Music and Cameras – A Fruitful Collaboration

by Teresa Lynch

This past Friday, Studio 5 on the ground floor of the Radio-TV played host to 60 musicians from the Jacobs School of Music (JSoM), JSoM audio engineering students, and students enrolled in the T436 Multi Camera Performance Production (MCPP) course.

An MCPP student operates a camera during the orchestral performance of Bohemian Rhapsody

An MCPP student operates a camera during the orchestral performance of Bohemian Rhapsody

The reason this creative bunch descended on Studio 5? To collaboratively record a rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody for orchestra – originally by Queen, but arranged and conducted by JSoM student Nick Hersh.

“[The T436 students] have spent a lot of time in the Musical Arts Center working, but not in the studio. Recording 60 musicians in Studio 5 and interfacing with an audio crew and the musicians was pretty challenging. I basically just facilitated communication and kept everything moving along,” said Matt Falk, the course’s AI.

“There’s a fun dynamic in the class because we’re working with John [Walsh] and Konrad [Strauss] from the music school and a couple of the directors from over there and all of our teaching styles and attitudes are really different. John’s a problem solver, but without being in people’s faces. Konrad is the director of the audio program and he’s really laid back. Then there’s me and I’m constantly freaking out trying to prevent mistakes,” said Matt with a laugh.

This is the first semester our department has offered this course. Dreamed up by John and Konrad, the course draws on each program’s area of expertise to create a collaborative course between Telecommunications and JSoM. “When you’re in the audio production program in Jacobs, you have to spend 80 hours a semester doing professional work like running sound to maintain your enrollment,” said Matt. “[The JSoM] has been doing these live streams of operas to the internet for a few years now – Konrad pioneered that – and it’s pretty cool, they get hundreds of thousands of viewers all around

MCPP students working diligently on the live production

MCPP students working diligently on the live production in Studio 5

the world tuning in.” The problem was that many of the positions for these live-streaming events involved camera work, assistant director, and other non-audio roles that didn’t give beneficial hands on experience for audio production students. “We have students [in Telecom] who know switching, who know camera work, who want professional experience to build their resumes and put on their demo reel. We also have advanced students who want experience directing, but don’t have opportunities. [The JSoM students] don’t want to do those parts, so the course covers these events and gives everyone more applicable opportunity,” said Matt.

The students not only do the live recordings, they also provide supplementary materials on the internet such as 3-5 minute vignettes with historical information about the productions or auxiliary content such as interviews with cast and crew of the productions. The collaboration has improved the production quality of the recorded performances making them distributable and of value to the undergraduate students’ demo reels. For Matt, the teaching experience of working with the students on a professional quality production has been invaluable. “It’s really awesome that [the Telecom department and JSoM] went out on a limb with this collaboration because it’s risky. There’s a lot of money and time invested and it’s all stamped with the JSoM brand. If something goes wrong, it’s on us as the instructors because the students are there to learn, but everyone’s really come together to make something we’re all proud of.”

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Team Telecom Runs, Awards and Fellowships Workshop, Younei Soe’s Dissertation Award, Ron Osgood’s Presentation, Brown Bag

Team Telecom Runs, by Mike Lang

A few years ago I remember sitting in the movie theater and an advertisement for one of the branches of the armed services came on. A bunch of athletic guys in black shirts and camo pants ran through an obstacle course, and occasional close ups showed their various exertion induced grimaces. At the very end, brushed chrome letters appeared reading, “pain is weakness leaving the body.” Every time I see a runner chugging through campus with that similar grimaces, I’m reminded of those brushed chrome letters as I recount the agony of my few running experiences. Running is pain, yet a number of those within our department fight through it in their quest for camaraderie, a healthy lifestyle, new challenges, and charity.

Established at the Jill Behrman 5k last year, Team Telecom brings together the runners in our department. While most races fall into the 5k category, there are also 7ks, 10ks, mini marathons, and marathons. Although the races are timed, the only competition Team Telecom advocates is competition with yourself. As Matt Falk says, one of the mottos of the group is “start together, finish together.” Although everyone runs at a different pace, those who finish at the head of the pack stay around to cheer on those further behind. In some cases, they even turn back to run with them to the finish line. Nicky Lewis, who started running in races last fall at Betsi Grabe’s insistence, was apprehensive at first about running in public with a bunch of more experienced runners. However, after crossing the finish line for the first time, and seeing the amount of support from her teammates, she caught the bug. Falk characterizes Team Telecom as a successful anarchy. There are no rules or leaders, but things get done.

