Bryant’s Advice

by Ken Rosenberg

After Harmeet’s annual beginning-of-the-year party at the end of orientation week, many of the grad students – and a few of the more adventurous professors – ventured to a bar to continue socializing. Over a couple of drinks and amidst the roar of the collective chatter, Bryant Paul helped second-year M.A. student Yanyan Zhou understand the role she is beginning to adopt as a researcher of “Boys Love” stories and as a future teacher of sex in media. In an interview last week, Bryant elaborated on his advice … on how to deal with the extracurricular activity of giving advice to students.

Professor Bryant Paul is easygoing and sociable. His area of study is at the interaction of sex and media, which means he often has to speak plainly about oft-stigmatized topics. For these reasons, students often see Bryant as a knowledgeable and safe advisor for many of their personal issues. Some are directly related to discussion points from class, though many are not. They are usually beyond the purview of the average professor, but Bryant’s open and empathetic demeanor compels him to help as much as possible.

First piece of advice: Embrace the research – it’s scholarly and important.

After initially being dissuaded from pursuing his ideal course of study, Bryant went to University of California, Santa Barbara, with adamant intent to study sex in media. His mentor, Professor Dan Linz, inspired Bryant to never again doubt his academic lot in life. Bryant says “He doesn’t run from it at all …  he absolutely embraces the notion. What you come to realize … is that you’re really studying the most fundamental human social behavior. Before people could talk, sex was still part of the equation. It’s something that is not only okay to study; it definitely needs to be studied. You have to start thinking about it in those terms, in a more clinical sense. Otherwise, there is a tendency for it to become a bit of a joke – at least to other people.”

Second piece of advice: Let people vent, but stand your legitimized ground.

“It’s okay for them to think it’s hilarious,” Bryant explained, “because it makes them a little uncomfortable. That’s one of the reasons they act that way – but there’s a point where you have to let them know that you’re a serious person, as serious as anyone else about what they do.” It is easy to “get away from that,” something Bryant attributes to his joking nature, but “you have to be careful,” he warns, “because there is the tendency to want to marginalize in their minds, at least, what we’re doing.”

“Because of the topic that I teach,” Bryant said, “which is stigmatized by a lot of people, what I think ends up happening is a carryover. We’re discussing things that aren’t commonly discussed, in class and personal meetings about class, and it’s not uncommon for someone to let their guard down. They feel that since we’re already talking about things most people talk about behind closed doors, it’s alright to bring these problems to this guy. I’ve found out a lot about people and I’ve been – not shocked, this is what happens – but, at least early on, I’ve been taken aback by how willing people are to disclose their personal backgrounds, particularly issues of a sexual nature.”

Third piece of advice: Empathize and advise whenever possible.

Bryant has heard about abuse and relationship issues; he’s had people come out to him and discuss their sexual preferences – and he knows it’s not for everyone. “There are times when some people would advise you to step back,” he said, “but that’s not who I am. I see someone hurting, and I want to try and help them feel better.” He knows that Yanyan has a similar caring nature and that she will face these issues, too, especially given their teaching topics.

“I want to work with people who would already by doing this sort of thing,” Bryant said. “Yanyan, I have to say, is very much that person. She’s nurturing, a person who tries to help other people.” So, Bryant would never say “go out and do it,” but he would tell those inclined, “don’t be afraid to do it. Follow that inclination; it’s okay. If that’s something that gets in the way of your productivity sometimes, so be it. I think it’s more important that people are healthy and happy.”

“I’m sure that everybody gets talked to about this, at least some of this stuff,” Bryant said, “but I can’t help but feeling like, since teaching about sex and media at an undergraduate level, I’ve really had a lot of people come and talk to me about things that I don’t think most people talk to most of their professors about – which I think is awesome, by the way. I love it. I think it’s absolutely fantastic. I am perfectly happy to have that happen. I’m glad, because I want to help people if I can. I’m not a therapist, but sometimes people expect that you are, at some level. That’s difficult.”

When it first starting happening, “I was freaked out,” Bryant said. “I didn’t know how to handle it. Somebody comes in and says, ‘my girlfriend just had a miscarriage.’ How do you handle that, if you’ve never had to think about it?”

Fourth piece of advice: Share what you know; listen and don’t judge.

One option is to draw from personal experience. “I consider my students my equals, on most levels,” Bryant said. However, he is confident that he has much more experience. Bryant often tells his grad students: “the only thing I have on you is years.” He also encourages his mentees to “divorce yourself of your cultural predispositions. You’ve got to keep your moral compass, of course, but you can’t judge through your own eyes. You have to realize that maybe, in this person’s culture, what they’re doing is perfectly reasonable.”

Many students are connected to their professors via social networks, and Bryant has found this link to be a handy way to monitor emerging crises. “Usually, you just stay out of that sort of thing. But, if they starting making what seems to be “a really obvious mistake,” he is not beyond – or above – offering help. “The worst they can say is ‘no.’ You don’t want them to feel like you’re trying to meddle, but you’re lending a hand if they want to take it.”

Fifth piece of advice: Don’t sweat the role, but give referrals when necessary.

What about the risk of giving advice that could make things worse? What about interfering? “You have to worry about that,” Bryant said. Still, it’s not as anomalous a risk as some might think. “You run that risk bumping into a stranger in public,” he said, and “it’s the same risk when you’re in a classroom, talking about something to which you’re personally attached. You have a theory about it, and you’re pushing your theory as though it’s truth. You’re running the same risk.” However, at the first signs – even a subconscious inkling – that a student is seriously depressed or has a mental health issue, “my first inclination is always to make them aware of our university’s counseling services.”

