Distinguished Alumni Award for Jim Webster, Graduate Student Day, Rob Potter’s B-School Collaboration, Ratan Receives Honors

Jim Webster Returns to Bloomington, Distinguished Alumni Award, Brown Bag

For the first time in about 20 years, IU Telecom Grad Program alum Jim Webster (IU PhD ’80) made his way back to his roots. Currently teaching at Northwestern University, Jim took some time out of his schedule on Friday to reminisce about his days as a Hoosier. And how much has the campus and town changed since he last visited? “Honestly, it’s pretty much the same,” Jim says. “The faculty are much nicer now,” he adds with a smile. Jim recalled being a research assistant in the early days of the department’s Institute for Communication Research.

Jim’s path to Bloomington for graduate school was interesting. After graduating with a BA in psychology from Trinity College, Hartford, he secured a job at the Children’s Television Workshop, the organization responsible for Sesame Street and other educational programming. Charged with the task of developing a prime time television series about health and fitness for adults, Jim ran focus groups and met with experts. One such expert was a faculty member at IU Telecom, and when the series ended, he encouraged Jim to apply for Telecom doctoral program. Jim was admitted the following school year and continued to study audiences, now in a theoretically informed way.

Jim has many fond memories of his alma mater. He was here when Breaking Away was being filmed, and he knows many people who were extras.  He also met his wife Debra, an IU Telecom alum, during his time here. In fact, Debra still keeps the ticket stub from their first date – a production at the IU Auditorium – in her wallet. Before leaving town on Saturday, they planned to revisit the Wells Library and Nick’s English Hut, two of their old hangouts. After his brown bag presentation on Friday, Jim made one more memory: he received the department’s Distinguished Alumni Award, presented by department chair Walter Gantz. Only two other alums have received this award thus far.

Jim’s Brown Bag Presentation:

Public Attention in an Age of Digital Media

Abstract:  Digital media offer countless options that compete for a limited supply of public attention. Identifying the forces that shape media use in this environment can inform our understanding of the new “attention economy.” In this talk I consider different ways to explain media use and offer an integrated model of public attention based on the notion of structuration. I report the results of a recent study that applied network analysis metrics to Nielsen data on television and internet use.  These shed light on the nature of audience fragmentation and whether such “long tail” distributions can be taken as evidence of social polarization. I conclude with a discussion of niches, enclaves, and the persistence of popularity.

Click here to listen to an audio recording of the presentation:  Jim Webster T600 Audio

IU Telecom Welcomes its Admitted Graduate Students

Last week the department opened its doors to the newly admitted graduate students. Hailing from Florida, California, and in between, the prospective students enjoyed a faculty meet-and-greet breakfast, a brown bag presentation by grad program alum Jim Webster, lunch with faculty and current graduate students, a tour of the facilities, and a relaxing party to conclude the packed day. Check out photos below:

Rob Potter’s Business School Connection

For the past several years, Professor Rob Potter has been working with Professor Alan Dennis, John T. Chambers Chair in Internet Systems, Kelley School of Business.  This meeting of the minds came about through a Kelley doctoral student, Taylor Wells, who informed Rob about the Alan’s interest in psychophysiological measures.  Alan’s research interests involve the neural processes used in decision making.  His current work focuses on decision making in groups meeting face-to-face and in a virtual environment.  He is exploring several dimensions in the decision making process, including the visibility of information, the relevance of information, and how information is used in decision making.

After Rob’s presentation at the Center for Neural Decision Making’s Interdisciplinary Symposium on Decision Neuroscience in September, Alan approached Rob for potential collaboration on research using electroencephalography (EEG) technology.  Rob’s past experience with psychophysiological measures at the Institute of Communication Research was valuable here. Rob and Alan started collaborating, as both of them were inspired by recent innovations in technology involving the use of brain wave activity to communicate with computers, often seen in research with paraplegics.  In the past use of EEG technology in research has been a very expensive endeavor.  However, as the technology advanced, researchers in the gaming industry took note and have developed EEG headsets that are more affordable than those used in medical labs.  Rob and Alan are continuing their collaboration using headsets designed by gaming researchers to deepen our understanding about neural decision making.  As of early March, they had developed a proof concept and are currently working on developing an experimental design.  Much more is to come from these two professors.  For more information on the Center for Neural Decision Making, click here.

Visit the Institute for Communication Research here.

Ratan is Honored with GPSO/UGS Recognition Award

PhD Candidate Ratan Suri received the GPSO / UGS Recognition Award from the Graduate and Professional Student Organization (GPSO) and the University Graduate School (UGS) and was featured as the Graduate Student of the Month on IU Graduate School’s blog. Ratan was given the award for his research and teaching accomplishments, which include College of Arts and Sciences Dissertation Year Research Fellowship and Indiana University Graduate School’s Future Faculty Teaching Fellowship.

You can access the IU Graduate School Blog for more details about Ratan’s research and teaching activities. Congratulations, Ratan!

Callout: Declaring Spring!

Spring is finally on its way, and the bloggers are looking for your insights about how you ring in Spring. When does it officially start for you? What do you do to declare that Spring has arrived? Send your answers to knbirge@indiana.edu and nhlewis@indiana.edu


Nicky Lewis: Rob Potter’s B-School Collaboration

Katie Birge: Jim Webster Story, Graduate Student Day, Ratan’s Honors