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.


Daphna’s Double Defense

By Edo Steinberg

Daphna, ABD-plus

Last month, Daphna Yeshua-Katz did something that has never been done before in our department, as far as people can remember. She defended her qualifying exam and her dissertation proposal on the same day. Daphna is modest and says that other programs do this all the time.

“I think it’s quite exceptional,” Betsi Grabe, Daphna’s advisor says. “I do know of other institutions where it’s done, but I don’t know that anyone within the confines of our structure has actually done it.”

“There is risk involved,” Betsi says. “You’re getting your committee together to defend your qualifying exams. At the tail end of that dangles the proposal. You might appear presumptuous to think you can continue on to proposal defense, which is the next step. We were very careful in making it clear to the committee members that there is no presumption, that we meet to have Daphna’s qualifying exam defense, and should the committee then decide to pass her, then we will proceed to discuss her proposal and decide if we give a green light on that. If Daphna were to fail the qualifying exams, we would have a conversation with her anyway, but it would be more of a conversation than a dissertation proposal defense.”

After the qualifying exam defense, Daphna was sent out of the room so the committee could decide whether to pass her. “Daphna offered to put the tea water on, so she walked all the way to the faculty lounge, and shortly after she arrived there I was already in the hallway calling her back with good news.”

Both Daphna and Betsi, who were interviewed separately, think the combination of the two defenses allows for greater focus and efficiency in both the qualifying exam and proposal. “When you do it this way, your quals are much more directed towards your dissertation,” Daphna says. “Then, you sit and write about your dissertation in your own voice for the four days of the exams.”

Daphna recommends it to other Ph.D. students, as long as they are able to withstand the pressure of preparing for both at the same time. “It’s also very important that your chair supports you in this process,” she says. “Not all chairs would agree to do it. I was lucky that Betsi not only agreed, but encouraged me to do this. I am also fortunate to have a good circle of support in my life that is crucial to endure the pressure.”

Betsi would also recommend it, as long as you’re focused and know what your proposal is going to be even before you answer your first written qualifying exam question. Daphna’s proposal was sent to the committee members before she took the exam, so by the time of the defense, they had more than a month to look it over.

Betsi equates a double defense with a marathon. She used to think that with the right training, anyone could run the ultimate long-distance race, but after observing one up close, she changed her mind. “A marathon isn’t in everybody,” she says. “It’s like Walt said to me, ‘you can’t fake a marathon.’ You can’t fake your way through it. Likewise, you can’t fake your way through the qualifying exam and proposal defenses. It might not be in everybody, and doing them both on the same day might not be the right way to do it for everyone.”

Seventh Brown Bag of the Semester – October 25, 2013

Betsi Grabe and Ozen Bas, Department of Telecommunications, Indiana University

The Testosterone Factor: News Values as Gendered Frames in Covering U.S. Presidential Candidates

ABSTRACT:  The testosterone verve of Democrats has been ridiculed by Republicans, journalists, and comedians since the 1970s.  By 1992 Sidney Blumenthal (Gentleman’s Quarterly article) argued the Democratic Party was gender-stereotyped as unmanly nice and tolerant compared to the testosterone-secreting Republican mode of winner-takes-it-all. This gender-assignment still stands, evident in sharp criticism of President Obama for enduring instead of fighting Gov. Romney in the first 2012 debate.  A content analysis of the past six presidential elections examined verbal and visual news coverage of candidates to understand the deployment of gender frames in mediated politics. News values identified by Gans (1979) were reliably fitted to Bem’s (1974) Sex Role Inventory which gages dimensions of femininity/masculinity. This new instrument produced findings of a consistent pattern over time. Republican candidates were significantly more often wrapped in masculine frames like rugged individualism and patriotism; Democrats in feminine frames like altruistic democracy and responsible capitalism.

Shuo Tang, School of Journalism, Indiana University

Edo Steinberg, Department of Telecommunications, Indiana University

Yanqin Lu, School of Journalism, Indiana University

Race to Look Good: The Visual Representation of Presidential Candidates in Online Media

ABSTRACT: Through a framing analysis of 786 candidate images published online by major newspapers, newsroom blogs, and partisan blogs during the 2012 presidential campaign, the present study analyzes and compares how mainstream media and partisan blogs visually framed the presidential candidates. The results suggest that while the mainstream media kept a balanced view in framing the candidates, the liberal blogs did not specifically favor Obama over Romney. The conservative blogs, however, demonstrated their favorability by positively framing Romney and negatively framing Obama through the images they selected to publish.