Reed Nelson is currently training for a marathon.

In the wintertime, organized racing comes to a halt but not Team Telecom. On a few occasions, the group collaborated and set up informal races of their own. As Lindsay Ems tells me, the group established a 3.5 mile route that they would all run. Walt Gantz served as the official timer, driving from mile marker to mile marker and providing encouragement along the way. They made sure to end the route in front of Bloomington Bagel Company so they could enjoy breakfast with each other afterwards.

Although all run the same race, everybody’s running style and reason for running differs substantially. Nicky Lewis, for instance, hates running but loves listening to music, and running gives her that opportunity while engaged in a health enhancing activity. Practically married to her iPod, Nicky sets up playlists that correspond to both the total time she wants to run, and her projected mile time. Relying on a website that uses a song’s tempo to determine how fast runners would run a mile if they ran to the beat of the music, Nicky has been able to cut her mile time down by a full minute. Likewise, Matt Falk uses music in ways that correspond to his body’s needs while running. Using GPS and a heart rate monitor, Falk is able to accurately track changes he feels his body undergoing, and he creates his playlist to match those changes. For instance, he might start off with some fun peppy music to get him started. When he hits the brick wall around 10 minutes, he can program Slayer’s “Angel of Death” to pump him up enough to get over the hump where he enters the cruise phase of his run and programs some chill electronica. For Lindsay, running is a challenge. Although she doesn’t particularly like the running part, she likes overcoming the pain. Likewise, Rob Potter runs to stay fit. While the styles and reasons may differ, all enjoy the camaraderie that the team provides.

While running provides Team Telecom with an opportunity to hang out, exercise, and have fun, they also run for a purpose.  Each race has an entrance fee which is donated to support various causes. Team Telecomm has aided breast cancer research, raised awareness about violence and assault, and supported organizations like Habitat for Humanity.

During the spring and fall races occur almost every weekend. For those interested in running you can visit the Team Telecom’s Facebook page, or contact one of members.

Team Telecom members: Matt Falk, Nicky Lewis, Lindsay Ems, Betsi Grabe, Mark Deuze, Mark Bell, Sean Connolly, Reed Nelson, Teresa Lynch, Rob Potter, Tamera Theodore, Shannon Schenck, Susan Kelly

Telecom PhD Workshop:  Seeking Dissertation Fellowships and Other Funding as a Graduate Studentby Ken Rosenberg

Professors Rob Potter, Andrew Weaver, and Harmeet Sawhney shared insights into dissertation fellowships and other funding opportunities in the “sausage making” mode.  The evening was broken into following three sessions (1) Dissertation Year Research Fellowships and Future Faculty Teaching Fellowships, (2) Travel Grants and Doctoral Workshops, and (3) Teaching Awards and Fellowships.  The students were given copies of three winning proposals. The faculty and students worked through one of the winning proposals in the sausage-making mode starting with the first draft, going through the comments and revisions cycle, and ending with the final proposal.  The workshop participants also saw the video component of Mark’s teaching portfolio that got him to be IU’s nominee for Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools’ (MAGS) 2012 Excellence in Teaching Award.

Younei Soe’s Dissertation Award, by Ken Rosenberg

Younei Soe, who defended her dissertation last year, recently received the Herbert S. Dordick Dissertation Award from the International Communication Association. In his nomination letter, Erik Bucy, Younei’s advisor, characterized her dissertation as “an absolutely first-rate piece of original research” that “sheds considerable new light on the civic consequences of new media use.” It all began with a moment that is familiar to scholars, the time when your current professor of interest asks you that innocent-yet-hopelessly-complex question: what interests you?

‘I’m interested in democracy,” said Younei, years ago. Back then, she had no idea how to make an original theoretical contribution on that front. From there, she began to establish herself in the academic community, doing research to forward the cause of democratic citizen education. Now, she has offered her own contribution, which Busy believes “will be embraced by researchers in the area of information technology and civic learning when they are introduced to the literature.” Future students may very well find her work to be required reading.

Like many politically-minded media scholars before her, she wanted to know how young adults use new media to understand political information and public affairs. If news and other politically-focused media are key for maintaining a healthy democracy, then it is necessary to analyze how people use media and how it impacts their knowledge and efficacy.

