Sine Qua Nonsense

Get With the Program (of Study)

In honor of Halloween, you should visit a fortune teller. Ask the seer to look into her crystal ball or tarot cards and find out what classes will be available during the years you will be at Indiana University.

“That’s an odd question,” she will say. “People usually ask me about financial matters or their love lives.”

“This has an impact on both,” you should retort. “My committee says the classes I take will shape my marketable skills when I’m looking for a job. Also, before I get this whole program of study thing figured out, I will not have time to go on any dates. If you were a real fortune teller, you would know this!”

Okay, maybe you shouldn’t say that last sentence. Insulting people who commune with the spirits of the netherworld may be dangerous. Just to be safe, I am always nice to Irene, Daphna, and Mona, because of their connections to a country with the word “nether” in it.

You are supposed to have your committee approve a program of study by the end of your second semester. This means that you need to predict the future as much as two years in advance. That is longer than most departments even plan ahead. Not only must you know which courses will be available each semester, you have to know they won’t overlap. By Murphy’s law, they certainly will. The program modification form is your friend.

In the PhD program, try to transfer as many credits from your MA as you can. If you’re continuing from an MA in this department, you will meet the least resistance. If you’ve studied elsewhere, especially abroad and/or more than seven years ago and/or not in a communications program, you’re in trouble. Haggle with your committee over this like you’re in a bazaar. “For every two courses you agree to transfer, I’ll take another stats class.”

Don’t get me started about stats classes (or lack thereof).

You don’t only have to come up with a list of courses, you also have to write a rationale. Here, you have to make clear that you know exactly what you want to achieve with your degree. In other words, lie through your teeth. By the end of your first year, you might know a bit more about your end goal than during orientation, but you’re far from being there yet. In choosing which fictions sound best, you might actually come to useful conclusions about what you really want to do.

Also, I am told that students might be asked about their program of study rationale when defending their dissertation proposal years later. Don’t write anything that will stump Future You. You don’t want the following question to come up: “a quarter of a decade ago you said that ‘Special Topics in Circus Arts: Clowns – Happy or Sad’ would teach you how to apply facial EMG electrodes on top of heavy amounts of makeup. How does this figure into this study?”

Most importantly, schedule your committee meeting as soon as possible after working on the program and rationale. If you wait three months, your memory won’t allow you to optimally defend your program. For instance, you won’t remember that “The History of Plumbing” fits with a program about internet policymaking because, as former Senator Ted Stevens described the web, it is a series of tubes.

Good luck with your program! May your prophecies that the coolest classes will be offered all come true.


Message in a Time Capsule

By Mona Malacane

On October 9th, 1964 Reed Nelson’s parents wrote him and his two brothers a letter and sealed it in a time capsule in the city near their farm – Salem, Indiana. The time capsule was scheduled to be opened on the city’s bicentennial, 50 years later.

For the past few years, Reed has been reminding his family of the approaching opening of the time capsule.  Although his brothers didn’t share his enthusiasm about the letter, Reed continued to look forward to the day the time capsule would be unearthed. Well that time finally came, and on September 27th at 4pm on a warm Saturday the capsule was opened and Reed got the letter.

But before I talk about that letter, please indulge me a few sentences to reflect on how cool time capsules are. They are literally pieces of history (of communication!) that are wrapped up and stored like presents to be opened in the future. Yes, museums are also full of historical artifacts that communicate … but they aren’t wrapped up like gifts and  hidden away. The feeling on being reminded that you can open the gift soon, after having forgotten about it, is so exciting! Like finding money in your winter coat that you haven’t worn in a year, but times 100. And now think what if that artifact was specifically for you, put away and preserved for FIFTY years. Is it just me, or is that not one of the coolest things ever?? Ok thank you for your patience, now back to Reed’s story.

The whole day was filled with bicentennial activities, a parade, a 5k, fireworks … but Reed was there for the time capsule. Slowly but surely, the concrete slab that capped the earth over the capsule was jackhammered away and the names of those who had letters were read out loud. Reed’s parents still live near Salem and were also there for the opening of the time capsule, which added an extra special touch to the day. “My mom made the comment in the letter, ‘when you’re reading this you will be older than I am right now,’ and that was amazing.”

The letter addressed to Reed and his brothers, Mark and Paul.

The letter addressed to Reed and his brothers, Mark and Paul.

