Nicole Martins’ Toys, Ryan Newman’s Music Videos, Siya’s Knowledge Ball, and Andrew Weaver is the New Fresh Prince

Objects in Faculty Offices, Segment 6: Nicole Martins’ Educational Toys

Professor Nicole Martins doesn’t just use the toys in her office for fun and games.  For a researcher who studies issues related to children and media, her educational toys serve a greater purpose in both research and class discussions. Earlier this week, she took some time to talk about several of the ones she keeps in her office.  On the one hand, Nicole cautioned about the emergence of toys that encourage parents to register their information online, which can have many repercussions.  Among other things, they can facilitate advertising and marketing campaigns aimed directly at their children.  On the other, she highlighted the effectiveness of programs like Sesame Street, which utilize feedback from parents, children, and researchers to improve the learning and cognition capabilities of children who watch.

Nicole’s research was most recently cited in a New York Times article titled, The Playground Gets Even Tougher, on Sunday, October 10th.  The article describes the issues surrounding mean-girl bullying, which is receiving national media attention due in part to the recent occurrence of suicides among children at the grade school level.  Go to the full article here: The Playground Gets Even Tougher

See Nicole discuss the deeper purposes behind two toys in her office: the seemingly harmless Scout and the lovable favorite, Elmo:

Ryan Newman’s Music Videos

This fall former IU undergraduate Ryan Newman returned to the Telecom Department to pursue an MS degree. In his time away from the Radio-TV building, Ryan wasn’t working on an entry-level job somewhere or sitting in an office wearing a suit – he was in Nashville, Tennessee, directing and producing music videos. “When I was a wee sophomore, I started my own video production company as a side project outside of classes,” Ryan says, “and they signed me based on those videos.”

Ryan spent his first months in Nashville as a production assistant until he convinced the company he was working for to let him take on bigger jobs. For his first video, Ryan had to build a miniature set of a theater stage from scratch, learning as he went along. Eventually, towards the end of his time in Nashville, Ryan landed a job as the director for a Patty Loveless Video.

Shortly after that, Ryan signed on with AOL’s Studio Now, where he began working on commercials for publishers and other media companies. “Right now I’m working on a series of what will be 24 Sprint commercials,” Ryan adds. He has hired a producer to help with the production of these commercials. In addition to this work, Ryan flies out to film a major SEC football game every other weekend for their conference’s Tailgate Show. “I fly out to shoot content, then I edit it overnight for the morning,” Ryan says. “It’s great fun.”

The whole goal of this, says Ryan, is to work towards raising the funds necessary to produce a stop motion film. “It is about a little boy striking up a conversation with a giant turtle and how it all goes wrong,” Ryan says. He also plans on recording a 5 song EP that will become the soundtrack for the film. “I’m using my connections from my Nashville days,” Ryan says, hoping to work the songs into further promotion for the finished film.

For now, Ryan is focusing on getting his stop motion film off the ground. “I guess I came back to do this,” Ryan says. “I like the flexibility this program offers. I feel like I can accomplish a lot an not be bogged down by too many prerequisites.”

To view more of Ryan’s work, check out his Vimeo page here.

Siya’s Knowledge Ball

Since arriving at IU in the fall of 2009, MS student and Ford Foundation Fellow Siyabonga Africa’s had journalism on his mind. Hailing from South Africa, Siya previously worked as a journalist and freelancer in Johannesburg and the Western Cape before coming to Bloomington.  His prior work in the industry brought him to the Indiana Daily Student this semester.

Part of Siya’s interest in journalism lies in the contrast between newspapers at his colleges in South Africa and what he’s observed in the newsroom at IDS. “Here, I’ve noticed there’s more emphasis on community news, and they publish more frequently than the newsrooms at the universities in South Africa,” he says.

Specifically, Siya wants to keep thinking about where journalism is headed and how new media will play a role in reshaping the industry. “It’s a mind-bending school of thought,” he says. “For example, Twitter is going to change journalism – but how?” From his perspective, the answer may lie in the way Twitter can call on everyone to create the news pulse. “It’s a kind of knowledge ball,” he says. “We can share ideas, and from these ideas comes a tangible project.”

At present, Siya is wondering what the changing journalism landscape will mean for his future. “Chances are, when I go back to South Africa, I’m not going to be a ‘journalist,'” he says. “It’s not so much the position of journalism. We should be teaching the identity of the journalist,” he points out, crediting Mark Deuze for first planting that idea in his head.

Siya, who hopes to one day move back to the Western Cape, is currently working on a web content analysis of news aggregation. Before he returns home, Siya wants to find internships in the States, and he’s spent some time traveling to New York and other east coast locales as well as Chicago. “It’s all about immersing yourself in the culture while you’re here,” he says.

For more of Siya’s thoughts on journalism and new media, check out his website here. You can also catch up on Siya’s daily happenings via Twitter: siyafrica

Andrew Weaver’s Brown Bag Presentation

This week Professor Andrew Weaver’s brown bag presentation on the racial makeup of film casts inspired a lot of feedback from the audience.  Having completed three studies on this topic, he is in the process of designing the fourth and welcomed input from those in attendance.

The Fresh Prince Conundrum: How and why the racial makeup of a cast influences selective exposure to movies

Abstract: Several movie producers have recently spoken of a perceived “tipping point” in the racial casting of movies.  The fear is that if the number of minority actors in a film goes over a certain mark, then the White audience will be driven away.  Thus, producers often consciously avoid casting minorities in supposedly race-neutral roles in order to maximize their prospective audience.  In this talk I will present a program of research designed to examine how and why the racial makeup of a cast could influence White audiences’ selective exposure to movies.  Using social identity theory as a framework, these studies demonstrate the actors’ race does influence selective exposure in certain contexts, primarily by affecting viewers’ perceived identification with the characters and perceived relevance of the film.  I will discuss what these findings mean both for current casting practices in Hollywood and for our understanding of the psychology of race and person perception.  We will also consider other questions that future studies in this line of research could address.

See the highlights here:


Katie Birge:  Ryan Newman’s Music Videos and Siya’s Knowledge Ball

Nicky Lewis:  Nicole Martins’ Educational Toys and Brown Bag

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