Fifth Brown Bag of the Semester – April 3, 2015


Rachelle Pavelko, PhD Student, and Jessica Gall Myrick, Assistant Professor, Media School

That’s so OCD: The effects of disease trivialization via social media on user perceptions and impression formation

Informal discussions of mental illness take place every day in social media. In the case of obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD), in particular, widespread use of the hashtag “#OCD” indicates that social media users often trivialize the disease. The present study used a 3 × 2 × 2 between-subjects fully factorial online experiment (N = 574, recruited from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk platform) to test the impact of trivialized framing of this disease on perceptions of social media users who employ such language, as well as on perceptions of people with OCD as a group. Additionally, this study tested the effects of the gender of the Twitter avatar and self-identification in the avatar biography as an individual with OCD on these perceptions. Three-way analyses of covariance (ANCOVA) assessed the impact of the manipulations (i.e., content frame, gender of the avatar, self-identification with OCD). Results indicate that language use, gender, and self-identification influence impression formation in a social media environment.


Teresa Lynch, PhD Student, Jessica Thompkins, PhD Student, Irene van Driel, PhD Student, and Niki Fritz, MA Student, Media School

 An analysis of female game characters over time

A well-documented gender imbalance exists in the professional and fan culture of video gaming. For instance, women comprised only 22% of employees in the video game industry in 2014 and women report frequent instances of sexual harassment when playing online games. Critics have argued that one consequence of this gender imbalance is that male interests have guided the creation of video game content for over two decades. This presentation will share the results of an analysis of in-game content from video games released between 1983 and 2014 (n = 571). Analyzing content over time allowed us to determine how closely patterns of female character portrayals align with recent feminist movements in the industry (e.g. #1reasonwhy). These findings complement earlier analyses of video games by examining variables such as sexualization over time and expand on previous work in this area by considering the in-game, playable character as a unit of analysis.


Cozy Gezellig, the Cure to Winter Blues

By: Niki Fritz

Even though I’m from the Wisconsin, where winter is the default season and babies are basically born with snow boots on, there still comes a point every winter when I’m done. After months of shoveling, de-icing, slipping on poorly salted sidewalks, there is always a point in March when I just want to give up and let winter win.

Last week was that breaking point for me this Indiana winter. After de-icying my car the night before, I woke up to find a plow had buried my car up to the wheels. That car wasn’t moving anytime soon. I felt stuck and defeated by winter.

Then a friend in Communication and Culture sent me a link explaining the Danish word “hygge”, which basically means hunkering down into coziness with good friends and wine during winter. My take on hygge was embracing the winter by settling down into it.

Irene in a "brown cafe" with a local bar cat

Irene in a “brown cafe” with a local bar cat

I asked one of my favorite almost Scandanavians, Irene, if they used the concept of hygge in The Netherlands. She explained the Dutch have the word “gezellig,” which kind of means “complete relaxation.” Gezellig sounded lovely to me.

“Defining ‘gezellig’ is pretty tough,” Irene tells me. “The concept captures an atmosphere. If something is gezellig depends on your surroundings, the people you are with, food, drinks, lighting, the whole shebang. Gezellig, I think, is mainly a feeling of intimacy, belonging, warmth, happiness that is created when you mix the right factors together.”

In Amsterdam, Irene explains that there are certain cafes that are gezellig, called “brown cafes.” They usually have wooden furniture, a cuddly bar cat and a warm atmosphere. But she explains the concept can be extended much farther. Streets, shops and houses can all carry the adjective of gezellig. Or it can be a feeling while you snuggle into a tent when it is raining outside. Gezellig is a multipurpose word.

“My ideal gezellig involves candles, fireplace, good friends or family, my own piece of mind – a dangling deadline doesn’t add to the level of gezellig – a table full of hapjes on the table,” Irene says. “And wine would be great too.”

DSCN0709With my new found understanding of gezellig, I was all set on Wednesday night to have a dinner and wine with some friends and just embrace the Indiana weather. And then it snowed AGAIN, the roadways became death traps and my friends had to cancel. But since I’d been told gezellig doesn’t necessarily have to be with friends – just total relaxation – I put on my slippers, turned on my fake fireplace, poured myself a generous glass of wine and settled into the night, watching it snow and being totally thrilled I was inside and cozy.

I felt like I was rocking this gezellig and maybe starting to embrace the dredges of winter.

I asked some other Telecom students how they embraced the coziness of winter. While Nic and Teresa brave the cold to grill, Jess likes to stay in and bake. Ashley’s dog baby Jack likes to frolic in the snow, while Mona’s Harry likse to cuddle in for the winter. Many seem to have created their own rituals, their own ways of gezellig, a time to embrace the cold and relax into it.

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In a world that so often asks us to be constantly pushing forward no matter how cold is the wind slapping our faces, gezellig can be a nice reminder that sometimes you need the warmth and renewal of a fire and some friends; sometimes you need to hunker down and embrace that winter may have defeated your car but never your spirit.

Now that it appears the days may be getting warmer, it may seem that days of gezellig are numbered. But Irene assures me that gezellig can take place during any season; the key is just to let it find you.

“You can’t force gezellig. It’s there or it isn’t,” Irene says. “But luckily it’s not a limited source.”

Sine Qua Nonsense

The Halloween Report

Isaac and the roasted pig (photo courtesy of Alicia Eckert).

Isaac and the roasted pig (photo courtesy of Alicia Eckert).

Halloween may officially be tomorrow, but the Telecom costume party took place last weekend. Rachel Bailey hosted the shindig. Isaac Knowles and his friend John Killian, a professional chef, roasted a pig, decapitated it and placed its head on a spike for all to see and fear.