Seventh Brown Bag of the Semester – March 29, 2013

Audio of this lecture is available here.

Ozen Baz, Ph.D. Student: Department of Telecommunications at Indiana University

Title: Shrinking knowledge gaps? The informative potential of emotionally personalized news



Apathy and ignorance frequently surface as reasons for why democracy, as a way of governance, does not thrive to expectations. Blame frequently finds a resting place on the news media for their failed responsibility to inform citizens. Once the news media are pegged as key ball-droppers, journalistic practices become the focus of research scrutiny. Prominent on the list of concerns about reporting is a perceived shift from the cold-hard-facts-only standard of objectivity to a more personalized approach that includes emotional testimony from ordinary citizens. According to the critics of journalism, this inclusion of emotionality is an obstacle to an informed public because it leads to low levels of political knowledge and knowledge gaps among citizens from different socioeconomic segments of society. This T600 presentation will not add to the voluminous lament about the ignorance and apathy of citizens in democratic systems. Instead, it will offer findings from a recently completed experimental study that line up with contemporary neuro and political science scholarship that treat emotion as enabling information gain and encouraging political participation.

Team Telecom Runs, Awards and Fellowships Workshop, Younei Soe’s Dissertation Award, Ron Osgood’s Presentation, Brown Bag

Team Telecom Runs, by Mike Lang

A few years ago I remember sitting in the movie theater and an advertisement for one of the branches of the armed services came on. A bunch of athletic guys in black shirts and camo pants ran through an obstacle course, and occasional close ups showed their various exertion induced grimaces. At the very end, brushed chrome letters appeared reading, “pain is weakness leaving the body.” Every time I see a runner chugging through campus with that similar grimaces, I’m reminded of those brushed chrome letters as I recount the agony of my few running experiences. Running is pain, yet a number of those within our department fight through it in their quest for camaraderie, a healthy lifestyle, new challenges, and charity.

Established at the Jill Behrman 5k last year, Team Telecom brings together the runners in our department. While most races fall into the 5k category, there are also 7ks, 10ks, mini marathons, and marathons. Although the races are timed, the only competition Team Telecom advocates is competition with yourself. As Matt Falk says, one of the mottos of the group is “start together, finish together.” Although everyone runs at a different pace, those who finish at the head of the pack stay around to cheer on those further behind. In some cases, they even turn back to run with them to the finish line. Nicky Lewis, who started running in races last fall at Betsi Grabe’s insistence, was apprehensive at first about running in public with a bunch of more experienced runners. However, after crossing the finish line for the first time, and seeing the amount of support from her teammates, she caught the bug. Falk characterizes Team Telecom as a successful anarchy. There are no rules or leaders, but things get done.

Reed Nelson is currently training for a marathon.

In the wintertime, organized racing comes to a halt but not Team Telecom. On a few occasions, the group collaborated and set up informal races of their own. As Lindsay Ems tells me, the group established a 3.5 mile route that they would all run. Walt Gantz served as the official timer, driving from mile marker to mile marker and providing encouragement along the way. They made sure to end the route in front of Bloomington Bagel Company so they could enjoy breakfast with each other afterwards.

Although all run the same race, everybody’s running style and reason for running differs substantially. Nicky Lewis, for instance, hates running but loves listening to music, and running gives her that opportunity while engaged in a health enhancing activity. Practically married to her iPod, Nicky sets up playlists that correspond to both the total time she wants to run, and her projected mile time. Relying on a website that uses a song’s tempo to determine how fast runners would run a mile if they ran to the beat of the music, Nicky has been able to cut her mile time down by a full minute. Likewise, Matt Falk uses music in ways that correspond to his body’s needs while running. Using GPS and a heart rate monitor, Falk is able to accurately track changes he feels his body undergoing, and he creates his playlist to match those changes. For instance, he might start off with some fun peppy music to get him started. When he hits the brick wall around 10 minutes, he can program Slayer’s “Angel of Death” to pump him up enough to get over the hump where he enters the cruise phase of his run and programs some chill electronica. For Lindsay, running is a challenge. Although she doesn’t particularly like the running part, she likes overcoming the pain. Likewise, Rob Potter runs to stay fit. While the styles and reasons may differ, all enjoy the camaraderie that the team provides.