Reed with time capsuleFor Reed it was an immeasurably special moment when he read the words his mother wrote 50 years ago.  Reed says it brought back memories from when he was 10 years old and it felt like it was yesterday. Unfortunately, one of those memories was that of his Aunt passing away. There was the lighter side too. “The previous night [my mom] had taken us three boys to the elementary school fall festival, which was a big deal. But the … and the …  girls got into a fight that night at the festival … And when they started fighting, they started fighting. [My teacher] came out and grabbed their hairs and separated them, I remember that, and then I took off!” Of course Reed had heard at school earlier that day that the two girls were going to fight at the festival, but his mother wasn’t privy to this information and she was naturally surprised by it. In the letter she wrote, “My, my, those two girls fought.” She also wrote a few complained about Reed’s younger brother, which made him chuckle.

The city of Salem has put another time capsule into the ground to be opened in 2064 and this time Reed put a letter in for his kids and grand kids. “That’s a hard letter to write to your children who are 30ish and who will be 80ish when this capsule is opened, and to my [five] grand kids, so listing everybody on that envelope – my first son and his son and his wife; my second son, his 3 sons, and his wife; and my wife’s daughter and her daughter – it got pretty full,” He explained. “I was writing that last paragraph with tears, I wasn’t crying but they were just tearing in my eyes … it was incredible the finality of the feeling that you have when you’re writing 50 years into the future and you know you won’t be around to read it.” Even so, Reed created a little piece of history for his grandchildren that I’m sure they will appreciate when they receive it.

Here’s something to ponder for the rest of your Monday: if we were to bury a Telecom time capsule before moving to Franklin Hall, what would YOU want to preserve for the future?

Paul Wright’s Basketball Lessons: Perfect Form, Teamwork and Fun

By Niki Fritz

There are a lot of people in the department who like sports; those who play sports, those who research sports, those who participate in fantasy sports, those who research fantasy sports, those who just really like to tailgate. We are a pretty sports-lovin’ department. But Paul Wright surpasses us all. He played basketball in high school (and still currently shoots hoops with Reed), coached junior high and high school teams, received recognition from the IU Women’s Basketball team for being a favorite teacher, and even invented his own quasi-legendary shooting method. And this year, for third year in a row, he is teaching the Girls Inc. 10 and up cohort how to become future basketball stars. This man loves his basketball.

Girls Inc. is an organization that for decades has helped girls recognize their own potential through after-school and summer programs. The organization has both volleyball and basketball leagues as well as programs that introduce girls to the STEM fields. Girls Inc. relies on volunteers to teach and coach participants. Paul first got involved with the organization after seeing a flyer for the basketball program in Avers Pizza. He hadn’t coached in a few years because he had been so busy but was missing coaching aspiring basketball stars.

Co-Coach Jessica Tang, Team Captain Shelby and Co-Coach Paul Wright

Co-Coach Jessica Tang, Team Captain Shelby and Co-Coach Paul Wright

When his neighbor and friend, Jessica Tang, a doctoral student in Medical Sciences, agreed to be a co-coach, Paul was in, despite his busy schedule.

“It is a little bit of a challenge [to fit in coaching] because I do like to work so much,” Paul explained very earnestly. “But we only meet twice a week so the time commitment is only four or five hours a week.”

After cramming in a full day of work, twice a week from September to November, Paul heads over to the gym to teach the girls basketball skills. The girls also play eight games through the season against other Girls Inc. leagues.

Little do the girls know they don’t just have any old coach but a California legendary shooting coach. You read right; in addition to playing and coaching, back during his undergraduate days Paul created his own patented shooting method called the L.A.S.E.R. method.

“If you use my L.A.S.E.R. method on every shot, you would never miss. The laser method is 100% infallible,” Paul told me, strong words for a scientist.

Paul explained that back in the day when he was coaching high school girls basketball, a father approached him and asked him to help his daughter with her shooting. Paul realized he actually knew very little about the technique of shooting and thus the scientist began his basketball shooting research.

“I started watching videos, looking at things online and tinkering with the shot. I would think about the physics and the mechanics of the shot. It took me about a year of research. It was my basketball thesis,” Paul said. “It took me a long time to iron out the wrinkles but after that I have never felt a need to adjust it after I created the fool-proof L.A.S.E.R. method. I say that in all humility.”