“It takes a special breed to go into graduate school,” Bryant said. “We’re not average, and sometimes that quirkiness makes students more sensitive to issues. I worry about that.” Regardless of what degree one is pursuing, college is often a turbulent phase in one’s life. “There are a lot of students that come here in the process of turning into an adult,” Bryant said. “Some are even quite immature. They’re very inexperienced, very naïve. We can say ‘you’re so immature, you’re so inexperienced, you’re so naïve – grow up.’ Or, we can help them do it. The better way is to at least offer the opportunity, to offer a little help.”

So, if you have a student approach you during your next teaching opportunity, keep this advice in mind. If you feel up to it, try to lend a hand. After all, we’re all in this together.

“I think that’s what we’re obligated to do, because we’re educators,” Bryant said. “While it’s not included in our contracts, an educator is a citizen-maker. You’re helping them become better citizens. That’s what media literacy is all about. We’re here to give them the tools to handle themselves later in life.” Besides, on a more pragmatic note, it’s difficult to absorb class lectures if they’re worried about more serious issues.


Speers Returns, Brewing with Telecom, Intellectual Circuits, Brown Bags

Guest Feature: Laura Speers Returns from London

It was great to come back and visit Bloomington after leaving 10 months ago. Catching up with friends and professors and attending T600 provided much food for thought for reflecting on my time as an MA student at IU and for drawing comparisons between the Telecom graduate program and my current PhD program at King’s College London.

The T600 seminar given by Harmeet last Friday was very poignant for me in emphasizing the key factors that lead to success in one’s program of study. It is easy to get lost in the demands and pressures of classes and the various responsibilities of being an AI or RA, so much so that you lose sight of the big picture of where you are heading and the crucial thesis/project/dissertation at the end of your program. Instead, we should be aiming for ‘flow’, a current that guides and feeds into the big picture of where we are going and who we want to be. Throughout our time in grad school, it is important to focus on the bigger, over-arching aspects of being a researcher. Questions such as what kind of researcher do I want to be and why? What are my motivations and what type of research do I want to do? This kind of meta-analysing and reflecting some people do naturally with no prompts but others need to be pushed to think about and answer those types of questions.

Professional and personal relationships are an important part of the graduate program. In Harmeet’s presentation, he focused a lot on the role of the committee and the graduate student, but one of the most crucial relationships is with the advisor. Choosing the right advisor in my opinion is the key to success. It is not just about liking a particular professor, because you have to be able to build a rapport and maintain a dialogue with that person, almost like a partnership. An ideal advisor keeps you on track yet provides the flexibility and freedom to pursue what you want to do. Having a committee (unique to the North American graduate system) offers grad students amazing professors, essentially there for your disposal so make use of them. The committee meeting isn’t something to dread, or worse a bureaucratic procedure, but a time and place where some brilliant minds are focusing all their attention on you and your ideas, research and progress. Relish it and make the most of it by being prepared.

Since leaving IU and doing my PhD in London, what I have really missed is the sense of community and collegial spirit of the Telecom department where there are an abundance of opportunities to be involved in different projects and to collaborate with others. As Harmeet demonstrated in his presentation, the ‘action’ of the graduate program is not necessarily in classes or the readings. The ‘aha’ moment or intellectual breakthrough happens in between classes, even outside of school, or at a seminar or conference, in a professor’s office, and talking to fellow students informally at the winery in my case. An openness to the opportunities and conversations around you results in the cross-fertilization of new ideas, new questions and different ways of learning. These tend to always be more enlightening and powerful when student-driven rather than top-down. This shared space cohabited by grad students pushes you intellectually but also provides support.

After experiencing this at IU, I’m working to create this kind of environment in my new department.  British PhD programs have no coursework, so from the outset you have to conduct independent research, which was difficult to adjust to after experiencing the highly structured US system. However, it is wonderful to not have the pressures of classes or teaching as it allows for freedom, reflection and flexibility in research and also time and energy to address the important over-arching questions mentioned above. Perhaps the American system could create more space and time to reflect on what constitutes success and how our goals feed into Harmeet’s idea of ‘flow’.

– Laura Speers

Brewing with Telecom

We’ve got more than just ideas fermenting here at Telecom. Two of our grad students, Nic Matthews and Lindsay Ems, have been trying their hand at brewing beer and making wine. For them, it’s a simple hobby that takes relatively little time and produces rich rewards.

Grad student Nic Matthews pours some of his homebrew.

After receiving a Mr. Beer home brew kit as a Valentine’s Day gift this year, Nic got started right away, choosing a lager mix from the kit for his first trial run. It failed. “Apparently sanitation is a lot more important that I initially thought. An improperly sanitized can opener might have killed my first batch,” he says. Nic recalls leaving the bottles alone for days at a time hoping the batch would get better with age. At first, he thought its unusual flavor might have been planned. “I asked myself, ‘Does this taste like wine, or is it a really sophisticated beer flavor?’ And then I determined that it was just really bad beer,” he explained. Nic’s second batch has been a success, and he hopes to upgrade to a bigger brewing kit in the future. “It’s kind of like brewing with training wheels, and I can’t wait to graduate from that when I’m good enough.”

Lindsay’s first attempt at wine about five years ago met a similar fate. Her grandmother grew Concord grapes, and she borrowed her mother’s juicer to use them for wine making. Her mother, allergic to grape seeds, broke out in a rash while helping with the process. Then Lindsay added too much sugar to the bottles, which made many of them explode. “A few survived, so I gave them away as gifts. I tried some of the wine later, and it was terrible,” she laments.

She purchased a user-friendly wine kit shortly after that, and eventually added a beer kit. “I’ve made about 4 batches in the year-and-a-half since I received it, and it’s turned out really well every time,” she explains. Lindsay’s beer kit is similar to Nic’s, but she’s modified the barrel to say “Ms. Beer” instead. She’s working through the last of the mixes from the kit, and then she plans to upgrade to a more complex system.