There are many studies that measure media usage, but her goal was to find a link between usage and proficiency and, for that, it was necessary to do more than survey people. For two years, she collected data from students of media and political science—individuals already encouraged and equipped to discuss these sorts of issues—in the form of surveys, focus groups, and in-depth interviews. For another two semesters, she did nothing but interview people. She showed clips of politicians; she tested people’s knowledge of politics and media institutions. With over 200 participants and more than 30 focus group sessions, the task of transcribing was onerous. To handle the epic workload, she did what most academics prefer: she hired undergrads to transcribe. Even with a team, it still took several months to complete the transcriptions. It was always important to make sure the data was processed properly but, since Younei intends to make everything publicly available in a collected dataset, consistency and formatting became even more important.

Most important, though, is Younei’s ability to express her findings with precision and clarity. She borrowed some terms and created others. Participants were ranked either high or low in “public affairs sophistication,” a multivariate concept encompassing political interest, media use, media knowledge, and political knowledge. “Media knowledge” is in particular an interesting concept as it does not concern the information that people get from the news but, rather, the awareness people have about news-reporting organizations. An example question: “How is The New York Times different from other newspapers?” The concept of political knowledge is a bit more straightforward—in theory, anyway—as it involved simple questions of fact, like “Who is the leader of Russia?” However, answers to questions of this nature were just as variable as any other. “It was amazing to see how people responded,” Younei said. Another important concept Younei developed is “public affairs efficacy,” a combination of political self-efficacy (“My vote matters in the election.”) and political information efficacy, the latter of which is a measure of one’s confidence in knowledge about politics. Humorously, males scored high in efficacy, but women scored higher in actual knowledge.

To receive the award, Younei will fly to Arizona and attend ICA’s Communication and Technology Division business meeting. This will be her first time back in ten years to Arizona, where she completed her first program of master’s studies. “I’ll be very happy to see my dorms,” she said.

As for the future, Younei wants to pass on what she has learned in her area of interest—and she will get her chance sooner rather than later. Starting in June (in the Summer II session), she will be teaching S542: International Information Issues in the School of Library and Information Science as an adjunct faculty member. The course is structured around three main themes: everyday civic life, systems of access and use, and culture and institution. Younei would like to thank the professors who helped her in crafting the syllabus. She would also like to remind everyone that her class has no pre-requisites and is currently open for registration. So, if you would like to know more about the relationships between individuals, media, and society in terms of politics and civic life, go ahead and sign up!

Ron Osgood’s Presentation, by Harmeet Sawhney

Last Friday Ron Osgood presented “The Vietnam War/American War: Stories from All Sides” in the Institute for Digital Arts & Humanities (IDAH) seminar series.  This was Ron’s third and final presentation for the two year IDAH fellowship he had received to work on an interactive documentary on the Vietnam War.

Ron has collected a treasure trove of materials (photos, slides, film, maps, documents, and interview transcripts, among others) through his interviews with 40 American, 35 North Vietnamese, and 2 South Vietnamese veterans.  His project has also benefited from unexpected gifts from people inspired by his previous work on the Vietnam War.  For instance, after seeing Ron’s Vietnam War documentary on WTIU, one of viewers established contact with Ron via WTIU because he wished to gift his personal collection of 2500+ slides and over 8 hours of film he had created while serving in Vietnam as a doctor.  Ron was amazed to learn that all this material has never been publicly shown before.

Ron’s challenge is to present this material in such a way that is accessible to a wide range of people.  In particular Ron took great care in his choice of terms.  They had to resonate with the sensibilities of the veterans and at the same time be understood by undergraduates.  He is now working on modalities and sensibilities that would be inviting for veterans to share their stories and materials on the website.

You can access the site in the current testing state at  vietnamwarstories.org

Once the interface is functional and data has been fully entered Ron plans to modify the project as an iPad app.  He will be proposing a T575: Directed Group New Media Design Project for fall for graduate students interested in this type of development work.  The project will provide opportunities for gaining experience with researching content, design, and programming.  Please contact Ron (osgoodr@indiana.edu) if you would like to take this T575 with him.

Random Distnguished Comment of the Week

I (Rob Potter) was walking down the atrium hallway the other morning. Classes were in session and so the hall was empty except for two students looking at the faculty images in the display case. One of them was standing on tip-toe to look up very closely at one of the pictures.

