Katie Brings Tech Conference to Bloomington

By Edo Steinberg

I haven’t seen this much enthusiasm about a conference in a very long time. Katie Birge, a graduate student of our department and founding member of the blog team, is now the director of the Bloomington Technology Partnership. She is organizing a tech conference called The Combine, scheduled for April 11-13, featuring Wikipedia founder and IU alum Jimmy Wales. Her face lights up when she talks about it.

The Combine – April 11-13, 2014.

“I support the local tech sector by posting available jobs, we help find office space for companies that are growing, recruit new tech sector companies to come to Bloomington, and a big part of what I do is promoting local events,” Katie explains.

“I’m on the five-person planning committee for The Combine,” Kate says. “We’ve been meeting since May or June of last year almost weekly. We nailed down the date and worked out the venues.” They also chose the speakers and new features that were not included in The Combine in previous years.

The Combine will include several events. “There will be an Ignite talk on the 11th. It’s a series of speakers who talk about any topic they want for five minutes with automatically advancing slides.” The slides advance every 15 seconds, with a total of 20 slides. “Some of the topics are tech related and some are completely different. Someone did one on gaming for masochists last time. It was just a list of the hardest games that have ever been invented and why it’s important to try to play them. Someone else did one about all the places to go in Bloomington.”

Another event taking place will be a career internship fair for tech companies. “It’s free for all the local employers to attend,” Katie says. “It’s something the Bloomington Technology Partnership runs, so I put it together. It’s free so even little startup companies can afford to go. They usually can’t afford to participate in career fairs. The companies will be looking for a wide array: from interns studying at IU to people with 5-7 years of business experience.”

The Combine will also include a tour of Bloomington’s downtown tech park, in the area between 7th and 11th streets (Macri’s to Upland’s), which the city is now developing. “It’s a unique idea. A lot of cities have tech parks, but they’re on the outskirts of town and are industrial. This will be totally different. It’s designed just to host tech companies, tech workers, and startups.”

“Of all the tech events in Bloomington, Combine is my favorite,” she says. “It brings speakers and guests from all over the country.”

How do they get big names to come? “A lot of promotions and begging,” Katie jokes. “Bloomington’s tech sector is lucky to have a lot of connections to Silicon Valley, Chicago, New York and other places with big tech scenes. The IU Alumni Association and the Office of Engagement helped us subsidize the cost of bringing Jimmy Wales here.”

“Group rates are available if the department wants to buy a set of tickets,” Katie gently hints. “Student scholarships are also available to subsidize the costs.”

For more information, check out the event’s website.

Paul Wright Profile, Catching up with Katie B., Waterman’s Oxford Sabbatical, Satoko Kurita Returns

Paul Wright, Our New Professor

Walking into the office it was clear that I had entered a space of transition. Two half empty bookshelves line the north wall, while a computer desk and chair, a filing cabinet, and a small portable beach chair rounded out the remainder of the room’s contents, all pushed along the western wall underneath the window. If the room had a theme it would be empty floor space. In time the paper stacks, books, journals, coffee stains, conference souvenirs and other token markers of a professor’s office will take over, but for incoming professor Paul Wright, you have to start somewhere.

He offered me his computer chair, the room’s only proper seating and joked about getting some real furniture. I declined, choosing to settle into the small beach chair in the corner. Having grown up in Huntington Beach, Wright exudes a Southern California coolness; Amiable and polite with a consistent laid back youthfulness which will likely make him popular with students.  There is no air of self-importance here, just a genuine affability and a nose to the grindstone work ethic.

Wright spent his childhood in the heart of the skateboarding scene as it was blowing up, when major skateboard publications like Thrasher magazine and Transworld Skateboarding were just cutting their teeth. His time was spent tearing up the local schools, Huntington High and Mesa View, with the likes of numerous professional skaters. He even had a mini ramp in his backyard. For Wright, board sports run in the family. His dad introduced him to surfing, and family vacations were often taken beachside. The pier at Huntington Beach was Wright’s regular stomping ground. After the California sunset it was not uncommon for Wright and his friends to head to the pier to surf by the light of the moon.

