Water, Water … Not Really Everywhere

By Mona Malacane

About how many times do you think you wash your hands per day? Flush the toilet? Fill a cup of water or pot to cook? Ever wonder where that water comes from, or where it goes when you pour it down the drain? It’s a simple luxury that we enjoy every day (many times per day) but probably not something that many people stop to think about.

If your interest was piqued by these questions, you will soon be able to learn more about water systems through a user-friendly, interactive game created by one of our faculty. In collaboration with Dr. Shahzeen Attari from SPEA, Professor of Practice Mike Sellers is currently designing a game to educate people on how water systems work.

It’s a common misconception that when water systems have problems they are related to the quality of the water. The bigger problem actually is water quantity. Supply of water to an area that is being developed for residential, commercial, or manufacturing use must be balanced with the water that is needed by the existing population. This doesn’t sound very complicated but there is a lot more that goes into water system planning.  Mike and Shahzeen aim to explain this via a game.

“You start off with a very small well and a couple of houses, sort of Sim City-ish,” Mike explained. “As you have enough water and you’re drawing from a stream or ground water, your little community grows. But you don’t control that growth, it just grows because more people are attracted there, which means you have to increase the water supply. So maybe now you go to water tanks, or digging deeper wells, or you build a reservoir.” As the city continues to grow you have to make choices about where to build water supplying systems and how much these decisions cost. Do you dig a new well? A new water tower? Where should these systems be placed? Should you pull water from a nearby lake instead? How will this affect the surrounding areas?”

Dr. Attari was interviewed by Indiana Green Living magazine (2013) about her research on energy and water consumption.

Dr. Attari was interviewed by Indiana Green Living magazine (2013) about her research on energy and water consumption.

The game will also include challenges/issues that municipal systems deal with every day, like how to handle waste water from an upstream community. Another issue that you learn about is aging water systems and their maintenance. For instance, how to balance the budget of a growing community that needs to tap an additional water source (e.g. a new well) and also also maintain its existing underground pipes.

“The players come to understand, ‘ok here’s how I build a water system, here’s how I keep one running so I can keep my community growing,’ and also to some degree how the people who are creating and running these water systems have no control over how many people they serve.” In other words, the game gives people a look at the tangible and real issues that city planners and municipal water suppliers work through every day.

The goal of this project is first and foremost to educate and inform the general public about water systems. But Mike also hopes that through learning about these systems, people will pay more attention to water issues when they arise in their local communities and perhaps stimulate conversations during local government elections.

Shahzeen and Mike have been working together on this first version of the game since January with a grant from the Ostrom Workshop. Their plan is to continue working on it through the summer with a few of Shahzeen’s graduate students and an undergrad who is working on the art for the game. When the game is ready for release, it will be available on the web and friendly and accessible enough for people of all ages.


The Refreshing Extra, Part II

By Mona Malacane

If you, by chance, missed the snazzy new fliers or the reminder email from Harmeet, there was the smell of fresh coffee and buzz of conversation to draw you into a standing-room crowd in Room 226 for the maiden Third Half.

The promise of superior coffee and non-routine refreshments – one of the signature changes from generic brown bags – was delivered in spades. The spread featured roasted and lightly salted almonds, fresh kale chips, skewers of grapes, olives, cherry tomatoes and cheese, and of course a hot cup of freshly brewed choice coffee (in the new Third Half mugs) from local barista Samuel Sveen. The pièce de résistance? A two-tiered double chocolate cake baked in the middle of the night by kitchen fairies, according to Betsi, and topped with a “1” candle. While saying a few words about the bright future of The Media School, Dean Shanahan lit the candle and guest speaker Kevin Coe blew it out.


From cake to speech to blowing out the candle.

Moderator Andrew Weaver kicked off the session by sharing the thinking behind the Third Half. “For those who don’t know, the Third Half is … a rugby term for the period after the game where the teams gets together, go to the local pub, and drink, and engage in some lively conversation. This is our attempt to bring the Media School together in an intellectual environment, and hopefully spark some creative ideas and intellectual conversation.”

speaker giving take

Kevin Coe explaining a pivotal moment in the history of presidential religious references.

After all of the pomp and circumstance, Kevin took us on an interesting walk through America’s political history, speaking about how presidents have evoked religious references in speeches and the multifaceted ways in which these references have appeared and changed over time. The talk was followed by questions from respondents – Lori Henson (Indiana State University and IU alum), Mike Conway (Journalism, Media School), Betsi Grabe (Communication Science, Media School), Liz Elcessor (Cinema and Media Studies, Media School) – and about 35 minutes of Q & A from the brimful room.

