Sine Qua Nonsense

Thanksgiving Edition

Some readers may erroneously believe that Sine Qua Nonsense has nothing but a negative and cynical worldview. The last post before Thanksgiving is an excellent opportunity to prove those readers wrong by expressing gratitude for different people and things in the department.

First of all, I am thankful to the Telecom Grad Blog for nursing my narcissism. Where else would I have the opportunity to spew unsubstantiated claims? Sure, I can do this on social media and my research papers, but only the blog gives me the illusion that hundreds of people look forward to my words of wisdom every month.

I am thankful for the grad lab, which is a great place to overhear other people’s research, write it up yourself very quickly, and publish it before they do. See this as a heads up, teams currently working on a project for Betsi’s content analysis class.

I am also thankful for the grad lab’s whiteboards, another place to flame my narcissism as well as send out hidden messages in the guise of silly cartoons. Why did I call the boney bird in the Halloween drawing a skeleton owl rather than an owl skeleton and why did I draw Ebola Man? There must be deeper meaning to it all.

I am thankful for awkward conversations with Walt. You never really know when he’s serious and when he’s deadpanning. He pretends to be disappointed when someone doesn’t get that he’s joking, but really, deep down, he enjoys it immensely.

I am thankful to whoever stole a wall from the Museum of Modern Art and put it in the AI office together with matching tables. It allows for happy “me time” during office hours, those two hours a week when we make ourselves available to students and students make themselves scarce.

I am thankful for the fact that the sidewalk between RTV and the library has finally reopened. I don’t need to run a lap around the arboretum to make it to my bus anymore.

I am thankful to my fellow “Faces of NPR” improvisers for letting me make them do goofy things. It will pay off academically, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education!

Speaking of the improv group, I am thankful to NPR for not suing us for trademark infringement. Of course, they probably never heard of us. If they do ever find out about our motley crew of unscripted joke-tellers, we can defend ourselves by claiming NPR in our case stands for Nervous Pimple Reaction.

I am thankful for rarely needing to open my mailbox. When I do, I am thankful to Tamera for helping me after I fail a thousand times on my own.

I am thankful for the fact that Indiana winters eventually end. For that reason, I am thankful that Indiana University is not in Minnesota. “But that wouldn’t make sense,” you say? Tell that to Indiana University of Pennsylvania (which is not affiliated with either IU or UPenn)!

Finally, I am thankful for blog posts that don’t end suddenly.sine_qua_nonsense


Dissertation dogs: How the love of a good dog can get you through anything including grad school

By: Niki Fritz

Jack is Ashley's new Border Collie puppy and can best be described as both regal and silly

Jack is Ashley’s new Border Collie puppy and can best be described as both regal and silly.

The past year has been a big one for IU Telecom grad student Ashely Kraus. She defended her thesis, finished the first year of her doctoral studies, and made possibly one of the biggest decisions of her life: she decided to get a dog. As Ashley explains, after she defended her thesis and knew Bloomington was going to be home for a while, “I knew I was ready for a dog. I was ready for Jack.”

But Jack wasn’t the dog Ashley had planned for. “I had planned on getting a dog that was two to four years old. But when I saw Jack and he looked up at me with those eyes, I just knew he was the right puppy.”

Jack is a Border Collie puppy who is filled with energy and an evident sweetness. It is virtually impossible not to fall in love with him at first lick, despite his occasional over-eagerness and tendency to jump on you before you can make it fully through the front door. (Although this is something Mama Ashley is working hard to train Jack out of, through a complex system of treats and water bottle sprays.)

Upon first greet with Jack it is also clear that he is just a little bit eccentric. Jack plays by himself by throwing his bone over his head and then furiously jumping up to catch it, as if he wasn’t the one who threw it in the first place. And every time he does this little trick, Ashley laughs hysterically. It seems as if they have their own little idiosyncratic human-dog communication.

What is clear about Ashley and Jack is that sometimes there is just a right fit, a perfect dog for a lucky grad student to make winter nights, grad school and life in general a little more enjoyable.

Ashley and Jack: a match made in heaven or in reality at the shelter

Ashley and Jack: a match made in heaven or in reality at the White River Humane Society.

But beyond being a riot, Jack helps Ashley be more productive in concrete ways.

