Fabio’s Classroom Introduction, Dan Schiffman at the Intersections, Paul Wright’s Recognition, Brown Bag

Fabio’s Classroom Introduction, by Ken Rosenberg

Fabio Monticone, a former Italian journalist, graduated in 2011 with a BA from our department. Drawn by his deepening interest in documentary, he decided to pursue graduate studies. In the Fall of the same year, he joined our MS (Design & Production) program.

As a design and production graduate student, Fabio knew that he would be called upon to handle labs and discussion sessions—but not in the very first semester!  As circumstances would have it, in Fall of 2011, the very semester Fabio entered graduate school, the department was short of associate instructors who had the relevant expertise to handle discussion sessions of T206: Introduction to Design and Production. He was called on to step in and help out the department.

At first fazed by the fact that a few months ago he was an undergrad and now he was donning the role of an instructor, he soon found his footing.  The masterful way he introduced himself to the class set the tone for the semester.

He realized that one of the most important things a teacher must do is maintain control of the classroom. Sometimes, this means dealing with the elephant in the room. “Just get it out now,” he told his students last semester, after putting up a PowerPoint slide with a familiar face—the famous “Fabio” (Fabio Lanzoni, the brawny Italian fashion model and actor who has graced many magazine covers, calendars, TV commercials, etc.).  He told the class he was not “that.”  In effect, he first declared who he was not before acquainting the class with the real Fabio they would be dealing with.  “He (Lanzoni) ruined my name,” our Fabio said, jokingly. After coming to the States, he was often subjected to the comparison. By the time he was ready to lead his first discussion sessions for T206, he knew it was only a matter of time before an undergrad would snicker—so he beat them to it.

Having taken the class himself as an undergrad, Fabio eagerly prepared to make T206 an enjoyable experience for the students, one with his personal stamp. In addition to the required weekly posts, Fabio created his own structure for the discussion sessions. Fabio is interested in making documentaries, which helped when planning a project for his students; in groups, they made movies. Though teaching in a language other than his mother tongue made things “kind of hard,” Fabio still had an advantage that most international students do not have in their first semester as an AI: experience with the grading system of U.S. universities, which he gained firsthand, as a student here at IU—in the same class, no less.

Our Fabio certainly has his own style.

Dan Schiffman at the Intersections, by Mike Lang

MS student Dan Schiffman likes to turn ideas into reality.

Schiffman opens his laptop and pulls up his latest project—a visualization tool designed to track trends on Twitter. Schiffman clicks on the search field and plugs in “JeremyLin,” and from the digital abyss a slew of words emerge, appearing and disappearing with the trendiness of modern Web 2.0 applications. By gathering bits of informatiom from Twitter with the help of hashtag search terms, the program gives the user a feel for what the Twitter world thinks about a certain subject. Ultimately, Schiffman hopes the program will be able to answer questions about trends.

Nestled somewhere between a designer, the folks who come up with ideas, and a developer, the folks who put those ideas into action, Schiffman has positioned himself for maximum flexibility.  “I’m not a developer and I’m not a designer. I’m somewhere in the middle. I try to make things happen.” Taking courses in Informatics in interaction design and experience design in order to learn the relevant languages and tools used by designers, and courses in SLIS in order to learn the developer side, Schiffman gets the best of both worlds without being pigeonholed into either category.  At the same time, he has positioned himself to handle the turbulent waters that periodically rock the field. He has learned two very different languages, and can serve as a bridge connecting one side to another, transcending the barrier which often stalls the process that takes an idea from conception to realization, and for Schiffman, it’s all about getting things done.

As an economics major at the University of Colorado with an eye for venture capital, Schiffman has also studied the business aspect of his projects. Taking MBA courses at Kelley, Schiffman has worked to understand one of the biggest hurdles entrepreneurial ideas face—the pressure of securing funding and turning a profit. In one of his favorite courses so far, business negotiations, Schiffman learned the ins and outs of handling and understanding complex social situations, a skill not often taught in school. Likewise, he has worked extensively on drafting business proposals in his class on venture capital and in Telecom’s T505: Media Organizations.

At the moment Schiffman is currently working on a way to partner media with social outreach programs. One of his proposed projects includes SMS microloans as a tool to expand information networks and increase economic development in areas suffering poverty. (Check out a recent interview with Netsquared for more details).  In addition he has partnered with a contact in San Francisco to work on a new venture. But he also talks about couch surfing after graduation.