For both of them, the appeal of brewing is in the process. “There are steps to follow, and it’s fun. Six weeks later you have free beer,” says Lindsay, who will start brewing a new batch after has she’s worked her way through her last batch. “It’s a good sit-in-your-closet type of thing,” adds Nic. “You just have to check up on it from time to time, and then it rewards you with beer.”

Intellectual Circuits, Part 4: Kinsey and Social Informatics

The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction

Of all the inter-disciplinary links featured in the Intellectual Circuits series, the relationship between Department of Telecommunications and the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction is one that is seeing quantum development.  Its roots were planted with a Ford Foundation study on how sex research is covered in the media, where Professors Bryant Paul and Betsi Grabe served as advisors.  The study resulted in a mini-conference and laid the groundwork for further collaboration between Telecom and Kinsey.

While the relationship lacks true formality, Bryant Paul currently serves as a Kinsey Faculty Fellow and Appointee at the Center for Sexual Health Promotion.  Bryant explains that due to the sensitive nature of the content that Kinsey researches, they have to be extremely careful with whom they associate.  “The Kinsey Institute is an easy target for a lot of groups who are concerned with what they research.  They conducted mostly survey research over the past 10 years and  have steered recently towards experimental research, which opens doors for more criticism.”

In addition to its scientific activities as research center, the Kinsey Institute serves as a information resource.  It boasts an extensive library and art collection.  With regard to course work, the Kinsey Institute offers a minor in Human Sexuality at the undergraduate and graduate level.  Bryant’s Sex and the Media course is one of the courses in the minor. There is considerable potential for further growth in the collaboration between Telecom and Kinsey.  Bryant explains, “The Institute itself only has three faculty members, but it serves as a jumping off point for getting great research ideas.  I have had the opportunity to work with a number of people from different schools and departments.”

Doctor student Lelia Samson came to Kinsey by way of her interest in gender studies.  She took a course called ‘Concepts of Gender’ in the fall of 2008, which was held at the Kinsey Institute.  This opened her awareness to other Kinsey courses and research.  She was intrigued in particular by a course called ‘K690 Sexual Science Research Methods.’  It was this course that truly expanded her thinking about the scientific study of sexuality and useful employment of multidisciplinary research methods.  She saw how beneficial it is to approach a topic from a variety of perspectives and employ a variety of methods. “The KI researchers manage to overcome any tributary allegiances to their maternal field and collaborate across disciplines to better understand their variables of interest.”

Lelia was awarded one of the Kinsey Institute Student Research Grants for 2010 – 2011.  She says this grant had much to do with her ongoing collaboration with Dr. Erick Janssen, which started with a paper she wrote for K690.  Janssen, Lelia’s mentor at the Kinsey Institute, encourages students to think in creative and progressive ways.  He also serves as faculty in Cognitive Science, another program with strong ties to the Department of Telecommunications.  Lelia hopes that these connections with the Kinsey Institute are only the beginning.  “I hope that more and more students will pursue the studies of sexual mediated messages.  The research questions raised appeal to our basic drives as human beings and serve as socialization and information agents in today’s society.”  The Department of Telecommunications is indeed building on this collaboration with the addition of faculty member Prof. Paul Wright in the fall.

See more information about the Kinsey Institute Student Research Grant here.

Social Informatics

Social Informatics is a multi-disciplinary route for those interested in the way people interact with technologies and the ways those technologies interact with them. “The term ‘social informatics’ does not really exist outside of a few schools,” explains PhD candidate Ratan Suri, adding that the late Rob Kling, renowned scholar at the School of Library and Information Science coined the term.

The interdisciplinary nature of Social Informatics is reflected in the range of schools and departments whose courses are included in the PhD Minor in Social Informatics:  School of Library and Information Science, School of Informatics and Computing, Department of Communication and Culture, Kelley School of Business, School of Public and Environmental Affairs, School of Education, Department of Geography, Department of Political Science, and Department of Telecommunications. “Classically, social informatics is the study of the computerization of social structures,” explains PhD candidate Mark Bell. “It’s a school of thought essentially brought about by Rob Kling, who thought people were getting hyperbolic views of technology and said, ‘Whoa. We need to take an empirical look at this.'”

PhD student Lindsay Ems explains that Telecom and SI are intrinsically linked to one another. “It’s really a better question to ask how the two aren’t related,” she says. “Social informatics is the nexus of technology and people, and everything we study in our own department falls under that.” In addition, the two complement each other by allowing a researcher to study the same phenomenon from different angles. “Telecom people might look at technology and media in a broader sense, CMCL (Communication and Culture) might look at technology and lifestyle, and people in Informatics might see technology and work, and by studying social informatics, we get to see all of that,” Lindsay explains. Ratan adds that it’s good to get a sampling of how each department approaches the study of technology.

The Social Informatics courses are good vehicles for extending viewpoints beyond what many Telecom courses offer, but having a background in Telecom classes also helps bring a unique perspective to a Social Informatics class. “I think that in Social Informatics, sometimes the quantitative side of research can get forgotten, and so taking my social science stuff from here helps over there. I also think that we live in our cave of social science too often, and it’s good to get out every now and then,” Mark says.

Recommended courses: S513:  Organizational Informatics, S514: Computerization in Society, S518:  Communication in Electronic Environments, C626: Digital Cultures, I709: Social Informatics, T551: Communication, Technology, and Society

Brown Bags 

Measuring Motivation Activation in a Virtual World: Predicting Individual Differences of Appetitive and Aversive Measures

Mark Bell, PhD Candidate, Department of Telecommunications, Indiana University

Abstract:  This presentation describes research that extends previous work on motivational activation systems linking Approach System Activation (ASA) and Defense System Activation (DSA) levels to media use, gender and age. This study collects individual Motivational Activation Measures of virtual world residents (N= 480), using the Virtual Data Collection Interface (VDCI) developed in the Indiana University Department of Telecommunications, and compares them to previous results. The results show the virtual world residents as higher in both ASA and DSA with larger than normal proportions of co-activating and inactive individuals. This work helps validate the MAM by expanding the pool of participants.