“Jack helps give me structure. I have to be home to let him out,” Ashley says. “Plus he makes it easier to work from home. Before I went a little stir crazy. Even though the conversations I have so far with Jack are on- sided, it is still nice to have him here. I don’t feel like I’m studying by myself all day.”

Of course as with any family member, things aren’t always easy with Jack.

“He was such a sweet kid; now he is kind of entering his teens and he doesn’t listen as well,” Ashley explains. There have been a few recent accidents and the case of the eaten dollar bill.

In addition to an eaten pen, Ashley came home one day to find this almost-cartoon-like eaten up dollar bill

In addition to an eaten pen, Ashley came home one day to find this almost-cartoon-like eaten up dollar bill.

But Ashley knows this is just a learning phase for Jack and that soon, hopefully before she starts dissertating, Jack will mature a bit, grow out of his teenage years and the two will hit a groove together. For Ashley, Jack is her dog but also her study buddy, the pup who makes her feel less lonely.

“A lot of work as an academic is alone. Even though we collaborate, we are working day in and day out alone,” Ashley says. “It was really lonely working alone all day. I imagine when you are dissertating it is even more lonely. I think having Jack will help me feel less alone. And it will be nice to have someone to talk to about T Swift.”

As for any final words about the role of dogs in an academic’s life, Ashley was clear the benefits of a new forever friend outweigh any eaten shoes, pens or dollar bills.

“Jack is very therapeutic to have around,” Ashley says. “He just gives you unconditional love. And everyone needs more love.”

At this point in the interview, Jack, who may have been a little sick of being ignored, pushed his sweet head under my arms and typed this message: “Fvgs  z A,” which I’m pretty sure is Jack speech for “I love you too Ashley. Now let’s play!”

Ashley isn’t the only Telecom grad student with a forever friend. Check out Mona and Alexis’ awesome dogs!

What’s Not to Love About Winter?

By Mona Malacane

Ok, ok, I know that there are quite a few things that make winter a rather … difficult time of year. We all remember the horrendous potholes, the -40 degree three days long nightmare, and that time it snowed in March. And yes, it is less than enjoyable when any bit of exposed skin goes numb within 2 minutes while walking to class and that shaded sidewalks become slippery (and embarrassing) death traps. I will even concede that having to put on ten pounds of clothing just to let my dog out multiple times a day gets pretty tiring quickly.

Sidewalk of death

Sidewalk of death.

But how about starting this season on a more positive (and jingly) note and thinking about all of the wonderful things that make winter special! For example, I greatly enjoy sweaters and any/all occasions to don knitwear. Other things I like about winter include: tacky sweater parties, drinking hot apple cider (oftentimes with a dash of whiskey) without breaking out into a sweat, knitting/crocheting scarves, condensation that makes us look like fire breathing dragons, seeing my dog hop around in the snow, and heated blankets (they change your life, I swear).

Homemade tacky sweaters

Homemade tacky sweaters

Now you’re thinking, “Ok those things are nice and all Mona, but I’m still not sold on this whole ‘winter can be a great time of year thing.’” Well here is a list that may induce some warmer winter feelings, courtesy of some of my fellow forward-thing graduate students.

Christmas movies and fattening foods.”– Ashley Kraus

 “The spontaneous snowball fights.”– Keith Orgain

I hate winter. Ice skating, skiing, sledding, and the holiday season make it tolerable. Having to practice discus throwing indoors makes it worse.” – Kelsey Prena, See exhibit A:

 “Justified hibernation. Often in virtual worlds.”– Ryland Sherman

It never gets cold here or snows.” – Mark Bell (Denial is not just a river in Egypt Mark … I should know.)

 “My favorite thing is yelling SNOW-POCALYPSE while playing four days worth of DC heroes and cards with snowed-in friends.”– Dustin Ritchea

I love spontaneous snow angles in Dunn Meadow. Also hot cocoa. Also hot cocoa with peppermint schnapps because I’m an old man.”– Niki Fritz

Photo courtesy of Niki Fritz

Photo courtesy of Niki Fritz.