While running provides Team Telecom with an opportunity to hang out, exercise, and have fun, they also run for a purpose.  Each race has an entrance fee which is donated to support various causes. Team Telecomm has aided breast cancer research, raised awareness about violence and assault, and supported organizations like Habitat for Humanity.

During the spring and fall races occur almost every weekend. For those interested in running you can visit the Team Telecom’s Facebook page, or contact one of members.

Team Telecom members: Matt Falk, Nicky Lewis, Lindsay Ems, Betsi Grabe, Mark Deuze, Mark Bell, Sean Connolly, Reed Nelson, Teresa Lynch, Rob Potter, Tamera Theodore, Shannon Schenck, Susan Kelly

Telecom PhD Workshop:  Seeking Dissertation Fellowships and Other Funding as a Graduate Studentby Ken Rosenberg

Professors Rob Potter, Andrew Weaver, and Harmeet Sawhney shared insights into dissertation fellowships and other funding opportunities in the “sausage making” mode.  The evening was broken into following three sessions (1) Dissertation Year Research Fellowships and Future Faculty Teaching Fellowships, (2) Travel Grants and Doctoral Workshops, and (3) Teaching Awards and Fellowships.  The students were given copies of three winning proposals. The faculty and students worked through one of the winning proposals in the sausage-making mode starting with the first draft, going through the comments and revisions cycle, and ending with the final proposal.  The workshop participants also saw the video component of Mark’s teaching portfolio that got him to be IU’s nominee for Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools’ (MAGS) 2012 Excellence in Teaching Award.

Younei Soe’s Dissertation Award, by Ken Rosenberg

Younei Soe, who defended her dissertation last year, recently received the Herbert S. Dordick Dissertation Award from the International Communication Association. In his nomination letter, Erik Bucy, Younei’s advisor, characterized her dissertation as “an absolutely first-rate piece of original research” that “sheds considerable new light on the civic consequences of new media use.” It all began with a moment that is familiar to scholars, the time when your current professor of interest asks you that innocent-yet-hopelessly-complex question: what interests you?

‘I’m interested in democracy,” said Younei, years ago. Back then, she had no idea how to make an original theoretical contribution on that front. From there, she began to establish herself in the academic community, doing research to forward the cause of democratic citizen education. Now, she has offered her own contribution, which Busy believes “will be embraced by researchers in the area of information technology and civic learning when they are introduced to the literature.” Future students may very well find her work to be required reading.

Like many politically-minded media scholars before her, she wanted to know how young adults use new media to understand political information and public affairs. If news and other politically-focused media are key for maintaining a healthy democracy, then it is necessary to analyze how people use media and how it impacts their knowledge and efficacy.

There are many studies that measure media usage, but her goal was to find a link between usage and proficiency and, for that, it was necessary to do more than survey people. For two years, she collected data from students of media and political science—individuals already encouraged and equipped to discuss these sorts of issues—in the form of surveys, focus groups, and in-depth interviews. For another two semesters, she did nothing but interview people. She showed clips of politicians; she tested people’s knowledge of politics and media institutions. With over 200 participants and more than 30 focus group sessions, the task of transcribing was onerous. To handle the epic workload, she did what most academics prefer: she hired undergrads to transcribe. Even with a team, it still took several months to complete the transcriptions. It was always important to make sure the data was processed properly but, since Younei intends to make everything publicly available in a collected dataset, consistency and formatting became even more important.

Most important, though, is Younei’s ability to express her findings with precision and clarity. She borrowed some terms and created others. Participants were ranked either high or low in “public affairs sophistication,” a multivariate concept encompassing political interest, media use, media knowledge, and political knowledge. “Media knowledge” is in particular an interesting concept as it does not concern the information that people get from the news but, rather, the awareness people have about news-reporting organizations. An example question: “How is The New York Times different from other newspapers?” The concept of political knowledge is a bit more straightforward—in theory, anyway—as it involved simple questions of fact, like “Who is the leader of Russia?” However, answers to questions of this nature were just as variable as any other. “It was amazing to see how people responded,” Younei said. Another important concept Younei developed is “public affairs efficacy,” a combination of political self-efficacy (“My vote matters in the election.”) and political information efficacy, the latter of which is a measure of one’s confidence in knowledge about politics. Humorously, males scored high in efficacy, but women scored higher in actual knowledge.