In addition to board sports Wright played basketball in high school, and began coaching afterward. He subscribes to the classic, team-first, pass five times before you shoot style and he even developed his own shooting method known as the laser method. If mastered, the shooter should have the pinpoint accuracy of a laser. Although a professed Lakers fan, he shuns most modern NBA play styles. It would be hard not to after growing up on UCLA basketball.

Wright did his doctoral work at the University of Arizona in Tucson. Surrounded by the desert landscape, Wright frequented desert trails. In one particularly bladder-loosening moment, he spotted a mountain lion just off the main path where he was hiking. One of the hikers nearby was lucky enough to snap a picture, and both were lucky enough to survive.

Here at IU Wright is teaching two undergraduate courses, Sex in the Media and Process and Effects in addition to doing research. His legacy as a faculty member in our department, much like his office, is a blank canvas, awaiting the brushstrokes that only time and experience provides.  As I walked out of the office he left me with a piece of advice, “Never stop working.” With a mindset like that, it won’t be long until Paul Wright no longer needs an introduction.

PhD Student Katie Birge Puts Her Research Skills to Work

As many of you know, Katie Birge was a key member of the grad blog team last year.  This year she decided to take some time off to engage in applied research in the tech community.  As a PhD student in the department, her research focused on the dynamics of creative communities.  Now, she is leading the development of the Bloomington Technology Partnership (BTP) for the Bloomington Economic Development Corporation (BEDC).  Her adventure began as an intern this summer at Sproutbox, a local venture capital firm for startup tech companies.  Because of her interests in innovation and technology, her contacts at Sproutbox connected her to the BEDC.

Katie is most excited about her work at BEDC because of Bloomington’s unique identity as an emerging technology center.  A variety of tech companies have chosen Bloomington as their headquarters – including high tech defense organizations, green technology firms, and companies like Sproutbox, who help other tech ventures get off the ground.  Katie’s responsibility is to help brand Bloomington as a rapidly growing tech community, which she develops through social media and, more importantly, applying what she has learned about creative communities to plan events and programming for the local tech community.  She credits this to the knowledge she gained while in Telecom. “This job is like a manifesto of Harmeet’s classes all rolled into one,” Katie explains, “It’s understanding the networks of the technological community and how they all work together.”  One of her biggest challenges involves connecting technological companies who need jobs filled with individuals who can fill them.  Her hopes are to learn as much as possible about the local tech community so that pertinent concepts and initiatives can be further applied at the state level. “Based on research that I conducted last semester, I ultimately want to bring technology to small towns in the Midwest.  Bloomington is a great place to observe and learn how to do so.”

Besides heading up the Bloomington Technology Partnership, she is also working part-time as a project manager at Option Six, an e-learning company in Bloomington.  It was here that she ran into former MS student Jack Chang, who works at Option Six in interaction design. “Option Six is a great place for MS students with passion for production and design.  I had no idea that several e-learning companies are located in Bloomington and they all provide great opportunities for students in Telecom.”

While we will continue to miss Katie and her contributions to the blog, she is doing great things for the tech community in Bloomington.  With all of this amazing work, what else has she had time for outside of the office?  She started making a quilt by hand – something on the opposite side of the technological spectrum.  We’ll be sure to keep you posted on its progress!

David Waterman Returns from Oxford, UK

Believe it or not, Professor David Waterman is glad to be back in Bloomington.  This after spending the last five months in England on sabbatical at the University of Oxford.  He says “it was something to experience once in your life but I’m glad to be back home.”

David was at the Oxford Internet Institute – an interdisciplinary department dedicated to exploration of ideas and research about the World Wide Web. “Considering that my last sabbatical was spent in my basement, writing a book, my family was a bit unhappy with me,” David laughed, “So that was one reason to go.”  David further explained that the work environment was wonderful.  With nice office space and no meeting requirements, he was able to hold many interesting conversations with people throughout the university and work on a project on the economics of Internet media.  David described the academics at Oxford as wonderfully interesting and eccentric. Not only did he learn quite a bit about the economics of British media, he also walked away with a new perspective on his own work.

In his time there, David, his wife Sharon, and their 14-year-old son Matthew, lived in East Oxford.