Getting snowed-in in Manhattan.” – Daphna Yeshua-Katz

I’ll second Dustin Ritchea and Ryland Sherman ‘s comments about thoroughly enjoying being trapped in virtual worlds (Skyrim!) and other gaming with snowed-in friends!” – Stevie Stewart

– This gem of a video from Stephen Myers

Hot pots and holiday spirit!”– Yijie Wu

Hot chocolate, sledding, Christmas, and being snowed in with friends.” – Whitney Eklof

Hunting. Sitting in an ice fishing shack while enjoying Snow Shoe Grog. Listening to southerners complain about the weather.” – Gabe Persons

I know I don’t get to vote anymore … but snowmen!!!” – Rachel Bailey

My favorite thing is Seasonal Affective Disorder.” – Josh Sites

Hiking in the snow!” – Glenna Read

The eerie quiet a heavy snow storm causes.” – Nic Matthews

Fire crackers! It’s a Chinese tradition to set off firecrackers to celebrate new year and to scare off the evils. So … it’s always associated with the image of winter for me. Plus, I love the sound firecrackers make!” – Xiaodan Hu

One of my favorite things about winter is walking around on campus when it’s snowed!” – Teresa Lynch


Photo courtesy of Teresa Lynch.

Ninth Brown Bag – November 14, 2014


Nicky Lewis, Doctoral Candidate, Department of Telecommunications, Media School

Social Comparison in Reality Television

Reality television programming has experienced tremendous growth in the last decade. By combining relatively low production costs and a quick turnaround for broadcast, these types of programs have increased in popularity worldwide. However, what makes these programs engaging to media audiences is still uncertain. Although several researchers have explored the relevant features of reality programs and viewers’ perceptions of those programs, little is known about the psychological processes at work amongst the viewers themselves. Informed by social comparison theory, this presentation will demonstrate how directional social comparisons with cast members influence emotional responses to reality television programming, including enjoyment.


Nicky Lewis (M.A., Indiana University) is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Telecommunications at Indiana University.  Her research interest involves media psychology, especially as it applies to consumption behavior.

Dancing for A Cause

By Mona Malacane

Warning, I’m about to state the obvious: It is so easy to get swept up by all the short term deadlines in academia. For example, I am currently looking at my list of things to complete this week and it is full of class readings, running experiments, writing papers, homework, errands, and 15 minute blocks of exercise. If you let it, grad school can hijack your life. Sometimes it feels like I’m walking around with blinders on. My blog story this week snapped me out of the deadline-haze and made me reflect on the things outside of my grad school bubble, which have become way too easy to lose sight of.

This week, I sat down with Andrew Weaver and he shared with me his son Owen’s story. Owen was born three months premature at Bloomington Hospital, weighing only 1 pound, 15 ounces. He was airlifted immediately to Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis where he stayed in the neonatal intensive care unit for 4 months. When he was finally able to go home with Andrew and Nicole, he was still on oxygen even though he was healthy and his prognosis was very positive.

Owen the builder

Owen and his banner at the 2013 IUDM.

Owen is now five years old, in kindergarten, a big brother to Nicole and Andrew’s younger son Elliott, and can correctly name all of his toy construction equipment. (If I were psychic I would predict that he is a future engineer in the making.) But he would not be thriving today without the amazing doctors and nurses at Riley. “It’s a research hospital affiliated with IU, and the research that they’ve done there on how to deal with premature infants and how to get their lungs healthier and how much oxygen to give them and when to give to them, it’s all research that they’ve done there at the hospital … and that saved his life,” Andrew explained. So when Andrew and Nicole were contacted by someone at the IU Dance Marathon, which raises money and awareness for Riley Hospital, they of course said yes.

IUDM is a year-long fundraiser that culminates in a marathon where alternating groups of participants (mostly students) stay on their feet for 36 hours, a lot of the time, dancing. But IUDM isn’t just about raising money; it’s also a celebration for Riley families and Riley kids like Owen. “At the marathon itself, they have a bounce house and all kinds of stuff for the kids to do and of course thousands of college students who want to play with them. They [Owen and Elliott] have a great time and always look forward to it.” It is a massive production. There are concerts, bands, games, and speakers; Colts players and IU athletes stop by and shake hands; and many Riley families tell their stories. “There’s a lot going on at different times but they do a great job of planning it so there is always something interesting happening.” To give you an idea of how large of a production the IUDM here are some quants –  it is the second largest student-run philanthropy in the country and it raised $2.6 million last year.