To receive the award, Younei will fly to Arizona and attend ICA’s Communication and Technology Division business meeting. This will be her first time back in ten years to Arizona, where she completed her first program of master’s studies. “I’ll be very happy to see my dorms,” she said.

As for the future, Younei wants to pass on what she has learned in her area of interest—and she will get her chance sooner rather than later. Starting in June (in the Summer II session), she will be teaching S542: International Information Issues in the School of Library and Information Science as an adjunct faculty member. The course is structured around three main themes: everyday civic life, systems of access and use, and culture and institution. Younei would like to thank the professors who helped her in crafting the syllabus. She would also like to remind everyone that her class has no pre-requisites and is currently open for registration. So, if you would like to know more about the relationships between individuals, media, and society in terms of politics and civic life, go ahead and sign up!

Ron Osgood’s Presentation, by Harmeet Sawhney

Last Friday Ron Osgood presented “The Vietnam War/American War: Stories from All Sides” in the Institute for Digital Arts & Humanities (IDAH) seminar series.  This was Ron’s third and final presentation for the two year IDAH fellowship he had received to work on an interactive documentary on the Vietnam War.

Ron has collected a treasure trove of materials (photos, slides, film, maps, documents, and interview transcripts, among others) through his interviews with 40 American, 35 North Vietnamese, and 2 South Vietnamese veterans.  His project has also benefited from unexpected gifts from people inspired by his previous work on the Vietnam War.  For instance, after seeing Ron’s Vietnam War documentary on WTIU, one of viewers established contact with Ron via WTIU because he wished to gift his personal collection of 2500+ slides and over 8 hours of film he had created while serving in Vietnam as a doctor.  Ron was amazed to learn that all this material has never been publicly shown before.

Ron’s challenge is to present this material in such a way that is accessible to a wide range of people.  In particular Ron took great care in his choice of terms.  They had to resonate with the sensibilities of the veterans and at the same time be understood by undergraduates.  He is now working on modalities and sensibilities that would be inviting for veterans to share their stories and materials on the website.

You can access the site in the current testing state at

Once the interface is functional and data has been fully entered Ron plans to modify the project as an iPad app.  He will be proposing a T575: Directed Group New Media Design Project for fall for graduate students interested in this type of development work.  The project will provide opportunities for gaining experience with researching content, design, and programming.  Please contact Ron ( if you would like to take this T575 with him.

Random Distnguished Comment of the Week

I (Rob Potter) was walking down the atrium hallway the other morning. Classes were in session and so the hall was empty except for two students looking at the faculty images in the display case. One of them was standing on tip-toe to look up very closely at one of the pictures.

The other said, “Distinguished Professor … wonder what that means?”

“Apparently,” says the one on tip-toe, “it means you don’t want your picture taken …”

Brown Bag

Media Accountability and Transparency in Europe: First Results from a Comparative Study

Huub Evers (Presenter), David Boeyink (Discussant)

Professor Evers spoke about MediaACT: a comparative study in 14 countries featuring analyses of the status quo of media self-regulation and media accountability in Europe (in comparison with exemplary Arab states), analysis of innovative media accountability instruments online, and a representative survey of journalists’ attitudes towards media accountability.


Huub Evers is full Professor of Media Ethics and Intercultural Journalism at Fontys University’s School of Journalism in Tilburg, the Netherlands, and a freelance media ethics researcher and consultant. He gained his PhD in Communication Sciences from the University of Amsterdam. His thesis “Journalism and ethics” dealt with the verdicts of the Dutch Press Council. He is the author of several books and articles on media and communication ethics, intercultural journalism and intercultural competences for journalists and broadcasters.

David Boeyink is Associate Professor Emeritus of IU’s School of Journalism, and a recipient of numerous awards for his teaching and research, including the Frederic Herman Lieber Distinguished Teaching Award, the Gretchen Kemp award, and the Brown Derby Teaching Award. Professor Boeyink’s research focuses mainly on ethics and ethical decision making in journalism. Boeyink is currently finishing a research project that will explore ways journalism students think about objectivity and the effect journalism classes have on their conception of objectivity.

The audio file from last Friday’s seminar can be found here: Brown Bag (April 13, 2012 – Evers and Boeyink)

Remembering Jacob

Portrait of an academic anomaly: Telecom remembers Jacob Koruth

by Mike Lang and Ken Rosenberg

Each of us has our own idiosyncrasies. “Oh, lord,” Jacob Koruth would exhale before diving into a difficult task.