Without a car to drive to work, David learned to appreciate biking to work every day.  The hiking and biking in and around Oxford was one of the great highlights of his stay there.  David explained that footpaths are protected by law, many of which traverse through private farms and other landscapes.  “Oxford was fantastic, an academic fairyland – full of wonderful music, churches, beautiful architecture, and villages you could visit by hike or bike.”

Outside of his adventures in Oxford, David and his family also had the opportunity to travel to Belgium, Czech Republic, Scotland, and Spain.  In addition to conferences and speaking engagements there, he did tourist things with his family, which included seeing the symphony in Prague.

Now back in town, David has carried over the biking habit he developed in Oxford over to Bloomington and now bikes to school everyday.

And what about T600?  After a five and a half-year run as the colloquium’s coordinator, he has passed that torch onto Professor Mark Deuze.  “Mark will be great, I have no doubt.  He is already doing some really interesting things with it and I’m excited to see where it goes.”

Satoka Kurita Returns

Last week former doctoral student Satoka Kurita returned to Bloomington to meet her collaborators at IU School of Medicine for her current fMRI studies on video games and also plan future studies.  As a graduate student, she entered the department on the MS track, but after taking T501 with Annie Lang, she switched to the MA program in pursuit of her Ph.D with a focus on media psychology.  She graduated in 2009 with a dissertation entitled “Playing violent and non-violent video games: Physiological and emotional responses as a function of motivational activation.”  She is current an assistant professor at Osaka University of Economics.  During her Bloomington visit she met with faculty members across campus including Annie Lang and Rob Potter, and took in a few concerts at the music school. Her advice to current graduate students, “know what makes you happy when you are stressed out. It’s very important.”

Random Quote of the Week

Incoming MA student Brad Cho provided an interesting revelation during the annual welcome dinner at Graduate Director Harmeet Sawhney’s home.  Brad and his wife are currently living long distance – she is a professor at the University of Minnesota.  When asked how often he will be visiting  her during the semester, Brad replied . . .

“She will be coming down once a month.  I won’t be visiting her at all.  I have T501 this semester.”

For everyone who has taken T501: Philosophy of Inquiry in Telecommunications with Annie Lang, we know exactly what Brad is talking about.


Nicky Lewis:  Catching up with Katie B., Waterman’s Oxford Sabbatical, and Random Quote of the Week

Mike Lang: Faculty Profile: An Introduction to Paul Wright and Satoko Kurita Returns

More Cooking with Telecom, Sparks Wins at CMF, FC Telecom Season Opener, Intellectual Circuits: Production, and Brown Bags

Cooking with Telecom, Part 2: Geng Zhang

For grad student Geng Zhang, cooking is part of her identity.  It combines three important aspects of her life: design, photography, and creativity.  “If you have the time and energy, cooking puts you in a good mood.  Happiness is what I get out of cooking.”  Geng’s earliest cooking memories date back to her childhood.  When she would get home from elementary school and her mother was still at work, Geng would sneak into the kitchen and conduct small cooking experiments.  Most of them involved playing with eggs.  Typically Geng “played” with 5 or 6 eggs a day.  And her mother was not very pleased.

When she came to America, she had to learn to cook for herself.  “All of my roommates were American and the funny thing was, I was the worst cook out of all of us.  They sort of made fun of me and I felt bad about giving bad examples of Chinese cooking.”  She learned to take guidance from one of her roommates who cooked great Mediterranean food and made delicious desserts.  Geng is thankful for the time he spent working with her in the kitchen.  As Geng’s culinary skills began to grow, she decided to invite Telecom students over to her apartment for a birthday dinner.  She spent the whole day making bacon-wrapped dates, jumbo pasta, and amaretto chocolate cake.  “When everything turned out well, I was surprised.  But people said I had talent, I just didn’t want to believe it.”

Geng’s cooking philosophy entails making meals with fresh ingredients and working with ethnic recipes.  “When you cook something that’s not originally from your cultural background, you feel less guilty when you make a mistake.”  For Geng, it’s about playing with ingredients.  For example, instead of making regular french toast, she adds different ingredients every time, like shredded coconut, just to see  how it turns out.  This is one reason why her blog is focused on cooking for the “adventurous soul.”