The other said, “Distinguished Professor … wonder what that means?”

“Apparently,” says the one on tip-toe, “it means you don’t want your picture taken …”

Brown Bag

Media Accountability and Transparency in Europe: First Results from a Comparative Study

Huub Evers (Presenter), David Boeyink (Discussant)

Professor Evers spoke about MediaACT: a comparative study in 14 countries featuring analyses of the status quo of media self-regulation and media accountability in Europe (in comparison with exemplary Arab states), analysis of innovative media accountability instruments online, and a representative survey of journalists’ attitudes towards media accountability.

Bios:

Huub Evers is full Professor of Media Ethics and Intercultural Journalism at Fontys University’s School of Journalism in Tilburg, the Netherlands, and a freelance media ethics researcher and consultant. He gained his PhD in Communication Sciences from the University of Amsterdam. His thesis “Journalism and ethics” dealt with the verdicts of the Dutch Press Council. He is the author of several books and articles on media and communication ethics, intercultural journalism and intercultural competences for journalists and broadcasters.

David Boeyink is Associate Professor Emeritus of IU’s School of Journalism, and a recipient of numerous awards for his teaching and research, including the Frederic Herman Lieber Distinguished Teaching Award, the Gretchen Kemp award, and the Brown Derby Teaching Award. Professor Boeyink’s research focuses mainly on ethics and ethical decision making in journalism. Boeyink is currently finishing a research project that will explore ways journalism students think about objectivity and the effect journalism classes have on their conception of objectivity.

The audio file from last Friday’s seminar can be found here: Brown Bag (April 13, 2012 – Evers and Boeyink)

Travis’ GDC, Stories from the Studio, Toth and Herber’s Award, Brown Bag

Travis’ Game-Defined Career, by Ken Rosenberg

Being a video game scholar is fantastic, but nothing further down the career path can rival that initial discovery: academics can study video games. It’s an overwhelming realization in its own right, but doctoral student Travis Ross had one of the best introductory periods of any gamer-scholar I know. As a master’s student—right about the time he realized the magical synthesis was possible—Professor Castronova took him to the Game Developer’s Conference (GDC). Unlike the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), which is a commercial affair geared more toward players and retailers, GDC is for the press, academics, and developers. It’s the Epcot to E3’s Magic Kingdom: focused on hard realities of making games, explicitly celebratory of science, and mindful of the future. The first time he went, his experience was akin to that of being in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.

Of course, that was three conferences ago.

Years later Travis has a much different perspective.  He has learned more about the industry and found a role for himself. Developers are able to get more and more information from their players, but feedback through telemetry data is not enough. It still takes creative scholarship to interpret in-game behavior and then design systems to manage players’ experiences. Travis’ dissertation research provides insights into how game developers can cultivate social norms that enhance experience of playing multiplayer games. His research affords him authority as an academic which, in turn, bolsters the reputation of his blog, Motivate.Play—and, as a co-founder and editor he is able to apply for a press pass to each GDC.

“For me, being able to go to GDC affiliated with the press is awesome,” Travis said. “At the same time, it’s not like we get to go to all the sessions and then come back to our rooms and have downtime between sessions. It’s filled with writing.” However, as strenuous as all that writing may be, obtaining the material to write about often serves multiple ends. “Being a press member is really great because it gives you a reason to annoy people,” Travis quipped. “At a conference like that, it’s all about networking.” Finding a comfortably plausible pretext is awkward and the press pass “saves you that. After a session, they’re swamped by people—after some sessions, you’ve got fifty people trying to walk up to this person. You walk up to somebody and you want to talk, but how do you first connect? I have the ability to do that, if I can get them into an interview situation; you’re asking questions, but you also have the opportunity to exchange ideas.”

Travis says that, for most GDC newbies, it’s “exciting but painful;” in a sea of people, your résumé is casually tossed into a box in the corner—you’re “just another number.” Equipped with business cards, not résumés, Travis doesn’t spend much time on the expo floor; he’s meeting with specific people.  Now, when he goes to GDC, he goes to meet with his own kind. “It’s way more enjoyable now,” Travis said, “because I’m ‘in’—you know? It was enjoyable back then, too—it really was—but now I feel like I’m part of it, instead of just a wide-eyed onlooker.” Still there are varying levels of “in,” as—in true gamer fashion—conference-goers earn ribbons for their badges according to status and performance. Someone like Raph Koster, famous for writing as well as developing games (see A Theory of Fun and the virtual economy of Ultima Online, respectively) has six or so.  Just give it a little more time, though, before Travis has a “speaker” ribbon of his own; that’s his goal for next year’s GDC.