Oh, lord.

Often seen with a half-finished New York Times crossword puzzle nestled under one arm of his tousled coat, Jacob embodied what it means to be a non-traditional student. As a Ph.D. student in his sixties, some undergrads might have mistakenly considered him to be one of their professors. Few would expect a man of his age to be a student, but then Jacob was not one to be limited by traditional expectations. In fact, in addition to his prescribed scholastic duties, Jacob added lessons of his own; no moment was wasted. Though he sometimes had to resort to a “cheat sheet” for the nuances of pronunciation, Jacob frequently stopped former Ph.D. student Satoko Kurita in the hall for a quick exchange of words in Japanese – and then Zheng Wang, for a round of Chinese. Because Jacob was always eager to connect with people, language was a barrier he deemed worth overcoming. However, Jacob would have extended his multilingual capacities regardless of external motivation. He was driven to learn for the sake of learning. “We talk a lot about intellectual curiosity in this business,” said Julie Fox, Telecom professor, “but Jacob embodied it.”

In 2010, Jacob earned his doctorate. A little over a year later, he died.

This blog has never covered death. Still, as someone who touched the lives of so many people in the department, someone who covered so much territory in his seven-year tenure at the university, Jacob we had to tread into that reality of life. Therefore, it fell on us to write about a good man but one that, sadly, we did not have the chance to meet ourselves. From the stories of those who knew him, we have learned so much about who he was and what he did in, with, and for the department. Even so, we cannot claim anything more than acting as a conduit for all the stories that keep his memory alive. We convey them here, in respect.

Formerly an engineer in India, Jacob eschewed the comfortable life of retirement to continue his lifelong pursuit of learning and achievement. In a twist on the familiar familial flow into the university system, Jacob actually succeeded his daughter, Mary Ann, as a student at IUB. Mary Ann was a MIME (“Master’s in Immersive Mediated Environments”) student in our department.  This is how, over phone calls with his daughter, Jacob became acquainted with the work of Annie Lang, Betsi Grabe, Julie Fox, Rob Potter, and many other Telecom figures – including the man who would eventually become the chair of his master’s committee, former IU professor Thom Gillespie.

“He reversed everything,” Thom said, recounting his time spent with Jacob. This was not merely in reference to the unconventional daughter-father progression of university admission, but also the relationship that was forged between teacher and student. After several classes together, “we were just friends,” Thom said. The two of them worked together in MIME, which meant that not only was Jacob an older man returning to school, he was coming back to study new media – a field most older people do not properly grasp, as Annie quipped. Unlike most of his contemporaries, who often struggle with just sending an email, Jacob was knowledgeable and enthralled enough to intelligently question the cultural and societal implications of such media.

After his master’s, he went on to pursue a PhD under Annie’s supervision.  Befitting his technical and meticulous nature, Jacob’s research is a reflection of Annie’s tutelage. His dissertation was methodological in nature. He focused on heart rate variability and its potential to separate influences of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems by their unique frequencies, in order to separate attention from arousal. Not only was this new to media research but, at the time, it was fairly new to psychophysiological research in general; Jacob was one of the first to explore this avenue of study in our field.

Jacob also served as a research assistant to Julie for a semester. Since it was his first semester delving into psychophysiological measures, Jacob was keen on making sure he got everything right. Not only did he succeed, he also found a potentially costly mistake while pouring over the data. When rearranging variables, another researcher had accidentally pasted some incorrect data into a particular field. Because he was new but, more importantly, because he was Jacob, he found that discrepancy. In general Jacob had his own modalities. For instance, unlike his peers, Jacob wrote his comprehensive exams longhand. “Only with Jacob would I actually agree to read that,” Julie said. His contributions to others work also had a special touch. When it came time for Betsi to publish her book, Jacob was the second acknowledgement and was cited as a “tireless worker.”