You can access the audio for Mark’s T600 talk here: Mark Bell T600 Audio

Applying a Socio-technical Lens to Study the Influence of GIS  on Historical Research Practices and Outcomes

Ratan Suri, PhD candidate, Department of Telecommunications, Indiana University

Abstract:  The last decade or so has seen the uptake and use of GIS (Geographical Information Systems) by an enterprising group of researchers interested in applying this technology to study historical events. This presentation reports the preliminary results of a two year ethnographic research study of a Community of Practitioners (Lave & Wenger,1991) using GIS for researching historical events from a spatio-temporal perspective. Using two case studies, ‘Ghettoization of Budapest, and ‘Role of railroads in shaping the spatial politics in wheat growing districts in California in 19 Century’, the study showcases how use of GIS is not only transforming how historical research is being done, but also tries to capture through explicit examples, how a spatio-temporal approach sheds new light on historical events.

You can access the audio to Ratan’s T600 talk here: Ratan Suri T600 Audio


Katie Birge:  Brewing with Telecom, Social Informatics Intellectual Circuit, and Brown Bags

Nicky Lewis:  Speer Returns and  Kinsey Intellectual Circuit

Special Thanks

Laura Speers:  Guest Feature

Rachel Bailey’s Kicks, Bryant Paul: Rock Tumbler, Mike Lang’s Album Release, Chris Eller’s Brown Bag

Rachel Bailey’s Collection

Grad student Rachel Bailey has a small obsession hidden in her closet . . . around 250 pairs of shoes.  How she accumulated this massive collection of footwear is an interesting story.  It began between her freshman and sophomore years at University of Missouri, when she took a job in a child psychologist’s office.  Once Rachel began working in a place where she could wear nice things, her shoe collection began to grow.  Then, she took a position as an assistant to the UM’s Vice Provost of Enrollment Management.  Still, more shoes.  “In high school, I only had an interest in functionality.  I owned maybe one pair of heels.  Then, I started getting fun shoes to wear when I dressed up.” Now, Rachel’s massive collection includes boots, dress shoes, casual shoes, and some workout shoes.  She has one closet devoted solely to her footwear, which includes two shoe racks and several dividers.  She has them organized into sections as well: casual, nice, and really nice.  “I keep the really nice ones in their dusters, bags or boxes.  The boots?  They just kind of go wherever they fit.”

A major adventure for Rachel was moving her shoe collection to Bloomington.  “I moved from Austin, Texas to Missouri and from Missouri to here within a couple of weeks.  I’ll never move so much stuff again.  Well, I say that now . . .”  Rachel has a new appreciation for flats since coming to grad school, since walking around IU’s campus in heels isn’t easy.  She justifies her underlying passion for footwear by explaining that clothing trends wear out faster.  Rachel believes that shoes have a bit more staying power.  In fact, the oldest pair she owns are a pair of Nike flip flops from high school.  More importantly, she doesn’t let her clothes define her footwear choices.  “I just like fabulousness.  If I see a pair of shoes that speaks to me, I will figure out what to wear with it later.”

Bryant Paul’s Rockin’ Hobby

As a bright-eyed 4th grader, Bryant Paul was mesmerized by the polished stones his teacher brought to class, and he begged his mother for a rock tumbler – the machine that spins and churns rough pieces of rock into small polished marvels. He got his wish, started his first batch immediately, and (because he didn’t read the instructions) promptly broke the tumbler within a few days. The dream could have ended there.

A batch of Bryant's freshly tumbled stones

Luckily, when Bryant was going up for tenure here at IU, he was on the lookout for a new hobby when his parents sent him a serendipitous birthday check, and he remembered his short-lived rock tumbler of his childhood. Deciding to take another stab at rock tumbling, Bryant used this money to buy an updated version of his childhood toy. “I needed a hobby, so I got a rock tumbler,” Bryant explains. This time around, he researched the basics of rock tumbling before making his purchase, learning that it’s more complicated than simply throwing a handful of rocks into the machine. “With my first tumbler, I just put a bunch of rocks in it without grit or polish, and that’s why it broke,” he says. Many of the rocks are either really strong or incredibly fragile, and both present a challenge. Some stones, like agates, can take as many as 5 months of tumbling before they are ready for the next level of grit, the abrasive substance added to the tumbler to wear away at the stone.

Bryant’s next step on the pathway to becoming a master lapidary (the official term for a stone artisan) is to learn how to shape

One of Bryant's pieces of polished agate

and polish cabochons, the circular or oval-shaped pieces of stone used for jewelry. “Here’s the thing about cabochons: jewelry makers are always looking for them,” Bryant explains. The cabochon-making process requires different equipment to cut and polish the stone. Byant hasn’t purchased the new equipment yet, but it’s becoming a likely future purchase. “I am a tumbler enthusiast,” he says of the craft. Bryant is part of an online community of rock tumbler hobbyists who sometimes post their work on the website, and when he needs help or has a question about some of his rocks, he goes online or, in some cases, attends rock shows (gatherings where tumblers and jewelers present their wares for sale and viewing).