In the meantime, Travis has set goals for both his research and blog. He wants more people to contribute to the blog; he’s looking for more diversity in general but, specifically, for the addition of a female voice. The most significant evolution, though, involves rethinking his approach to studying social norms. “At GDC, there’s a practical element to it. Sure academic experiments are interesting, but they want to know how that can design better games.” Unspoken but expected, this often translates to ‘show us how to make people give us more money.’ “When you enter the industry, there’s a lot of pressure to demonstrate how you can help the bottom line,” Travis says. “The more I thought about it, I don’t want to just make money—I want to be able to make the world a better place.” This includes things like creating systems that encourage mentorship. Since games are a playful way to learn, this means the two goals might not be as exclusive as one might initially imagine. He believes that “the behaviors that are good for a game can be good for society, as well.”

Stories from the Studio: Matt Falk Audio Engineer, by Mike Lang

The can of bear mace explodes in his pocket. Eddie Ashworth, the engineering mastermind behind the band Sublime was preparing for the arrival of the band to record their new album, Second Hand Smoke. With the recording taking place in a cabin up in the mountains, Ashworth’s wife, worried about the recent bear sightings, equipped Eddie with a can of protective bear mace right before he left for the session. Arriving early he noticed a big fire pit in front of the cabin. What a great way to greet the band:  build a fire, present them with some high quality spirits, and make a night of it.  After building the fire, he sat down to relax and wait for the band. From nowhere he hears popping and hissing sounds and then notices a wetness in his pants. Then the searing heat hits. The band rolled up just in time to see Ashworth, stripped naked and screaming, running circles around the fire trying to wash off the burning pain of the bear mace from his nether regions.

This is Matt Falk’s musical lineage. Studying under Eddie Ashworth at Ohio University, Matt adopted not only Eddie’s propensity for audio engineering, but his propensity for sharing stories. This week I had the pleasure of sitting down with Matt to listen to him recount some of his stories from the studio.

Like most audio engineers, Falk’s interest in music started young. He grew up on Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, Elton John, and the monsters of classic rock and roll. As a teenager in Ohio he volunteered to lug around equipment for his friends’ band, took photos of their shows, ran their Myspace pages, and helped them record their demos. As they started playing larger shows  where money was involved, Matt would step into the manager role, arguing with club owners over pay. Matt thrived behind the scenes, but never on stage under the lights. Try as he might to learn guitar, for whatever reason,it just wasn’t happening.

At Ohio University some of Falk’s most memorable work came from working with his roommate’s punk band The Facials.

The Facials – Round 2

On one particular night, Falk and The Facials had the studio reserved from 8pm to 4 am (the studio ran 24/7). After blistering through recording and mixing, Falk cranked up the huge monitors in the tiny room and let it rock. Ecstatic with the mix, the band decided to celebrate in typical punk fashion, going to the bars.  It was early, and Falk slapped a sign on the door that read “out to dinner, you can’t steal our studio time,” to ward off any studio poachers.  At 2 o’clock the band gathered up anybody who would listen and invited them back to the studio to hear the new mix. With 75 people crammed into a room no bigger than the grad lab, when Falk fired up the mix, the place went nuts. They played the song over and over, and Falk made sure to break up the mini mosh pits, prevent the fans from tearing down the sound baffling, and make sure people didn’t trip over the bass traps in the corners. At 3:30 everyone was leaving, waving  to the crew in the hallway waiting for their 4am studio time.

The Facials and Eddie Ashworth

In many cases, audio engineers have to expect the unexpected. Ashworth had enlisted Falk’s help with a group of crazy California guys who were always high and/or inebriated. On the fourth day of production, the band was driving back to house they were staying at up in the mountains of Appalachia. As they passed the cemetery, they swerved off the road and over a cliff. Fortunately, a small outcropping just below the ledge caught the van, preventing a fatal disaster. The inebriated band members stumbled out of the van, unsure of what to do, and walked back to the house. In the morning Matt received a phone call from the state police. They had found the van and wanted to question the owner in person at police headquarters. Matt, always the reasonable one, approached the band leader and asked what had happened. As the band was driving past the cemetery, they were startled by an apparition. They had seen a ghost. Not just any ghost, but a ghost of a horse’s head. It appeared out of nowhere, scared the driver, and caused them to swerve off the road and over the cliff. Terrified the horse head ghost was lurking, the band mustered up the courage to climb back up over the ledge and run back to the house.