This zeal was not limited only to research; it applied to Jacob’s teaching experience, as well. He remembered students’ names, even specific details about them, well after the semester had passed. Grad student Mark Bell recalled his optimistic outlook on students. While it is common to bemoan one’s undergrads in grad-to-grad “backstage” communication, which is rife with comments of “can’t believe they couldn’t …” and “when will they learn,” Jacob would say things like “students are doing amazing things; they’re full of energy.” According to Mark, “He never had anything but enthusiasm and wonder for the undergrads and other graduate students in our program.” As excited as he was about his students, his praise was not blind; it carried a price, an onus of expectation. Because of his kind nature and passionate stance on learning even undergrads towed the line. As a grandfather-type figure, perhaps the youngsters realized the wisdom of following the wise. Whatever the reasons, according to Rob, “they bought it. It was cool.”

As Annie is fond of saying, there is no difference among the milieus of communication: “It’s all brains talking to brains.” In this same vein, Jacob’s enthusiasm for various aspects of his life was not bounded or discrete. He loved life, in all its aspects, with a fervor that few can match and all can respect. “I cannot think of a single moment that Jacob was not genuinely happy and heartwarming,” said Zheng Wang, Assistant Professor at Ohio State University, who worked alongside Jacob in the lab while a PhD student. Sharon Mayell, who helps run the lab – the Institute for Communication Research (ICR), to be precise – noted “he was kind, considerate, gentle and unpretentious.” Another former Ph.D. student and currently an assistant professor at Dong-Kuk University in Korea, Yongkuk Chung: “When I asked him why he tried to get a Ph.D. at such late age. He told me that life is long, and the life without a challenge is boring, and studying in the lab is his real joy.” When someone passes, quotes of this nature abound. Both Betsi and Julie acknowledged how her quotes and those from her fellow ICR members sound a bit cliché. “We’re typically very generous to dead people,” Betsi cautioned, “but don’t be shocked if it comes gushing,” she assessed predicatively. “I know they meant every word,” Julie said.

Being initiated into Jacob’s life was a promise to stay in touch, regardless of where he went or how much time had passed. One time, after class, Annie picked up a pen she found on the table and found it to be AMAZING. “Oh God,” she said after jotting down a few words, “I love this pen. I have to have one of these pens.” Taken with its quality, she searched the internet and discovered that it was only manufactured and sold in India and was not available for purchase or shipping to the U.S. Of course, it was a simple matter of logic to determine the owner of the pen; she went to return it to Jacob at their next meeting – but he told her to keep it. (It turned out that the pens cost about 19 cents each.) Later, after Jacob returned to India, Annie received a package. It was full of pens and refills; that was Jacob: once a friend, always a friend.

When everything was falling down, Jacob still looked up. His initial dissertation hypothesis was not supported by the data. Instead of panicking, like most grad students would, Jacob reflected and found the results “interesting.” The findings helped inspire a secondary analysis, in which he found a deeper explanation of the relevant phenomena. A good-faith inquirer always defers to the data, and Jacob did just that. Looking at the available data about Jacob himself, it is obvious that he was a kind, passionate, deeply intellectual man who “led a good life,” stated Thom. He did not mean “good” as a way of expressing that Jacob lived happily or comfortably, but richly and fully, and with an intrinsic joy that few find in this life. Reflecting on his lack of tears, Rob decided he is not sad; he ultimately concluded it is not what Jacob would have wanted, anyway. When you think about Jacob and feel “down,” do what he did: look up, instead.

Working on this blog post on Jacob proved to be an immensely rewarding task but, even as we conducted interviews and worked to collect information, we knew we were only grasping just a small portion of what he did and, significantly, the lives he touched. Unfortunately, we did not have the time or space to find and include everyone who knew or worked with Jacob – his impact at IU was too big to capture in one blog post. If you have thoughts, feelings, or specific memories that you would like to share, don’t hesitate to stop us to tell us about what made Jacob special to you.

Brown Bag

Female anchor sexuality on display: Findings of cognitive fog and brewing cat fights at the news reception end

– Professor Betsi Grabe and PhD students Ozen Bas and Leila Samson

Abstract:  Two years ago, right after an initial round of data analysis, we presented in T600 the findings of an experimental investigation of male and female news consumer responses to a sexualized and unsexualized version of a female news anchor.  Grooming and dress code conventions were rapidly evolving from underplaying to displaying female sexuality and we wondered how this trend might affect news comprehension. The results showed  that men were cognitively distracted by subtle visual reminders of the female anchor’s sexuality–to the point of poor memory for the news she presented. More interesting to us was another key finding: women had the direct opposite cognitive response to anchor sexualization.  In fact, women remembered news better when it was presented by the sexualized than unsexualized version of the anchor. Thus, subtle cues of the female anchor’s sexuality drove gender-based information processing outcomes at the news reception end.  The implications for informed citizenship and a number of theoretical curiosities prompted us to analyze open-ended responses that we had not looked at yet.