Aside from the millions of dollars they raise, Andrew explained that the students behind this fundraiser are what truly make the organization and marathon special. “What really has an impact on us emotionally is just the lengths that these students are going to and the dedication that they have. Because it’s not just this weekend … they start meeting weekly, twice weekly for some of them, early in the Spring to start planning this year’s event. And they have lots of other events throughout the year,” he said. “The time that they are spending is more than a full-time job for a lot of these students who are in charge of IUDM for months and months … and they are doing it on top of being a student and on top of their own lives. So to see the effort and sacrifices that they make in such a selfless way, it’s amazing.”

Owen at a committee meeting

Andrew and Nicole are now faculty advisers for the whole organization. This is a picture of Owen at one of the committee meetings!

If you want to learn more about the organization you can visit their website , their blog, or watch this amazing video  that explains what the organization is about and even has. The Marathon begins this Friday, November 14 at the Tennis Center! So if you want to see some of the activities you can check it out at the visitors center or there will be a live feed of the entire marathon on their website. Start fundraising now if you’d like to participate next year!

The Childhood Nerds of Telecom

Niki Fritz sporting her wolf sweatshirt and banged up knees

Niki Fritz sporting her banged up knees (on the left) and wolf sweatshirt (for her 12th birthday)

By Niki Fritz

It probably comes as no surprise that I was not particularly “cool” when I was a kid. When I was young, I wanted to fancy myself a tomboy but I was too uncoordinated to be good at sports – usually I was walking around with bloody knees from spills on the black top (see photo to the right). The jocks never really accepted me although they were kind enough to usually humor me.  Where my nerd really shined was anything involving the environment. I was an exceedingly annoying pre-hippy, meaning I was just uber concerned with the rain forest and any endangered species my teachers mentioned in class that day. I expressed my nerd by lecturing my friends on the importance of taking short showers and wearing an oversized sweatshirt with a bunch of wolves on it. Those were the good ole days.

Looking back at photos and remembering what a little nerd I was, I have a sense of nostalgia and – I’ll admit it – a sense of pride that I marched to my own, albeit annoying, drum.  But I know I didn’t feel it when I was a youth. What I remember most about being young is how I wanted to be cool but just didn’t have the skills to pull it off. I was a nerd (or maybe a dork; don’t ask me to explicate nerd versus dork versus geek.) Recently I was chatting with some of my fellow graduate students and I realized many of us had our own kind nerdhood as children, that weird interest we were a little too into, that thing that as a kid set us apart from our peers. Here are a few of the Telecom grad student’s stories of childhood nerd.


The strangest thing about grad school is that it has not only made me embrace my former nerd but dive more deeply into nerd culture. I binge-watched BSG and played my first game of Dungeons and Dragons this summer. Now that I’m in grad school I feel like I can fully embrace all of nerdom because being a nerd is a common trait among my peers.  Yes, it is true that in recent years the term “nerd” has become something accepted in the mainstream. Yes it may even be cool to be a nerd (just ask T. Swift). But I think what has really changed is that nerd in grad school really means passion; being a nerd about flow in music or video production or cognitive processes, is really about being so invested in a topic you are willing to spend 60 hours a week in the lab. Nerd now is what drives us, what fuels our studies (along with coffee and sugar) and what brings us together in this department.

Eighth Brown Bag – November 7, 2014


Daphna Yeshua-Katz, Doctoral Candidate, Department of Telecommunications, The Media School

Navigating Stigma in Online Communities

Virtual relationships among people have enjoyed scholarly interest across multiple disciplines while emerging media systems are increasingly designed to enhance anonymous connectedness. This environment affords a safe space for stigmatized groups to convene. Yet, there is limited information about how the online environment is used by the stigmatized. Moreover, the theoretical approaches used so far treat the online environment as a place for marginalized communities to escape from offline stigma. It is time to consider how these support groups shape collective group norms and perform rituals of group membership.

Drawing from stigma and online social support literature, this presentation will address the role of stigma in shaping media use of three groups: Pro-ana bloggers who are members of an online community for people with eating disorders, Israeli childless women who go through fertility treatments and Israeli women who are voluntarily childless. Quantitative content analysis and qualitative in-depth interviews are used to address research questions.


Daphna is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Telecommunications (newly merged Media School) at Indiana University. Her research interest focuses on understanding the interconnections of technology, society and norms–particularly with respect to online community making among stigmatized groups. Daphna attended the University of Amsterdam (UvA) for BA and MA degrees in Communication Science. She was a lecturer at the Open University of Israel, a journalist in Israel and in the Netherlands, and a public relations manager in the Israeli NGO The Jaffa Institute.


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