The Scary Horse Head Ghost Guys

While some sessions are unexpected, some are just plain bad. Working with a older jazz quintet, Matt grew increasingly frustrated with the xylophone player. The band would record amazing takes that everyone would agree sounded great. Except of course he Xylophone guy who would nitpick at the most minute elements in his particular section. Despite the urging of the band that the takes were fine, Xylophone guy would insist they do the entire take over again. After a few needlessly done retakes, the band leader started getting vicious. The re-recorded takes were never used.

That session led to numerous problems. Divided into numerous different rooms, the band members each had their own section in the studio, with the drummer shoved in a tiny room in the back. After playing drums for close to 50 years, the drummer’s hearing was shot, and to make matters worse, the tiny room only increased the decibel levels. After the first take, Matt fired up the playback, and one of the members noticed what sounded like Rock Lobster by the B-52s playing in the background. After isolating each separate track, Matt found the culprit in the drum track. Despite the contractor’s assurance that the studio was soundproof, sound from the radio station had bled into the drum room, where the poor drummer was too deaf to hear it. Matt walked over to the radio station and found it unmanned. In case  of an event like this, the radio station left a series of phone numbers someone could call for help. After calling all the numbers on the list to no avail, Matt dialed the campus police. Unwilling at first to come out, Matt told them that if they didn’t let him in, he would shatter the glass and shut their sound off completely. The police came, let them into the building, where they found the monitors turned all the way up. Just as he turned the volume down, the first person on the contact list showed up in a huff, demanding to know what was going on. Matt thinks he saw a frown on her face when she realized why Matt was in the radio station, before he unleashed a torrent of built up frustration and anger. She turned the speakers down, wrote a number of angry emails, and apologized profusely. They saw each other at parties afterwards occasionally. Needless to say they aren’t friendly.

Matt embodies a strong DIY ethic. He has recorded in half-finished houses, shoved poor singer song writers in unfinished bathrooms, strapped broomsticks to chairs to service as microphone stands, and assembled pop filters out of wire coat hangers and nylons. He even helped build MDIA studios in Athens, Ohio. As Matt says, the engineer is there to keep the rodeo going. “Sometimes you have to be the clown that nudges the bull out of the room. Othertimes you are lassoing all the piggies, sometimes you are just sitting in the stands watching.” As such, engineers get first hand access to the eccentricities which not only produce the music we know and love, but the stories which circulate among anyone willing to listen.

Joseph Toth and Norbert Herbert Win Provost’s Award, by Mike Lang

Joseph Toth, Telecom undergrad, and Professor Norbert Herber were recently awarded the Provost’s Award for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity, which celebrates student accomplishments and formally recognizes the mentorship of their faculty advisors, for their sound design work on Nathan and the Luthier, a student produced feature film.

The review process took place in two stages. The first stage involved submission to specialized divisions. Toth and Herber won at the first level in the creative category. In the second stage, all of the winners from the various divisions competed for the University prize.  Herber was delighted to receive the email from Vice Provost Sonya Stephens bearing the good news that their work had claimed the top prize.

Toth, who had mainly focused on cinematography, got really interested in doing audio after taking Herber’s classes, Sound Design, and Scoring for Media. Herber had noticed Toth’s exceptional work in both areas, so when Jake Sherry, then IU senior (double-major in Telecommunications and filmmaking via IU’s Individualized Major Program)  and the director and producer of  Nathan and the Luthier, came looking for somebody to do sound, Herber recommended Toth. At first, Sherry enlisted Toth to focus strictly on sound design, working with elements like set recording and dialogue editing. However, at the last minute Sherry needed Toth to score the film as well.  The film called for a minimal score, meaning Toth had the time to do it. However, minimalism comes at a price. Toth had nothing to hide behind. The score had to be good, and function within the story without coming across as heavy handed or too obvious. When Herber first reviewed the rough cuts, he was excited. They were really good. Rather than putting out fires, he focused on helping Toth refine bits and pieces to make his work really shine. “I was completely blown away by his maturity and the choices he made. He just nailed it.”