We are back to report to T600 the findings of this follow-up investigation into why women cognitively favored the sexualized anchor’s reporting. The data point to the likelihood that sexual cues sparked sexual competition in women that might have enhanced cognitive resource allocation and memory formation for the news reported by the sexualized anchor. We look forward to discussing the evidence that lead us to this conclusion and show the complexities of intra-sexual derogation patterns that emerged from this study. This was a long but rewarding road back into a large data set that produced insights well beyond what we imagined to find.

An audio recording of the seminar: Brown bag: Feb. 3, 2012 – Betsi, Lelia, and Ozen

Ozen Bas (MA, University of Leeds, UK) is a second year Ph.D. student in the Department of Telecommunications at Indiana University.  Her research interests focus on the role of media in democratic processes. She has presented her work at the International Communication Association and Association for Politics and the Life Sciences annual conferences.

Maria Elizabeth (Betsi) Grabe is a Professor in the Department of Telecommunications at Indiana University and a Research Associate of the Department of Political Sciences at University of Pretoria, South Africa.  She does research at the intersection of news user demography (social class & gender) and message variables to understand information processing and its implications for informed citizenship.  Her book, Image Bite Politics: News and the Visual Framing of Elections (with Erik Bucy; Oxford University Press, 2009), received the 2010 Outstanding Book Award from the International Communication Association and the 2010 Distinguished Book Award from the Communication and Social Cognition Division of the National Communication Association. She also publishes in media and communication journals.

Lelia Samson (M.A., West University of Timisoara, Romania) is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Telecommunications at Indiana University. Her main research investigates how various elements of identity (especially gender-, sexuality- and age-related factors) interact with media content during information processing.  Her work has been published in Communication Research, Psychophysiology, and Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media and presented at annual conferences of the International Communication Association, Association for Politics and the Life Sciences, Society for Psychophysiological Research, and The International Academy of Sex Research.

Betsi’s Sweet Spot, Compositions by Nero, Waveform Art, Brown Bag

Sweet Spots: Betsi’s Bottle Collection

From her time served as Graduate Director, some of the older students in the department may remember the sun room in Professor Betsi Grabe’s home.  An unusual collection of bottles is on display, set on personally crafted shelves that frame the picture window.  Betsi took the time to share with us the story behind the bottles and how her collection came to be.
Betsi began collecting bottles in primary school, by visiting landfills in South Africa.  She would search for buried bottles, wash them out, and then put them on display.  Amazed that they remained intact over time, her collection began to grow.  It now contains bottles from South African Breweries, other drink producers, medicine, and even poison.  Most are unmarked bottles of different sizes.  When she first came to the United States, she picked up a few more, including a Dr. Pepper bottle, but her collection is now complete.  When asked what the bottles mean to her, Betsi replied, “I think human beings are collectors.  Before I brought the collection to the US,  I remember collecting a few bottles for comfort – it was part of making the US my new nest.”  While her collection contains a wide variety, her most prized are the blue bottles.  They are not perfect.  Some have cracks, some have mother of pearl growths, some have both.  All of them have interesting shape and design.  “There is something about light traveling through colored glass that thrills me to no end.  They have a charm about them, a fragility, but have stood the test of time.”

The Compositions of Ashleigh Nero

As fast as you can, try and come up with a list of 5 composers.  Done? Ok. Now look at your list. If your list doesn’t contain Mozart, Beethoven, or Bach, give yourself a point. If your list contains at least  one composer from the 20th century, give yourself another point. If your list contains someone from this department, just forget about points and declare yourself the winner.  Ashleigh Nero, the newest member of the office staff received her Bachelors of Music in composition from the Jacobs School of Music in 2008.

Music has always been a focal point for Nero. Growing up near Pittsburgh she played in community orchestras, and joined the marching band in high school. An accomplished flautist, she discovered the art of composing while at home when an ailment prevented her from attending school. “I found this notation software and I started playing around with it. I knew how to play piano and stuff and I just started getting deeper and deeper into it.”  In her sophomore year of high school she began preparing her application to the composition program at Jacobs, which normally only admits about five students per year.