Schiffman’s trajectory in the program has landed him somewhere between business, design, and development, and equipped him with the ability to navigate different fields quickly and efficiently. With that kind of ability to navigate, Schiffman likely won’t find himself couch surfing for too long.

Paul Wright’s Special Recognition, by Mike Lang

Last semester starting center for the IU women’s basketball team Sasha Chaplin enrolled in Wright’s T314 Processes and Effects course.  As the semester progressed, Chaplin sought out Wright for additional help. Once a week for the entire semester, Wright would meet with Chaplin for an hour to review everything they had gone over in class. “She was just a great person, great personality, very sharp,” says Wright. As a result, she ended up with a really good grade in the class.

In the middle of February Wright received an email for Chaplin. The team had a home game coming up against Wisconsin and in was both a senior night and a faculty appreciation night. Players were asked to invite one faculty member who had contributed to their academic success. Chaplin chose Wright. As a huge basketball fan, Wright had planned on attending the game anyway, as he had been attending games for some time. So, he happily accepted. At halftime, the team trotted Wright out onto the court and presented him with a certificate acknowledging the impact he had on Chaplin’s academic success. That night, IU won its first conference game after going 0-14.

Paul Wright on the Jumbotron

Recognition for excellence in the classroom comes in many different forms. Being recognized on the floor of assembly hall has to rank as one of the coolest.

Brown Bag

Love, Loss, and Leeeeeeeroy: Aesthetic Interaction in World of Warcraft

Jeffrey Bardzell (Presenter), Ted Castronova (Discussant)

In the 1980s, Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) emerged to develop more productive, less error-prone, more learnable, and more pleasing systems. These criteria would come to comprise the concept of “usability” and help define what makes a “good” workplace computer system. Since the 1990s, however, computing has moved beyond the workplace into everyday life. Usability, though important, is no longer sufficient to define good systems; increasingly, aesthetic considerations have come to the fore in both academic and industry-based HCI. Yet understanding and designing for aesthetic experiences remains a difficult and unfinished project in HCI, partly because of disciplinary divides between the arts and sciences.

In this talk, I will explore ways that both critical and empirical research of World of Warcraft (WoW) can contribute to HCI’s understanding of aesthetic experiences. I will summarize research conducted by the Cultural Research in Technology (CRIT) group in the School of Informatics on three aspects of WoW. First is intimacy, romance, and friendship in WoW, understood as a contribution to research on user experience (UX). Second is progression raiding, understood from the perspective of computer-supported cooperative work (CSCW). Third is the emergent visual language of WoW machinima, understood from the perspective of creativity support software. I will also share some of our efforts to find strategies to combine critical and empirical methodologies in the first place, and then subsequently to articulate our findings in ways that can be heard in HCI and influence practice.


Jeffrey Bardzell is an Associate Professor of HCI/Design and new media in the School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University – Bloomington. Having done his doctoral work in Comparative Literature and Philosophy, Bardzell brings a humanist perspective to HCI and is known for developing a theory of interaction criticism. His other HCI specialties include aesthetic interaction, user experience design, amateur multimedia design theory and practice, and digital creativity. Currently, he is using theories from film, fashion, science fiction, and philosophical aesthetics to theorize about users and interaction, especially in the context of user experience design and supporting creativity. He co-directs the Cultural Research in Technology (CRIT) group: http://crit.soic.indiana.edu.

Edward Castronova (PhD Economics, Wisconsin, 1991) is a Professor of Telecommunications and Cognitive Science, Indiana University. He  is a founder of scholarly online game studies and an expert on the societies of virtual worlds. Among his academic publications on these topics are two books: Synthetic Worlds (University of Chicago Press, 2005) and Exodus to the Virtual World (Palgrave, 2007). Professor Castronova teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on the design of games, the game industry, and the management of virtual societies. Outside his academic work, Professor Castronova makes regular appearances in mainstream media (60 Minutes, the New York Times, and The Economist), gives keynotes at major conferences (Austin Game Conference, Digital Games Research Association Conference, Interactive Software Federation of Europe), and consults for business (McKinsey, Vivendi, Forrester).

The audio for last Friday’s seminar can be found here: Brown Bag 7 (March 2, 2012 – Jeff Bardzell and Ted Castronova)