Bryant purchases most of his stones online from websites dedicated to the art, though he has tumbled a few pieces of local rock. His favorite stone so far is malachite, but he cautions that it’s a potentially

Bryant showcases a piece of agate

dangerous rock. “I killed a tree in my backyard working with malachite,” Bryant warns. “I threw the grit out there and the tree started not looking so good . .  . and then it died.” He also advises against throwing used grit down the sink. “It’s basically like cement, so don’t do it,” he warns.

Dangers of the craft aside, Bryant enjoys rock tumbling because it doesn’t require constant attention and commitment. “It’s a really low maintenance hobby. The tenure process was long, and picking up this hobby was good for making me learn to wait,” he says. Bryant has also shared his hobby with his daughter, bringing rocks to her class and giving pieces of polished agate to the students, hopefully inspiring one of them to someday beg for a rock tumbler.

Mike Lang Releases Album

Mike Lang has more than just a passing interest in metal music.  Along with Professor Mark Deuze and Massakren lead singer Parker Weidner, Mike led one of the most talked about brown bag presentations of last semester. While he takes his scholarly research on extreme metal and scenic capital very seriously, Mike also explores metal in a more applied way . . . by playing it.

Now, Mike and his band, Deschain, are celebrating the release of their own album.  It is available for purchase through MySpace or by contacting Mike directly. Congratulations Mike!

Listen here: Deschain

Brown Bag Presentation

Chris Eller, MS student and Senior Systems Analyst at IU’s Advance Visualization Lab, gave last week’s brown bag presentation.

Developing a 3D Advanced Production Class – What’s it like to Teach on the Bleeding Edge

Abstract:  3D movies have come, once again, into the public eye. Modern 3D technology has overcome many of the shortcomings present in the last Golden Age of Hollywood 3D circa 1955. We are now in a position to develop 3D movies that can stand on the merits of storytelling and cinematic craft without 3D problems hampering the success of the production. The technology of stereoscopic production has come a long way since Sir Charles Wheatstone published his paper concerning stereopsis in 1838.

Now, 173 years later, Hollywood and Indie productions are finding fresh success at the box office while at the same time discovering that precious few people actually know HOW to make a good 3D movie or TV show. T452 was conceived of and designed to address this knowledge gap and equip our students to successfully compete for jobs on 3D productions after graduation.

Follow these links to Chris Eller’s Brown Bag Podcast and the slides from his presentation. You can also check out his website here.


Nicky Lewis:  Rachel Bailey’s Collection and Mike Lang Releases Album

Katie Birge:  Bryant Paul’s Rockin’ Hobby and Brown Bag Presentation

Winter Travels, Home Improvement 101, Thesis: Defeated! and Brown Bag Podcasts

Travis Ross’ Amusement Park Adventures

While most of us spent winter break trying to dodge the snow and stay warm, PhD student Travis Ross got to be a kid again.  He spent six days with his family, enjoying the Disney World and Universal Studios amusement parks.  They woke up at 7:00 am every morning to take on the day’s attractions.  And they weren’t the only ones.  Thanks to crowds from the annual Capital One Bowl and Disney Marathon, records were set for attendance at Disney World two of four days Travis and his family were there.  One of the highlights included the 3D Toy Story Ride, where a pair of riders, wearing 3D glasses, fire a cannon to shoot baseballs at plates, darts at balloons and throw pies at faces.  Travis accomplished something to be proud of – he set his ride car’s high score for the week.

After Disney World, Travis and his family went to Universal Studios, where the highlight was the Harry Potter attraction.  Spending time in Hogsmeade, the town portrayed in the Harry Potter novels, and drinking butterbeers made for amusing experience.  Travis explained, “The butterbeer was cream soda flavored with butterscotch… I didn’t really like it, but it was interesting.”  Travis was further impressed by the detail of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizadry replica.  Since the Harry Potter attraction is so new, actually less than a year old, people were waiting in line two to three hours just to get in.  “Looking back, Disney World was crazy with all the people and all the walking we did.  It was too much.”

Now that Travis’ parents have moved to Houston, they have been looking for ways to remain close.  Winter break provided the perfect opportunity for the family to take a trip and spend some time together.  Travis’ mom was the organizer this time around, booking flights and hotels for everyone.  Now, plans are being made to take trips to different places every few years in order to stay in touch.  “My parents are adventurous and like to try new things.  I’m really lucky.”

Lindsay Ems in Germany

When PhD student Lindsay Ems was in high school, she spent a year as an exchange student in Meilitz, Germany. Over winter break, she spent 9 days reconnecting with her host family and friends during the heaviest snow accumulation the region had

The ice village Lindsay constructed with her host-brother

seen in 60 years. This was her third visit back to Meilitz over the years, and traveling wasn’t a large part of the agenda. “We spent most of the trip eating, drinking, talking and catching up on the events of each others’ lives. These were pretty common activities when I lived with them as well,” Lindsay says.

Though the journey to Meilitz did not include sightseeing this time around, the trip was still an important experience for Lindsay and her host family. Her host father passed away unexpectedly last summer,

Lindsay and her host-mother in Meilitz, Germany.

and this was the first opportunity for Lindsay to return to the family to share memories and stories. “The trip was motivated by an unfortunate set of circumstances, but it was absolutely fantastic to be back in the village where I lived and reconnect with the people who make that place so special to me,” she says. Much of Lindsay’s time with her host family was spent taking advantage of the unique weather conditions: playing in the snow with her host-brother’s daughter, building a miniature ice village, and navigating the little-plowed roads.

Lindsay hopes it won’t be very long before she reunites with her host family again. They’re trying to convince her to make the trip once more this upcoming summer, as the women’s soccer World Cup is in Germany at that time. “It would be absolutely phenomenal if I could work it out to do this,” she says.

Home Improvement 101: Rob Potter and Bryant Paul

While the grad students were away over break, two faculty members decided to trade their research tools for craftsman tools. Professors Rob Potter and Bryant Paul both tackled various home improvement projects during the holiday recess and lived to tell the tale. We caught up with them this week to see how the renovations changed them, how they changed the renovations, and how to use media to install a toilet.