Paul also wanted me to tell any aspiring basketball stars out there that there is a full L.A.S.E.R. manuscript available … at a cost. The man is serious about his basketball.

A flyer for Paul's L.A.S.E.R. shooting method with real-life testimony

A flyer for Paul’s L.A.S.E.R. shooting method with real-life testimony

However when it comes to divulging the team’s record Paul was a little evasive although he made sure to note the team was undefeated this year. Paul is quick to say though that coaching is about more than teaching the girls some fool-proof basketball skills.

“It’s not about wins or loses. It is about teaching the girls life skills and building character,” Paul said. “I don’t have kids and it is a really special thing to be involved in the lives of young people … Just to be able to be a mentor is the coolest thing.” In addition to learning basketball basics, Paul talks to the girls about college and what they want for the future. Paul also credits Co-coach Jessica with helping him integrate other life lessons into practices such as team building and having fun, a skill Paul is still working on.

In fact, Paul says one of the greatest lessons he has learned from coaching comes from the girls. He reflects on one game in particular. Paul’s team was winning and it was evident by the second quarter that his team was superior. Paul thought maybe in the fourth quarter they would take it easy on the other team; but his girls had other thoughts. In the huddle in the second quarter, the girls told Paul they wanted to let the other team get some shots in. Paul realized he had been taking the game a bit too seriously and that his girls had already learned an important lesson about having fun.

“[The girls taught me] to relax and take it easy, to have a little bit more perspective. I’m so goal oriented and they are a little bit more ‘let’s have fun,’” Paul explained. It is a hard lesson for a work-loving, uber-productive Paul, but a lesson he has been happy to learn from his basketball team.

Drawing of the Month

It has come to the blog team’s attention that the drawing of the month has mainly become a collaborative art project between Edo and Niki as the rest of the department seems to be focusing on more important things like ICA deadlines and classwork. Luckily Niki and Edo put collaborative whiteboard murals on the top of their lists of priorities and we have a few unique additions to the mural this week including a critique of Niki’s Battlestar Galactica ship and ebola man. There is only one more week left in the mural project so make sure to get in your contributions before this year’s epic Halloween party!

drawing 4

Sixth Brown Bag – October 24, 2014


Jessica Myrick, Assistant Professor, Journalism, Indiana University

Putting a Human Face on Cold-Hard-Facts: Effects of Personalizing Social Issues on Perceptions of Issue Importance 

This presentation will discuss a study that tested the influence of personalization (moving testimony from ordinary citizens) on the reception of television news reports about social issues. The data (N=80) from this mixed-design experiment offer evidence that personalized news stories evoked greater levels of empathy toward and identification with people who are affected by social issues, which in turn increased perceived importance of those issues. The effects of personalization persisted even a week after viewing the stories. Moreover, path analyses revealed that involvement with ordinary citizens in the news was a catalyst for understanding how men (but not women) assign importance to stories. The findings imply that the goal of advancing civic engagement with social issues could be served by employing personalized story formats.

Ozen Bas, PhD student, and Betsi Grabe, Professor, Telecommunications, Indiana University

The Participatory Potential of Emotional Personalization in News

News media are frequently implicated in examinations of citizen apathy and low voter turnout. Large survey data sets are often used to do diagnostics at the macro level, testing the effects of news consumption on political participation in general terms, without much effort to parse variance in terms of the content and form of news messages. The experiment reported here tests how emotional personalization of news messages might influence political participation intent. The data (N=80) provide support for the idea that being exposed to news that features emotional testimonies of people with first-hand experience of social issues encourages political participation. Unlike most existing research would suggest, education-based variance in participation intent did not emerge. Taken together, these findings offer evidence that message characteristics such as personalization of social issues can elicit political engagement from news users, which in turn has potential to revitalize the public sphere.