As Herber explains, the very nature of scoring and sound design poses peculiar challenges when it comes to presenting such work to a review committee. In some ways, sound design and scoring should be invisible, meaning that the audience should leave the theater talking about the characters, the plot, the costumes, etc. The sound should work on a completely unconscious level, matching up so precisely that the audience doesn’t leave with the impression that the sound had to be “designed.” It was therefore really important to communicate to the committee that they were listening to subtleties they wouldn’t normally pay attention to.

Congratulations Norb! Check out a trailer for Nathan and the Luthier, and make a point to see it next time you get the chance.

Brown Bag

Developing a Database of Nonverbal Emotion Expressions

Elizabeth Bendycki

Emotion researchers have historically relied upon basic emotions and facial expressions in studies of emotion recognition (i.e. Ekman & Friesen, 1976). The present study sought to create a nonverbal database featuring both facial and body expressions of a broader range of emotions, including social or self-conscious emotions (i.e. pride and shame). Validation studies indicated that nonverbal expressions depicting Happiness, Sadness, and Shame were recognized at above-chance levels when just the eyes alone were presented; Pride was recognized at above-chance levels once facial cue information became available. The implications of these results for emotion
perception will be discussed.

..

Skill Gap: Quantifying Violent Content in Video Game Play Between Variably Skilled Users

Nicholas Matthews

The amount of violence in video games is concerning as the highly interactive nature of games demands users’ attention and often forces them to perform violence to progress. However, interactivity also allows for divergent game play between users resulting from their individual differences. One particular difference, user skill level, is the primary interest of this study. If skill is able to alter the user experience, it may also moderate the violent content users generate, which in turn could influence the effects that result. This talk will discuss the approach, findings, and implications of skill as a moderator of violent content.

Bios:

Elizabeth Bendycki is a second-year doctoral student in the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences. Her current research in Aina Puce’s Social Neuroscience Lab is interested in understanding how emotional cues function as nonverbal social signals. Ongoing research interests include: social cognition, empathy and individual differences in emotion recognition and regulation. As part of the Social Neuroscience Lab, the long-term goal is to combine behavioral and self-report measures with cognitive neuroscience techniques, including EEG and fMRI, to understand emotion and social perception at both behavioral and neurophysiological levels.

Nic is a second-year Ph.D. student at IU Telecom. His research interests center on video games and interactivity. He is currently studying how game realism moderates body attitude and how people’s moral foundations affect game selection and enjoyment.

The audio recording of Friday’s seminar can be found here: Brown Bag 10 (March 30, 2012 – Nic and Liz)

The T283 Team, Ryland’s Stats Search, Russell’s Thesis (Teaser), The Ted, Brown Bag

The T283 Team, by Mike Lang

Collaboration and fluidity dominates modern media work. A team of workers comes together for a project, only to disband again when it ends. Sure, packs of people may move together from project to project—just read through the credit rolls from Christopher Nolan’s films to identify some repeat offenders—but rarely does an entire team reassemble for another project down the road.  Yet, despite the temporary nature of the work, in those grueling hours of the dreaded crunch, in the moments of hilarity and inspiration, in the moments of conflict and aggression, and even in the moments of absolute and total boredom, media workers form relationships with roots so deep they sustain for a lifetime.  For Shannon Schenck, Matt Falk, Brian Steward, and Sophie Parkison, the associate instructors for T283: Introduction to Production Techniques and Practice the reality of media work holds true for work as an AI.

The conference room feels like the principal’s office Brian jokes. “I feel like I’m about to get scolded.” The beige walls and lack of windows certainly don’t produce a warm fuzzy feeling, but a good-natured vibe pervades none the less. With these four plus T283 crew chief John Walsh, location doesn’t matter that much. They can make anything fun. I’m fortunate because we have managed to find a time when everyone can meet. Anybody who has ever tried to schedule/reschedule an event with a group of graduate students and faculty members knows how difficult this can be. As an MA student I rarely interact with the production side of the department, so I’m excited to finally pull back the curtain and see what actually goes on. “This better be good” jokes Matt, “This is the only reason I put on pants today.”