Rob Potter’s idea for two separate renovation projects came about when he returned from his sabbatical in Australia with an urge to transform his house into a greener, more efficient living space. Rob first installed three low-flow toilets. A second project, more complicated than swapping out toilets, says Rob, involved insulating the crawlspace underneath their house to make the entire place a little warmer. The crawlspace project found Rob underground for 5 days wearing a gas mask as he placed insulation and added a vapor barrier sheet. “There was extra vapor barrier left, and this is where my personality really kicks in,” Rob explains. His proclivity for order made him contemplate removing the crawlspace’s original vapor barrier just because it was a different color than the new one. “It drove me absolutely nuts that I had a 2-tone crawlspace,” he says. For now, Rob still has time to think about it. Rising temperatures on the 3rd day of the project revealed water leaking into the area, and installing French drains is next on the to-do list.

Professor Rob Potter

Rob is acquiring his expertise in the art of crawlspace insulation and French drains through the use of his phone. “I use my cell phone to snap photos of parts and items, then I take my phone to the hardware store,” he says. When he doesn’t know how to do some part of the projects, he simply searches for a how-to video on YouTube. And how does Rob like the cozier house with its newly insulated crawlspace? “It’s still colder than Australia,” he says.

Similarly, Professor Bryant Paul spent nearly every day of break renovating an entire bathroom. “I put new everything in it, and I worked until the day before classes started,” he says. The project involved tearing out drywall, installing new cabinets and shelving, and putting in new tile. Working alone on the project, Bryant spent much of the time kneeling on the floor working on the tile. Looking back, he admits the biggest mistake may have been not to invest in a $4.95 pair of kneepads. “My hands and knees still hurt,” he says later in the week.

The project gave Bryant new insight into the world of construction. “People who do this for a living probably don’t get paid enough,” he says. “It’s nice to build something tangible, and there’s still another bathroom to be done in the future.” Bryant is satisfied with the final project, due in large part to his tedious attention to detail. “When you set me loose on this stuff, it has to be perfect,” he adds. Check out the video below to see how the project evolved:

Thesis: Defeated!

In the closing days of fall semester, two graduate students successfully defended their MA theses. We took some time to speak with both students – James Ball and Katie Birge – to hear their reflections on their work.

Corresponding via phone from Louisville, Kentucky, James Ball explained how a final paper from his first semester slowly evolved into his thesis (Quantifying the Claim that Nixon Looked Bad: A Visual Analysis of the 1960 Presidential Debates, Committee: Erik Bucy, Chair, Mike McGregor, Rob Potter). “We were doing a focus group on different political gaffes, and I saw Nixon and noticed that it wasn’t just about what he was doing all the time (his poor performance), but it was also about what the production people were doing,” James explains.  From there, James developed this idea into his thesis, which examined both body language and production values in the Nixon/Kennedy debates.

For James, his approach to studying the debates in this way were a reflection of his interest in both production and political communication research. “I had a skill set that allowed me to look at this in a new way, and a content analysis seemed like a good fit for my knowledge base,” he says, also adding that a content analysis of the debates had not been done in such a way prior to his thesis.

James says the experience was a positive one, but he’s thrilled to be finished with the thesis. “The fact that it’s defended is possibly the best ever,” he says. “It’s a weight off of your shoulders.” Planning to move to Los Angeles over the next month, James plans to use his newly acquired knowledge of production values in the debates to teach production techniques while continuing his production career.

Katie Birge took time to chat about her thesis (Framing Politics in Science Fiction: Problem Solving Through Altered Time and Space; Committee: Harmeet Sawhney, Chair, Erik Bucy, Mike McGregor) over coffee during the first week of classes.  Her thesis examined how science fiction television shows frame big political issues in ways different from the contemporary news dialogue.  She argued that science fiction provides a unique venue for testing out new ways of thinking about the political topics by suspending the boundaries of time and space.  Using Star TrekBattlestar Galactica, and V as case studies, Katie demonstrated that science fiction can offer a dynamic forum for framing political topics in unique ways.

The inspiration for her thesis was sparked by friends who are big science fiction fans.  After a class discussion about Trekkies as early adopters of technology, Katie brought the phenomenon up to one of her sci-fi friends.  He explained that science fiction is all about the language of possibility, as in, “boldly going where no man has gone before.”  Once the idea struck, Katie pursued her thesis through a political framing approach.  “While framing is becoming a popular way of looking at politics and how audiences receive and interpret political issues, little has been done on framing outside of the news and none of the prior research has examined actual media genres like science fiction.”

Looking back at the process, Katie explained that the hardest part about writing her thesis was the unfamiliarity she had with the actual science fiction shows she researched.  “I spent a lot of time familiarizing myself with these fictional worlds . . .  It took several viewings of the original Star Trek episodes to really understand the Star Trek universe.”  Now that she has completed a major accomplishment in her academic career, what’s next for Katie?  “I’m interested to see how audience members interpret the content of these science fiction shows.  I’m conducting focus groups this semester to see if the politics present in these series are overt enough to be understood by an observer who isn’t necessarily paying attention to such cues.”

Brown Bag Presentations

The first T600 Brown Bag Presentation of 2011 was a split-session that featured two PhD students from our department: Sung Wook Ji and Matt Falk.

The Effects of Cable Clustering on the Flow of Cable Programming Networks

Sung Wook Ji

Abstract:  A “clustering” in the cable industry refers to a combination of geographically contiguous cable systems.  In their early history, cable systems grew simply through the addition of new systems as opportunities arose and, as a consequence, the holdings of cable systems were typically scattered across the country.  By the early 1990s, however, the cable TV industry began moving toward regional consolidation (in other words, “clustering”), with specific companies carving out large parts of the country within which to group their systems.