MJ’s Present – Our Names in Korean

By Mona Malacane

Did you receive a sheet of paper with some cool looking squiggly lines and letters in your mailbox recently? Those cards are your name in Korean, written by MinJi Kim (MJ) for Hanguel Day – Korean Alphabet Day – on October 9th. The day marks the anniversary of the creation of the Korean alphabet in 1443. MJ explained that the anniversary used to be celebrated as a holiday and students would get the day off, but in more recent years this hasn’t been the case. (If you’re interested in some of the history, MJ recommended this website and this website)bryants name in korean

Because she couldn’t celebrate with her Korean friends and family, MJ wanted to share some of her culture with us by writing our names in Korean. She wrote the names by syllable so that you can see the individual characters (or letters) that create the sounds. She explained that consonants were written such that they mimic the shape one’s mouth makes when pronouncing the sound. For example, in the picture below, the sound for “n” is created in the middle of your throat, in a semi-L shape and the character for “n” looks like an L. The same is true for the letter “m”, which looks like a box. The vowels are equally as cool. “The Korean alphabet system uses the ‘world.’ The king wanted to add the virtue of the world, so there is sun or heaven, and earth, and human,” she explained while pointing to the different lines (see picture below). The symbol for sun/heaven is a circle, a horizontal line for earth, and a vertical line for human.

My name in Korean.

My name in Korean!

There were some names that presented a challenge though … For example, the Korean alphabet doesn’t have a character for “th” sounds, so MJ had to improvise with Anthony and Keith’s names. Another issue is with the letter R, which shares the same consonant as L; so technically, Robby could be read as “Lobby” or “Robby.”

korean vowels

While writing friends’ names isn’t part of any particular tradition, MJ thought it would be an interesting way of sharing her culture, acquainting us to her language, and also just getting to know people. It took her an entire evening to work on all of the names. She very much wanted all of us to have them! Most of the graduate students received the cards in their mailboxes but MJ preferred to personally deliver cards she wrote for professors in person. So if you’re waiting for your name, she has probably been by your office but didn’t catch you!


Seriously how it feels trying to track down Professors sometimes.

Seriously how it feels trying to track down professors sometimes.

Why is the Grad Lounge so Empty and Sad?

By: Niki Fritz

On Wednesday I began my investigation into the silence that has befallen the grad lounge. I posted my research question on Facebook, asking my colleagues why the grad lab was suddenly so desolate. The next day I walked into the lab to see three lively grad students working. Clearly it wasn’t going to be easy to investigate this phenomenon without disturbing the natural habitat of the grad lab. I am, after all, not trained in ethnography.

And yet, it seems to me, my Thursday findings may have been an anomaly. It is hard to dismiss the clear trend over this semester towards a bare and energy-less grad lab. Last year I had to put on headphones in the grad lounge because of the lively discussion permeating through the walls from the adjoining lab and interrupting my concentrated search for cute cat gifs. But this year there is an almost eerie quiet in both the lab and the lounge.

I asked the crew gathered in the lab on Thursday why in their estimation fun in the grad lab had tapered off. Sean Connolly gave the pathetic excuse that his ID still doesn’t work on either door. Edo Steinberg said something lame about being super busy and not having breaks in his schedule. Edo also attempted to blame the beautiful collaborative Halloween mural, saying the drawing gave him nightmares.

Hogwash I say. There has to be something more behind the lack of Telecom energy in the lab besides personal grievances.

I started to look to more macro level reasons. Dustin suggested perhaps it all revolves around the microwave. “The microwave was forcibly removed to the other room,” Dustin explained. “Food is community.”

And yet if the microwave was the center of all Telecom energy, the lounge would be hoppin’ now instead of the lab, which it is not.

But the most thorough and detailed hypothesizing came from Ryland Sherman who provided a three pronged explanation.

First, Ryland says the lab needs some anchor tenants, some dedicated people who only hang out in the lab, welcome visitors and encourage fellow grads to stay a while and socialize. Ryland explains this will help us reach critical mass again. Edo even suggested this be included as a new GA position next year, an official M-School social butterfly.

Second, Ryland suggests the weather may be impacting the lab population. It’s fall in Indiana. The sun is shining and our windowless grad lab doesn’t really inspire.

Finally Ryland relies on nostalgia to explain the phenomenon. “Back in the day (’09-’10), there were some students that really made an effort to create Tcom grad student big shindigs that were semi-regular things … This dept. was TIGHT then,” Ryland mused. This last theory made me a) realize just how long Ryland has been in the department and b) made me wonder if maybe the Tcom energy has just shifted elsewhere.

The lab may not be bumpin’ on a Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. but anyone who has gone to Karaoke on Wednesday night knows that there is no lack of love and fun in our Tcom department. Like all organic things, our department is changing and adapting. The lounge may no longer be the heart of the department but that just means our heart may have moved. Clearly I’ll have to do some more investigation to get at the root of this phenomenon. My first stop: $2 Tuesdays.






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