Mike, Mark and Metal, Sharon’s View from the Lab, Matt Falk’s Lucky Purple Socks

Mike Lang and Extreme Metal

Grad student Mike Lang admits that he was listening to Metallica when he learned how to walk.  Now, he’s conducting research on extreme metal.  After his undergrad studies here at IU as a Communication and Culture and Political Science major, Mike planned to go on to law school.  But, something happened in his junior year that changed all that.  He took a course on video games and discovered that there were similarities between video game and extreme metal culture.  Mike began work on an independent study, leading him to Professor Mark Deuze and ultimately to becoming a MA student in our department.

Mike explores the dynamics of metal culture.  People find identity in extreme metal, which for many people is not just a musical genre but a lifestyle.  His current research focuses on the dynamics of extreme metal and virtual space.  Mike explains that regional sensibilities have started coloring metal culture and they are much appreciated.  Earlier they were seen as a negative.  Now where one comes from can act as a badge of honor.

Mike currently serves as president of the Metal Underground, an organization on campus devoted to metal culture.  This is where he met Parker Weidner, lead singer and guitarist of extreme metal band, Massakren.  When Mike first met Parker, Massakren was just forming.  Mike explains that he has been able to see the progression of the band as it has grown.

What does Mike’s new bride think about all of this metal stuff?  “Actually, my wife hates metal, but the fact that she deals with me is pretty incredible.  She’s really supportive of my work.”

See extreme metal band Massakren’s music video, directed by Telecom undergrad students Lorne Golman and Edward Wu here: Threshold

Brown Bag Presentation

This week’s brown bag presentation featured grad student Mike Lang, Professor Mark Deuze, and Parker Weidner, lead singer of extreme metal band Massakren.

Media Life, Extreme Metal, and Scenic Capital in a Post-Geographical World.

Abstract: In our presentation, we offer a history of extreme metal in terms of what we call ‘scenic capital’ – the discourses and resources that produce and reproduce the boundaries of scenes – moving from locally articulated scenes in the 1980s to boundaryless or post-geographic scenes in the 2000s. We discuss the implications for communities of practice, the formation of identity, the nature of participation, and the continued importance of place for extreme metal scenes. As a case study, we will present the history and ongoing development of Indiana-based black metal band Massakren.

Check out the highlights:

Sharon’s View from the Lab

In her almost four years as the lab manager of our department’s Institute for Communication Research, Sharon Mayell has worn many figurative hats. As one of the mainstays of the department’s experimental research wing on the sixth floor of Eigenmann, Sharon has assisted in studies, managed the subject pool, played the role of a test subject, and helped with grants, among other day-to-day tasks. “My hours are all over the map,” Sharon explains, adding that she goes wherever help is most needed. “It isn’t routine, which is why I like it.”

Sharon has collected some great stories from her desk and around the lab, which can run anywhere from 600-1500 subjects per year. Sharon recalls one study where a subject kept falling asleep during the experiment, and she also remembers several instances when subjects have sought life advice while waiting for the experiment to begin, including tips for attracting members of the opposite gender. Another perk of her office is the view of grad students working across the hall. “I’ve watched several dissertations cranked out at the last minute,” she says. “The tension is palpable. And of course, they always complete it.”

With an MA in Communications Management and a love from her undergraduate days for psychophysiology related classes, the lab seems a perfect fit for Sharon. One of her favorite parts of the lab culture is the collaborative effort involved. “There’s a lot of helping and hand-me-down knowledge,” she says. The studies cover a wide range of interests, and the crew holds weekly lab meetings to discuss what everyone is working on. “Work from the lab can be a painstaking process for new grad students,” Sharon explains, “but the ‘pushing’ that takes places gets them to new intellectual heights.”

Matt Falk Explains Purple Socks, Test-taking Rituals

On the morning of PhD student Matt Falk’s comprehensive exams, he carefully planned appropriate attire, down to his lucky FC Telecom purple socks. The socks, Matt explains, are not just a superstition—they have a history. “An important part of soccer is a well-matched kit,” he says, “so when the soccer team got lavender jerseys, I bought purple socks and started wearing them.” The team improved in the socks’ debut season, and members of the team joked, “It’s all about the socks.” So, when Matt was piecing together his wardrobe for the exams, the socks seemed to be the natural choice. “Besides,” he adds, “with those pants and shoes, they look like dark dress socks anyway.”

Matt arrived hours ahead of time on exam days and spent the time trying out different techniques to remain calm. “I got up and paced a bit, and I talked to myself,” he says, adding that he completed numerous laps in the basement of the building. His coping mechanisms for the stress extend into his test-taking also, as Matt has been known to pace and talk out loud to work through difficult ideas.

To prepare for the exams, Matt spent weeks talking to advisors, creating reading lists, and compiling notes that were written and rewritten numerous times in the process. The week before, though, Matt didn’t read anything new. “The actual week of the exams is kind of a deer-in-the-headlights kind of time,” he says. “It’s an intense process, challenging but relevant to the future.”

Matt, who actually got sick in the three weeks between his exams and his oral defense, used the time to reread through his answers and figure out what he would change. For him, the exams were an important way to figure out how all of his knowledge acquired from his classes fit together. “After three and a half years of learning, you have these exams and you finally see it all before you and realize, ‘Wow. This is my knowledge,’” he says.

As for his purple socks, Matt believes they’ve helped the soccer team, and he’s confident they’ve helped him too. He plans on keeping them around for now: “In the end, they turned out lucky, I think.”

Random Photo of the Week:

Professor Andrew Weaver and grad student Katie Birge, both DePauw University Alum, at Yogi's watching their alma mater's annual Monon Bell Classic football game.


Katie Birge:  Sharon’s View from the Lab, and Matt Falk Explains Purple Socks, Test-taking Rituals

Nicky Lewis:  Mike, Mark and Metal, and Brown Bag

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