Several studies have asserted that the clustering activity of incumbent cable system operators might be motivated by both the pro- and anti-competitive effects of clustering. On the one hand, clustering may increase the efficiency of cable systems, mainly because of the economies of scope and scale thus achieved.

On the other hand, clustering may have an anti-competitive effect on the multi-channel video programming distribution (MVPD) industry. In particular, previous studies have focused on the effect of clustering on the vertical foreclosure of regional programming, especially regional sports networks (RSN). They examined how cable clustering increases a clustered MSO’s market power within a given area, and, thus, strengthens the vertical foreclosure of a rival regional cable network. As a consequence, a clustered MSO has anti-competitive effects on the competition within a regional programming market. However, no single study has, as far as I know, systematically examined the effects of clustering on the flow of national cable programming networks.

The proposed study will examine the effects of clusters on the Multi-channel Video Programming Distribution (MVPD) market and, in particular, on the carriage of national cable networks, thus filling a gap in present research concerning the effects of clustering. It is hypothesized that, although cable clustering positively affects the probability a certain cable network will be carried (the pro-competitive effect), when the clustering effect is combined with vertical integration, vertical MSOs’ incentives to favor carrying their own affiliated cable network increase and, at the same time, the incentives to foreclose a rival network increase (the anti-competitive effect).

Listen to the full audio here: Sung Wook Ji

Habituation of the Orienting Response to Auditory Structural Features

Matt Falk

Absract:  Previous work has shown that several auditory structural features of radio broadcasts cause cardiac orienting responses, an indicator of the automatic allocation of cognitive resources to message processing. The current study was designed to further investigate whether repeated exposure to the same structural feature causes habituation, or a loss of the cardiac orienting response, over time. Listeners (n=91) were exposed to three repetitions each of a jingle, a production effect and silence in a simulated radio broadcast. Physiological data were collected time locked to the stimulus. Results confirm earlier findings that auditory structural features cause cardiac orienting. Heart rate data indicate that production effects and jingles begin to show habituation by the third exposure. Skin conductance data may indicate that subjects have a defensive reaction to the third exposure to jingles.

Listen to the full audio here: Matt Falk

Random Observation

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 3,000 times in 2010. That’s about 7 full 747s.  (source:  Team + Stats Helper Monkeys)


Nicky Lewis:  Travis Ross’s Amusement Park Adventures, Thesis: Defeated!, Brown Bag podcasts

Katie Birge:  Lindsay Ems in Germany, Home Improvement 101, Thesis: Defeated!

Special Thanks

Travis Ross:  Disney World and Universal Studio pictures

Lindsay Ems: Germany pictures

Rob Potter:  Snowy toilet picture

Bryant Paul:  “Evolution of a Bathroom 2” video

In Bryant Paul’s Defense, Catching up with Phoebe, Swimming with Walt, and Annie’s Socks

Objects in Faculty Offices, Segment 8: Bryant Paul

In an end of the semester sendoff to the Objects in Faculty Offices series, Professor Bryant Paul wanted to set the record straight.  Because of his research interests in sex and the media, people often assume things not only about him, but about the types of things he must keep in his office.  “The most popular misconception we see with this type of research is that people immediately think that you are some sort of pervert.  The assumption that students have when they walk into my Sex and the Media is course is that I must have countless pieces of sexually explicit material.”  Actually, the only time that Bryant comes across that sort of material is when he is looking for stimuli for a study.

As a result, Bryant took some time to show us around his office and to prove that he really is just a normal professor with nothing to hide:

Catching up with Phoebe

For former MS student Phoebe Harris Elefante moving from Bloomington to Brooklyn after completing her studies was nothing too daunting. “I’d lived in New York before so it was more like coming home,” she says. Phoebe used her experience in game design projects here at IU to find similar work as an independent game contractor out East. In fact, Phoebe’s current gig was initiated through contacts made during a semester-long project as a research assistant.

Working virtually from New York for a startup game company called Edutainment Systems based in Philadelphia, Phoebe chooses a different “office” each day, usually in the form of a table at a coffee shop in Brooklyn, Gettysburg, and Washington, D.C., among others. She’s currently spending her hours working on a game for kids, and she guarantees the finished product will be more than solely educational. “The user experience will be fun because I’m making it that way,” she says. The coffee shops have also fostered future job opportunities. “By working at coffee shops, I’ve met lots of people that want my game design skills, so I’m building my contacts,” Phoebe adds.

When she isn’t making games, Phoebe has recently begun training for competitive cycling, and her first sport bike arrived just this week. Her flexible hours allow her to work training sessions into her midday routine during the few hours of daylight New York City can offer during winter months. Phoebe got the idea to take up the sport after several friends encouraged her to join them. The season starts in March, so she has a bit of time to familiarize herself with her bike and the strategy of competitive cycling. “It’s been a long time since I played a competitive sport,” she says, “so I’ll probably try several types of races at first.”

Phoebe hopes to eventually race with a team after successfully competing in her first few races. In the meantime, Phoebe will continue using her other bike to get around the city. “I guess I like the bikes because it’s the way I’ve always gotten around, and I still use them as my main way of going anywhere,” she says.

Swimming Laps with Walter Gantz

When department chair Walter Gantz started running at age 17, he probably didn’t think his passion for that sport would eventually lead him to a swimming pool. Walt ran for 32 years and estimates his total mileage at around 50,000 or 60,000 miles. At the height of his training, he held a streak of about 2,000 days of running without a day off, which required a bit of planning at times. “I was in the middle of the streak when both of my children were born,” Walt says.