The stimulating conversation on religion and politics could have easily continued for another 30 minutes but Andrew gracefully ended talk with a thanks to Kevin and a crowd-pleasing invitation to stick around. “The Third Half cannot be held by the bounds of time but I recognize that some of you do have schedules so if you can, I would please invite you to stay. We have some delicious cake back there and plenty of coffee, thank you to Kevin and thank you all for coming.”

Whether it was the fantastic cake, the superior coffee, or the impenetrable maze of chairs, many of presentation go-ers did linger for continued conversation – perhaps we can call this post-talk lingering the Fourth Half?

To listen to this inaugural Third Half presentation, please go here. Stay tuned to the grad blog for information about future Third Halfs.

Studying Ethics and Researching Porn

By Mona Malacane

How do the media shape, influence, and affect our social and cultural values? How do the media reshape our social standards? How do we create meaning from media messages? These sound like research questions but they are actually the topics of a year-long seminar hosted by The Poynter Center that Yanyan Zhou is enrolled in.


The Poynter Center is an interdisciplinary research center that supports both theoretical and empirical studies, seminars, symposia, and a publication series related to the broader study of ethics. On July 1st, 2014, TPC became part of the Media School and in the spirit of the merger created the seminar “Meaning and Media” to foster multidisciplinary informed discussions related to media, ethics, and culture. This seminar is just one of the many diverse offerings from TPC for the 2014-2015 academic year, which also include an Ethics Bowl  and a monthly roundtable presentation for IUB faculty engaged in ethics-related research.

Some of the topics discussed last semester included healthcare reform and how it has affected young adults; the Pulitzer-nominated story of the difficult choices one family had to make for their micro-premature infant; and a presentation from Telecom’s own Nicole Martins on how popular television shows portray teen pregnancy.

Yanyan’s interests, however, are on the more explicit side … It doesn’t take an advanced degree to know that discussions of pornography effects are often controversial, which is a large part of why Yanyan is so invested in the seminar. In fact, in Yanyan’s view, it is because pornography is often viewed as ethically debatable that porn and its effects must be studied, especially in China where pornography is illegal. She plans to conduct several studies, both in China and America, investigating effects of pornography for her dissertation and expects that many Chinese participants will feel uneasy about the topic. She said sarcastically, “My long term career goal is to ‘corrupt’ Chinese people.”


Research doesn’t have feelings, just results.

But sarcasm aside, Yanyan points to Alfred Kinsey as an analog for her research goals. “I’m really doing something that is on the borderline and I really wish to actually cross the border and make people feel uncomfortable and get myself into trouble … Even Kinsey got himself into trouble. ”

Joomi, the Life-Long Gamer

By: Niki Fritz

When Joomi Lee was in middle school, she made plans with some of her online gaming friends to meet up in a PC videogame one night to go on a big “hunt.” The group was big; almost 30 other Korean kids were virtually meeting Joomi at night to beat a beast. And Joomi, as the healer of the group, had an important role. But that night as she was playing, her mom insisted she turn off the game and go to bed. Joomi refused and her father got involved echoing her mother. Joomi again refused, trying to explain to her parents that 27 other virtual players were relying on her skills.

Joomi’s dad was not buying it and after arguing with his daughter he got fed up and threw the entire computer tower out the window. Joomi was furious. She stormed out of the house to the nearest cyber café, where she continued the game.

Joomis laughs about it now saying, “It was more important to me to finish the game. It may have not been the best behavior.”

As Joomi grew up video games remained an important part of her life, although the types of games she was drawn to started to change in high school.

Joomi remembers one scene in particular that forever changed the way she viewed video games. She was playing a multiplayer game and had just come back from a hunt. She was wandering through the village when she came across a campfire. There were other players sitting around the campfire cooking and sharing food and playing instruments. Even though it was just a pixelated fire, Joomi felt the warmth of the community there. After that experience, she started to gravitate towards more cooperative and pro-social games, games that had less killing and more brain involved.

“Since high school, I’ve lost my interest in games with killing because they are all similar. For me, it just seemed like all the updates for were only for graphics but the play style was the same,” Joomi says.

In college, Joomi started playing more simulation games. She says she was “drawn to the brain work” of the games, things like building complex cities or interacting with others.

The bright virtual environment Joomi created for her thesis project.