Geng’s blog combines her two passions of cooking and photography.  As an undergrad in Beijing, she would take her camera everywhere.  But her picture taking was put on hold when she got wrapped up in grad school work, seminar papers, and deadlines.  “I got an awesome digital camera from my relatives right before I came to IU, and it was just sitting on the corner of my desk.  One day, I was looking at it and thought, ‘Hey, maybe you and I should do something together.’ So I charged it up and began shooting again.” Her blog brings together her three passions – cooking, photography, and graphic design.  Choosing the plating, utensils, tablecloth color, and incorporating raw ingredients are all important for the final shot.

Check out Geng’s blog by following the link here. Also see Geng’s favorite food blog, TasteSpotting, which aggregates beautiful food photographs and recipes from all over the world here.

Sophie Parkison and other Telecommers Take Top Honors at Campus Movie Fest

Grad student Sophie Parkison and several other students from the Department of Telecommunications have reasonto celebrate.  Their short film, Sparks, won the award for Best Picture at these year’s Campus Movie Fest (CMF).  Developed by Telecom senior Gesi Aho-Rulli, Sparks is about a cyborg who receives a heart and falls in love.
Sophie explains that Sparks demonstrates the power of creative colloboration and pre-production.  It combined the talents of Telecom senior Ed Wu (cinematography and principal editing), Telecom junior Joseph Toth (stereo audio mix), and Billy Van Alstine (original music score).  Sophie served as writer, assistant producer, and extra.   “It’s been rewarding to work with such a talented team and producing something we are proud and excited to watch over and over again.”What happens next?  CMF selects several entries every year to go on to the Cannes Film Festival.  Because IU has had strong entries in the past, the CMF staff saved a spot for one IU film.  Sparks was chosen and has been entered in the Cannes Short Film Corner.”  The movie also won Best Cinematography at the IU Campus level and now moves on to the CMF International Grand Finale June 23-26 in LA.
Several students on the production team plan on attending for workshops and to see the final results of the contest.  Congratulations and good luck to Sophie and all of the Sparks crew!
Watch Sparks here: CMF Movies: Sparks
Photo Courtesy of Campus Movie Fest.
FC Telecom Gears Up for Spring Season
Spring is in the air in Bloomington, and with it comes the sweet smell of a victorious season opener for FC Telecom. The team kicked off its first game of the Spring soccer season with a 6-4 victory.  The preparations in the off-season seemed to have paid off.
Many team members participated in indoor soccer during the winter months. “The buzz is that the indoor thing was kind of our practice gearing up for outdoor domination,” explains Professor Mark Deuze. PhD candidate Matt Falk explained that he and other team members have been bulking up by training with P90X and other fitness videos. “It’s been 5 months of training, and I’m confident that I’m in better shape than last year,” says Matt.
New faces are joining the team this season. MS students Brendan Wood and Siya Africa will be dressing out for many of the games, adding youthfulness and enthusiasm to the roster. FC Telecom, which has been around for aboout 7 years, is usually the only team made of members from an academic department. “There’s people who have played on high school soccer teams and at college, and some people started playing soccer when they joined the league,” Professor Norbert Herber explains. “We don’t have any ringers, but we’ve always had a competitive team, so that bodes well for us.”
Perhaps the biggest change this year will be the debut of new FC Telecom uniforms, bright orange jerseys designed by (Netherlands native) Mark Deuze. “With 2 Dutch players on the team, I think the orange really helps, and other people like the color too,” Mark claims. “I’m pretty sure the jerseys have ‘pure awesome’ woven into them, so it should give us an advantage,” says Matt, who has updated his kit and switched from purple socks to new orange ones for the occasion. “It’s still all about the socks, really,” explains Norbert, who plans to purchase matching orange socks in the near future.
The team doesn’t have a set motto, but many players have thrown out ideas for one this year. “Don’t get hurt,” suggests Norbert. He also adds that their unofficial motto when everyone slows down at the end of a game is “Keep running!”, a battle cry commonly belted out by Mark when the outcome of the game starts looking grim. Mark also adds that age doesn’t really slow down anyone on the team. “I think I’m actually getting faster,” he explains. “In FC Telecom, the older you get, the more ferocious you are.”
The team plays most Thursdays at 8:30 in Karst Farm Park on the west side of town. Grab some orange and head out to support the team in the upcoming weeks.
Intellectual Circuits, Part 3: Design and Production