After 32 years of frequent running, dozens of pairs of shoes, and several marathons, Walt was told by doctors to end his running career. Instead of panicking, Walt switched his interest immediately to swimming. “It was my next best option,” he says. “When I was told not to run any longer, I jumped in the pool the next day.” Walt joined a swimming masters group that meet on campus daily for workouts. At first, Walt felt like an outsider, as the oldest and slowest swimmer, but the time outside of the pool allowed him to settle into the group. “Swimming is a social activity. You wouldn’t think it because you’re underwater, but it’s in the few minutes in between workouts that the conversation happens,” he says.

Planning each daily workout is a big undertaking, and after several years, Walt was approached to become the one that plans them. “They knew I’d be there, so they asked me to plan them,” he says. Walt consults various websites when planning the workouts, and he bases the workouts on what the group is interested in doing. He also plans the workouts to last exactly one hour.

Walt’s exact timing for every workout is sometimes a problem when the lifeguard on duty is late or doesn’t show up, and Walt has taken steps to prevent having to cancel or modify the workouts. As a teenager, Walt received his lifeguard certification, and he took the time over the course of the past summer to become a re-certified lifeguard. “They told me I’d have to take lifeguarding class sessions and pass the test again, and I don’t think the people at the SRSC thought I’d actually do it,” Walt says. Much to their surprise, Walt showed up for the first day of classes alongside a handful of 17-year-olds enrolled in the summer lifeguarding course.

Walt can now officially serve as a lifeguard for the group in a pinch, and his qualifications to do so have already come in handy over the course of this semester. He misses out on the group workouts when he must stay out of the pool as a lifeguard, but for the rest of the group, his skills as a renewed lifeguard ensure that their sessions still get to last the full hour. Last year, the group elected him president because of his consistency and dedication.

Colors of Annie

Professor Annie Lang’s passion for knitting and collecting knitwear is well known to many in the department. Enjoy the colors:

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Katie Birge:  Catching Up with Phoebe, Swimming Laps with Walter Gantz

Nicky Lewis:  Bryant Paul’s Defense, Colors of Annie

Special Thanks

Annie Lang:  For agreeing and pictures

Orientation Week 2010

The IU Department of Telecommunications Graduate Program ushered in the Fall 2010 semester with orientation week activities, welcoming new grad students and reuniting returning ones. Here’s a quick glance of the orientation week happenings:

Monday, August 23, 2010

Orientation Week kicked off with breakfast and introductions in Studio 5.  Faculty, staff, new and returning grad students got a chance to meet and greet. View a quick video of introduction highlights here:

New grad students spent the rest of the day with Grad Director Harmeet Sawhney to learn the ins and outs of the graduate program. Later on, Professor and Facilities Manager Ron Osgood took the new students on a tour of the building, showing the studios, offices, and various classrooms.  The Radio-TV Building houses not only the Department of Telecommunications, but also WFIU and WTIU, the local public radio and TV stations. Check out some high points of the tour here:

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Professor Susan Kelly spent the morning with new and returning grad students in an associate instructor training session “Micro-Teaching Preparation,” covering what to expect on the first day and beyond. Later, Professor Bryant Paul led new and returning grad students through a workshop on grading techniques and policies. See brief tidbits of Bryant’s words of wisdom in this video:

Interest Area Meetings took place throughout the building on several topics. Take a look at what occurred at each of the sessions:

Cognitive Processing of Media

Faculty and grad students discuss current research interests and ongoing projects at the cognitive processing interest area meeting.

Economics, Law and Policy

Mike McGregor introduces the faculty and welcomes grad students at the economics, law, and policy interest area meeting.

Design and Production

Students and faculty discuss current creative projects and ongoing production work.

New grad students also attended an associate instructor workshop on campus climate, conducted by Campus Instructional Consulting, and production-oriented graduate students took part in a Studio 5 training session to prepare for their AI work in upcoming undergraduate production courses. Later, all grad students prepared for micro-teaching sessions in small groups.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The graduate students convened to conduct several micro-teaching sessions, each presenting on a topic or interest area of their choosing. They received valuable teaching experience and feedback for improving their classroom skills.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

New grad students participated in three workshops organized by Campus Instructional Consulting—The First Day of Class and Beyond, Discussion Techniques for Active Learning, and Three Strategies for Creating Success in the Classroom.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Professor Rob Potter led new grad students through the Institute for Communication Research (ICR) at Eigenmann Hall. The ICR hosts many student and faculty projects related to physiology, psychology, political communication, and other areas of research. See the abbreviated version of Rob’s tour in this video:

More Interest Area Meetings took place on Friday. Have a look at some photo highlights:

Sex and Violence in Media

Faculty members Andrew Weaver and Nicole Martins begin the sex and violence in the media interest area meeting.

New Media and Social Theory

Mark Deuze leads an interdisciplinary brain storming session at the new media and social theory interest area meeting.

Later, Professor Bryant Paul led the group critique session of the grading workshop. The week of orientation events and activities concluded with an evening reception for the graduate students and faculty at the grad director’s house.

For more glimpses of the week, check out these photos from orientation activities:

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Also, grab your 3-D glasses to view a photo of orientation introductions taken by grad student Chris Eller. The department is offering a cutting edge 3-D production course entitled “3-D Stereoscopic Digital Production and Storytelling” as a T540 (special projects course). For more information about the course, contact Professor Susan Kelly:

Graduate students and faculty in the third dimension at orientation introductions.


Special Thanks

Siyabonga Africa: photographs during orientation introductions

Chris Eller: 3-D photographs during orientation introductions

Mark Deuze: for allowing us to use the sensibilities of “Media Organizations @ IU” blog


Nicky Lewis: Videographer and Writer

Katie Birge: Photographer and Writer