The costumes varied wildly, but I believe they were all meant to convey subliminal messages. Teresa Lynch, for example, dressed as Executioner Miralda, a character from the video game Demon’s Souls. This is her attempt to promote the death penalty, especially by beheading. The bodiless pig’s head drove her point home.

Dustin as Captain Morgan (Photo Courtesy of Michelle Funk).

Dustin as Captain Morgan (Photo Courtesy of Michelle Funk).

While Dustin Ritchea, Mona Malacane and Yongwoog Jeon wore very different costumes, their underlying message was the same. Dustin as Captain Morgan, Yongwoog as Sherlock Holmes, and Mona as the government shutdown were embodiments of the libertarian worldview. Less government is better. Private citizens like Captain Morgan could do a better job roaming the high seas than taxpayer-mooching Navy SEALs. The best detective in literary history was a private investigator, solving the crimes the inept official police couldn’t. And again, the main course helped convey the message that if Telecom students can cut the pork, so can Congress!

Nancy Tyree dressed as a bearded artist. Her boyfriend Jon was a canvass. They brought markers and encouraged others to draw on the canvass. Just like Tom Sawyer got his friends to paint a fence, Nancy got her own friends to do her job for her. I believe she was trying to teach us to delegate authority – if you’re smart enough to get others to do what you’re supposed to do, you aren’t being lazy.

Yongwoog as Sherlock Holmes and Michelle as an alien (photo courtesy of Michelle Funk).

Yongwoog as Sherlock Holmes and Michelle as an alien (photo courtesy of Michelle Funk).

Irene Van Driel and Mariska Kleemans brought a taste of the Netherlands to the party. They wore orange wigs and red, white and blue clothes. Orange is the Dutch national color, and red, white and blue are the colors on the Dutch national flag. This was a veiled attack on American Exceptionalism. They tried to subliminally remind us that the flag of the United States is not unique in its choice of colors, which it shares with about 30 other countries. This was also a pro-monarchist, pro-House of Orange message. They may be planning to topple our government.

Edo as the High Road (photo courtesy of Michelle Funk).

Edo as the High Road (photo courtesy of Michelle Funk).

Dan Levy promoted peace and tranquility as The Dude from “The Big Lebowski”. He wore a blond wig and a bathrobe. He also walked around with an empty carton of half and half. That carton really tied the costume together.

I conveyed my own message to the world, as well. I wore yellow and white stripes, a hippie vest, an Interstate sign and buttons with the peace sign, psychedelic colors and the word “love”. I also held a comically large joint with fake marijuana made out of green pompoms. I was “the high road”. Get it? Oh, you had to be there.

And no, my subliminal message had nothing to do with drug legalization. I was trying to promote the use of puns while raising awareness of the flimsiness of our nation’s infrastructure.


Btown, Bike Town

By Edo Steinberg

Irene biking in Europe.

Irene biking in Europe.

Graduate student Irene Van Driel hails from Amsterdam, which many call the bicycle capital of the world. Moving from a two-wheel city to a four-wheel town can have its challenges.

“Bloomington is bike-friendly, as long as you stay close to downtown and campus,” Irene says. “Last year I lived on the other side of 37. The bike paths just stop at some point. I will never forget the first day I took my bike out I was looking for a bike path to go over 37. After looking for a while I decided to ask some people. They started laughing and told me to just bike over it. They always walked it. I was baffled!”

“I have to say that bikers in Amsterdam own the street,” Irene adds. “People are friendlier in traffic, both bikers and drivers.”

Irene has what she calls “a true American Schwinn mountain bike” here in town. “Back home I had a bike without gears; no need for it in my flat country. The bridges over the canals in Amsterdam vaguely resemble the hills in Btown, though. And I had a road bike. It is unfortunately still in the basement of my old apartment. I miss it!”

She also had another bicycle at home. “I feel really bad about this. The bike that I got from my parents for my 13th birthday, the bike that served me well through high school and student life, I parked it outside of the racks somewhere not long before I went to Btown and the bike police took it away. For ten euros you can pick it up but I just didn’t make time to do it. So it’s either still in the depot, rusting away or destroyed. Sad story.”


Bikes in Amsterdam.

In Bloomington, Irene returned to biking after somewhat of a break. “The last few years before I came here I was lucky enough to live in the center of Amsterdam close to the train station (I took the train to work) so I mostly walked everywhere. Unfortunately the bars and restaurants were in walking distance too. But when I was a student I lived all over that city as did my friends so I biked a lot.”

Irene wants fellow bikers to know about the Bloomington Community Bike Project, a local cooperative offering repair services and bike recycling. “I had biked past it a couple of times. It was when my brakes didn’t work anymore and my feet turned out not to be the perfect replacement – plus somebody cared enough to drag me over there and made me repair them – that I made use of the place.”

She liked the place so much that when Ashley and Mona had bicycle trouble a week later, she took them to the community bike project. “It’s a great place,” Irene says. “Volunteers help you repair parts or build an entire bike. It’s mostly free or really cheap. The parts are donated by others.”

Irene, who is training for the Monumental Marathon in Indianapolis in less than two weeks, isn’t sure if biking helps with marathon training. “It only matters if you are a professional biker/runner, I suppose.”

Potluck International

by Teresa Lynch

On Saturday evening many Telecom graduate students got together for dinner – potluck style.  Maybe more importantly, they got together to celebrate the diversity of cultures that exist within our department.  Ph.D. student Irene van Driel hosted the event and expressed hope that it would become a tradition for the graduate students.  Students from all over the country and the world attended and contributed dishes. That coming together resulted in a brilliant array of dishes that included curry, pancakes, rugelach, bulgogi, collard greens, stuffed raspberries, hummus, and kadurei shokolad.  For the grad students, if you missed it this time, make sure you keep an ear to the ground for the next one.  It’s safe to say it was a huge success and more such events are likely to follow, as hoped by Irene.