MS (Design and Production) brings together the theory and practice of making films, games, and creative apps. “It’s all about the creation of media but also the reflections on the process of creating it,” explains 2nd year MS student Jenna Hoffstein.
For 2nd year MS student Mary LaVenture, many Fine Arts courses were a great complement to her production courses in Telecom, as they allowed her to gain new perspectives. “Telecom courses are often designed to create work geared specifically towards commercial projects or jobs, but Fine Art emphasizes art for the sake of art and self-expression. I think we sometimes box ourselves into a way of thinking, and it’s great to get a fresh perspective on content and subject matter,” she says.  Other courses in areas like SLIS (School of Information and Library Sciences) and Informatics can provide design and production students with new approaches to what they already study. “I’m not justdoing game design,” explains Jenna. “I’m learning about media in a larger context.”

MS (Production and Design) students testing out iPhone and iPad games they developed for an independent study course.

By combining Telecom and outside courses, the design and production students can develop programs of study that are tailored for their interests.  “Classes in each department are structured and taught to emphasize and enhance a certain thought process and stepping away from that helps to create a more well rounded, critical thinking student,” Mary explains. First year MS student Dan Schiffman adds that seeking courses wherever they are available helps one stay ahead of the curve. “Our field is changing so drastically and so quickly that it’s important to understand where things are headed. Studying design theory is relevant everywhere because it will remain useful even as technologies change,” he says.
Regardless of the specific path design students choose to take, all current students agree that self-motivation and cooperation are critical for students in this area. There’s a lot of freedom due to the small number of required classes, so you have to create your own degree and start your own projects. “Take advantage of the independent studies and get to know the other minds in the program so you can collaborate,” Jenna advises.
Suggested courses:
I590: Interaction Culture
I544: Experience Design and Criticism
IDP541: Interaction Design Practice
— Fine Arts courses in MAYA design
— SPEA courses in Arts Administration
Brown Bag

Framing Politics in Science Fiction Television: Problem Solving Through Altered Time and Space

Katie Birge, PhD student, Department of Telecommunication, Indiana University, Bloomington

Abstract:  Many scholars of political communication have used framing as an approach to examining the presentation of societal issues and political events. Much of the existing research has relied solely on news content and political coverage to make a case for the ways in which these issues are framed for public consumption. This presentation will argue that framing of political issues occurs beyond the reaches of the news, using science fiction as its subject of inquiry. Through three case studies—Star Trek: The Original Series, Battlestar Galactica, and V—this presentation will explain the framing techniques used in science fiction television to address key political events or issues: the Cold War, post-September 11th terrorism, and the ongoing immigration debate. By highlighting the ways in which each series addresses the issues prevalent in their time, this presentation will also validate science fiction as a unique test space for framing political issues in new ways as a result of distancing from the real world through altered time and space. This research serves as a starting point for extending framing research beyond news coverage and intentionally politics-themed television.

Birge Audio

The Impact of Visual Attention on Sexual Responses to Same- and Opposite-Sex Stimuli in Heterosexual and Homosexual Men

Lelia Samson, PhD candidate, Department of Telecommunications, Indiana University, Bloomington  

Abstract:  This research study investigates how the cognitive and affective mechanisms involved in visual information processing influence men’s sexual responses and preference for same- and opposite-sex erotic stimuli. Barlow’s working model of sexual function and dysfunction (1986) is used to hypothesize that differences in how heterosexual and homosexual men respond to same- versus opposite-sex stimuli may, at least in part, result from differences in affective and attentional reactions to such stimuli. The impact of visual attention on such responses is experimentally tested, using a novel method that allows researchers to simultaneously assess visual attentional selection and experimentally manipulate it while measuring men’s choice-behavior and psychophysiological responses.

Samson’s research was funded by the Kinsey Institute Student Research Grant 2010.

Samson Audio


Nicky Lewis:  Cooking with Telecom and Sophie Parkison

Katie Birge:  FC Telecom, Intellectual Circuits, and Brown Bags

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 WordPress.com + Stats Helper Monkeys)


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