Williams said the prototype will be developed over the fall semester.

The winning projects in the Knight News Challenge were selected for their potential to strengthen the Internet for free expression and innovation.

“By safeguarding people’s privacy, while allowing the sharing of trustworthy information, Certidig will work to ensure that the Internet can be a place for free flow of ideas and collaborative innovation,” said Michael Maness, Knight Foundation vice president for journalism and media innovation.



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Lauded race and class historian becomes KU Foundation Professor David Roediger’s award-winning research and writing has already transformed how historians view the growth of social freedoms in America though the intersection of race, class, ethnicity, and labor. Now Roediger, as KU’s first Foundation Distinguished Professor of History (http://bit.ly/1AbAqYw), will continue to break new ground in those fields as he leads KU’s departments of American Studies and History. Roediger likes to study historical flash points — where one particular change brings a cascade of wider cultural changes. His latest book, “Seizing Freedom, Slave Emancipation and Liberty for All,” makes the point that as slaves began freeing themselves across the South during the Civil War, their emancipation inspired and ignited other cultural movements for freedom — such as the women’s movement for suffrage and the labor movement for better working conditions and an eight-hour day. Understanding the individual stories of average people who wanted to make their lives better, including slaves or factory workers, is important to understanding the wider political movements and elections, Roediger said. “It's tempting to think that all the important political questions have been decided,” he said, “but actually people are constantly thinking about what freedom would mean for them.”


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