The act of composing is no easy task, and like much creative work, figuring out what to do is often the most difficult part.  “Every piece is different, and the hardest part is getting an idea, and figuring out what kind of mood you want.” However, once the idea is developed, Nero builds a basic structure, then noodles around with melodies and harmonies to coincide with the story she wants to convey. She works sequentially, starting at the beginning, and working her way through the piece.

In theory composition is limited only by the composer’s imagination, but when the rubber meets the road, one must take into account the people playing the music.  “You have to be really careful with fast passages, making sure the fingering is possible. If you write chords, are they possible?” As such, composers must be familiar with the instruments they are writing for. The sense of limits is one of the first thing budding composers at Jacobs learns. “Jacobs is really good at starting from the beginning, looking at each instrument and deciding what sorts of things are good for this instrument, and what sort of things will players get mad at you for.” For Nero, harps are the most difficult instrument to write for.  Every note in the musical scale on the harp has a pedal that either flattens or sharpens a note. As compositions change keys, harpists must have time to adjust the pedals to match the sharps and flats that correspond with the new key. While a composer may never gain the sense of familiarity with an instrument a player will, composers must rely on players for feedback, and study the work of others to get a feel for the type of things normally written for specific instruments. “You really have to reference things, talk to people who know how to play, be around the instruments, study what other people write, you have to get a feel for things. Flutes and Clarinets handle fast passages better than French horn for instance.”

Nero acknowledges that she and her fellow composers share a strange existence. “Composers are kind of on an island. What you are learning is more modern, so you’re kind of weird for the people into pop and rock, and you’re kind of weird for the orchestral people who are into Mozart and Beethoven.” As such, opportunities to become the next Gershwin or Copeland are few and far between. “You have to find the people who are more interested in going in a different direction, or take what you you can get and alter your style to fit the situation, which is something you should have to learn.”

One opportunity for innovative composition arose when Nero was asked by a professor from Vanderbilt conducting psychological research on fMRI. “He didn’t want kids to get freaked out from the sounds of the machine, so he asked me to compose a 30 minute piece so kids wouldn’t get too freaked out or too bored.” The professor sent her the sounds of the fMRI machine, and she composed her music around those.

Degree in hand, Nero is taking a bit of a breather. She still composes on the side in addition to pursuing other creative outlets, particularly painting and digital art. “I’m all about learning stuff, it leads to more opportunities. You learn one thing, and it inspires you in another way.”

Her showcase work is called The Dancing Elephant, written for piano and narration. It’s charming and whimsical, and you can listen to it right here. To hear more Nero’s work you can check out her blog here.


Norbert Herber’s collaboration with fiber artist Rowland Ricketts, “The Gradual Accumulation of Additional Layers or Matter,” was recently showcased in the Waveforms exhibition at the Grunwald Gallery of Art in the Henry Radford Hope School of Fine Arts.  Running from October 21-November 18, Waveforms exhibition showcased works that explore the  interface between sound and new media technologies.  The exhibited works included “a number of trans-disciplinary interactions and collaborations that include sound in the context of visual and spatial artistic practices, including sound sculpture, installations, and performance works.” In case you missed it, you can get a feel for Norbert and Rowland’s project by following this link.

Brown Bag

This week’s brown bag presentation featured Cognitive Science and Psychology doctoral student Jared Lorince and Telecommunications and Cognitive Science doctoral student Travis Ross.  Jared’s research interests  focus on how the structure of the environment constrains behavior, in particular with respect to search behavior.  Travis research has two streams. The first stream examines the motivational aspects of design – particularly decision structures in game and interface design. The second stream examines how social and institutional forces shape behavior via social norms, rules, and laws.  You can listen to the full audio of their presentation here: Travis and Jared

Play how you want (or not): How the crowd modifies/limits individual
behavior in online games.


As modern games continue to move from single player to shared social experiences it is natural to wonder how the behavior of the crowd influences individual choices. In this talk Jared and Travis will present two avenues of research relevant to this question. Travis’ talk will center around his dissertation topic: Understanding of how norms alter behavior in an online game. In particular it asks the question: can norms push and individual toward cooperative or selfish behavior? Jared will then present examples of his work on spatial and information search, and will comment on its applications to gaming environments.


Nicky Lewis:  Betsi’s Bottle Collection, and Brown Bag

Mike Lang: The Compositions of Ashleigh Nero, and Waveforms