This post was written by Jordan Young of the Knight News Innovation Lab.

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This past weekend marked the annual music carnival known as Lollapalooza” held in Chicago’s Grant Park. As you’d expect, close to 100,000 people attending a large event can generate a lot of hot conversations on social media outlets.

The Knight News Innovation Lab recently released a mobile application, Babl, which gives users a unique way to share and discover news. This iPhone app offers a visual alternative to reading through a scrolling list of tweets. Babl users can create their own conversation topics by entering a title and keywords. The app uses the terms entered to create and display a collage of tweeters’ photographs that can then be tapped to reveal their individual tweet.

behind the scenes

Prior to Lollapalooza, we set up a featured topic for the opening day of the fest allowing any user to sample the news, conversation and entertainment as it happened. We thought it might be fun to see the app in action during a lively event — and apparently Mother Nature agreed by bringing severe thunderstorms to the Chicago area and forcing an evacuation of the park.

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Through Babl, we were able to participate in Twitter conversations about Lollapalooza throughout the weekend, starting on Friday as people filed into Grant Park to see their favorite artists and dance like neon-clad wild animals. On the afternoon of Day 2, tweets brought us the first news of the show being suspended due to an incoming tempest. Babl users were able to view reports like official news tweets, tweets from artists, and tweets from the herd of people as they were being evacuated into the streets of downtown and parking garage shelters — most attendees opted for bars.

A few hours later, all the weather drama subsided and Babl displayed tweets of people re-entering the gates and enjoying the rest of the evening through Sunday’s closing. Babl enabled us to easily view the local and global tweeters participating in a conversation topic, and gave us a rich media experience of an event in real time.

Jordan Young has been part of the Knight News Innovation Lab since its launch in August of 2011. She is a freelance blogger, contributing writer for Illinois Meetings + Events Magazine, and aspiring publisher. You can reach her at knightlab@northwestern.edu and on Twitter: @knightnewslab.

i-36aa58a538008942a184cdc5c66dd9ec-KnightLogo.jpgEstablished in 2011 with a $4.2 million grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Knight News Innovation Lab is a joint initiative of Northwestern University’s Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science and the Medill School of Journalism. In partnerships built across the Chicagoland region — from neighborhood bloggers to large media companies — the Lab invents, improves and distributes technology that help build and sustain a better informed citizenry and a more innovative publishing environment.

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