The bright virtual environment Joomi created for her thesis project.

Since coming to the United States, Joomi continues to play Korean games in her free time. She explains that Korean and Japanese games are starting to shift towards more mobile devices. She also says that Korean and Japanese gamers are more focused on the character’s appearance, wanting cute or sexy-looking characters. “Characters have to be cute and customizable or the game won’t be successful,” Joomi says.

To illustrate her point, she showed me a game she is currently playing on her tablet. The character she was playing was indeed adorable, even when the little girl was slaying monsters with a sword. Joomi also showed me the group texts she was participating in with other players in the game. Sometimes players meet up for a group gaming adventure and sometimes they just chat. Joomi says that all online games have communities with their own rules and norms, just like in real life.

All of her video game experience has led her to develop some ambitious research goals.

“I want to explore the spaces in games. Since I’ve become interested in games that don’t involve killing, I’ve seen how virtual spaces are not just for killing but they can be used for all other behaviors, like communication, therapy, even traveling,” Joomie says. “I see possibilities. If the space is 3D, it can be used for almost every human behavior. I’m not sure if it’s good or not but it’s happening.”

The dark environment Joomi create for her thesis

The dark environment Joomi create for her thesis.

Currently Joomi’s thesis is looking at how a player’s physical and virtual environment may impact his or her startle response. She is manipulating the valence and darkness of environments in Skyrim. She sent me a few screen grabs and the rooms are beautiful.

Despite how Joomi has shifted her gaming hobby into an academic pursuit, she still doesn’t think her parents would approve of her studies.

“My parents will be disappointed if I say that I am studying video games because they think that I am still playing games,” Joomi says. “Although there is a big population of gamers in Korea, the overall society still regards games are evil and waste of time, perhaps due to its obsession with competitive education. So it would better for me to say that I study human interaction with the media, not mentioning games specifically.”

First Brown Bag of the Semester – January 23, 2015


Nic Matthews, PhD Candidate, Department of Telecommunications, Media School

Making Conflict/Cooperation

Human conflict and cooperation—although markedly different—can emerge from similar contexts. The current talk discusses how two branches of research seek to identify and understand the triggers that crystallize these opposing outcomes. One branch observes individual differences that influence aggression-related outcomes following violent video game play. The other branch investigates the reciprocal relationship between one’s moral cognition and the morally laden messages present in games.

Chief Economist, David Waterman

By Mona Malacane

Retired life has been pretty exciting for David Waterman. On November 13 Federal Communications Commission’s Chairman Wheeler announced David’s appointment as FCC’s Chief Economist.

David has published for years in the area of economics of telecommunications and media ( here is an earlier blog post), and has consulted for the FCC in the past (as well as the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice); so being considered for the appointment wasn’t a complete surprise for him. He knew for some time that he was the shortlist for the appointment and had spent a day interviewing at the FCC earlier this year. Although David had gotten to know quite a few people who work at FCC through annual conferences, David thinks that the opportunity was mostly about being in the right place at the right time, given the media-related issues coming up at the commission next year.


Humble in his usual ways, David explained, “It’s not as important as it sounds. Even though they call me the Chief Economist, I don’t actually have any real power. There is a large staff of economists at the FCC and I’m sort of, theoretically, at the head of that staff. And part of my job is to promote economics in the commission and encourage publishable research by the staff … but I’m actually not in charge of administering anyone. It is like academia in that I can choose what I work on and although I report directly to Tom Wheeler [the chairman of the commission] and that’s a great opportunity, he chooses whether or not to listen to me.” Considering this is his life’s work, David is, as you might expect, looking forward to his new role at the FCC. After interviewing him a few times for the blog, I have to say this is the most I have ever seen David smile!

The appointment term is for one year beginning January 5.th David will be living in Washington and was still searching for somewhere to live when I interviewed him before the Thanksgiving break. He won’t be far from family though because his daughter, Chloe, works in DC for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals – another perk that David is looking forward to. “She is going to help keep me anchored and from going crazy so that really makes a big difference.” I was very concerned that his beautiful garden would suffer without his attention and care, but don’t worry! David plans to leave detailed instructions for his son Matthew, who will be staying in Bloomington, to care for his peppers while he is away.



Before our interview ended, David wanted to recognize Ryland Sherman and the work they have done together. “It’s been the flair coming from his understanding of technology and the law that I think attracted the attention of the Commission, so that’s been a very valuable thing.”


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.