T283 is a hands-on production course that gives students opportunities to work with the equipment and software they will be using in the field, in environments that simulate real-life working conditions.  As Sophie notes, T283 acts as a sampler, exposing students to the range of jobs one would encounter in a real studio or in real projects.  T283 features two parts. Every Monday from 2:30-3:45 the 90 or so students roll into the lecture portion of the class led by John Walsh. Composed mostly of second semester sophomores and juniors, T283 is a make or break class for students hoping to continue along the production trajectory, and as a result, it features a lengthy waiting list and a number of students who have waited semesters to get in. In addition to the lecture, students must attend a four hour lab led by one of the AIs.  Each of the eight sections contains 10-14 students. While older iterations of T283 were broadcast production oriented and featured eight weeks of studio work, and eight weeks of work in the field, John Walsh and Ron Osgood have introduced  new elements to the course. In addition to studio and field, there is a section of new media. With Photoshop and Dreamweaver skills acquired in the course , at the end of the semester students should be able to put together a professional online portfolio that features the work they have done in both the studio and the field.

Because the bulk of the class takes place in the lab, the success or failure of the course largely rides on the AIs. Each lab has a distinct personality, according to Brian, and figuring out how to work with those different dynamics is a big part of the job. As Matt says, the AIs have to play the role of executive producer. They have to put everyone in the best position to succeed, and that can’t happen if the AIs don’t know the students. You have to know what makes them tick, what is going on in their lives, and what is their personality because it is all going to come up in their work.  But then, with such small classes, and four hours of face time in the lab, “you’re going to learn them really fast,” says Shannon. Because of the structure of the course, the relationship between AI and student extends much further than that of the typical instructor-student relationship. As Shannon says, because the AIs invest so much in their students, their students invest back in them. They come to the AIs to talk about life, classes, projects outside of class, equipment, and everything in between. It creates a different dynamic in the classroom. The students really value what you think.   Matt says the system builds trust. “Other students see us laughing and joking back and forth, which encourages them to open up to us.” Beyond grading and giving feedback, the AIs have to foster a sense of collaboration and creativity that encourages students to really engage and think.

The beauty of the course lies in the subtleties. While the course covers all of the basics, the difference between average and exceptional can sometimes amount to half a second.  For Brian, the moments students learn these subtleties are light bulb moments.  He says one should not tell students what to do but to let them attain realizations on their own. In one instance, one of Brian’s students was directing a scene.  Instead of watching the monitors as the scene played out, the student had his head buried in the script, calling out camera changes based on the dialogue. After a few poor takes, Brian walked up, and took the script out of his hand and told them to roll again. As soon as the take started, the light bulb clicked on and the student understood immediately why watching the monitors is so important.  In the span of five minutes, the student recorded the best take of the day, and gained a whole new confidence in one of the most intimidating positions in the studio. In a sense the course is an exercise in building confidence, and for the AIs nothing beats a student who comes in nervous and afraid and leaves bustling with energy and self-assurance. As Brian notes, sometimes you might suggest an idea to a student who will muster up the courage to say, “I think I’m going to stick with my idea and see how it goes,” and when it turns out better than the suggestion, you know they are really getting it.

The AIs work as a team and rely on each other like family. As John notes, every member of the AI team possesses a different yet complimentary set of skills and experiences: Shannon’s handiwork with the camera, knowledge of the production lab, and background in teaching screen writing; Matt’s masterful command of audio, and experience as a documentary filmmaker; Brian’s background in the industry (if you haven’t check out Brian’s IMDB page yet, make it happen);  Sophie’s knowledge of story and development and her extensive experience with Studio 5 and IU in general. As such, the AIs lean on each other in various circumstances. Matt is a common fixture in labs that aren’t his own—talking about the soundboard and sharing his extensive audio knowledge. Brian may come over to students working in field to demonstrate techniques or share his own experiences. Since Brian hadn’t set foot in studio 5 since the first Reagan administration (when he was an undergrad), he relied on his fellow AIs to show him everything in the studio. They even taught him how to use Final Cut. They also lean on each other when it comes to dealing with students. The boundaries which separate one AI’s students from another are very porous. They constantly field questions and review work from students in other labs, especially if they are hanging around the production lab. “You have to be careful” says Sophie. “If you go in, you might not come out.”

The team is in constant contact over email, at their weekly meetings on Monday, and as they cross paths between labs. They share strategies, discuss what went well, and ways to make things better. Most importantly, they encourage one another. “It’s almost like we’re soldiers together” says Shannon, and they certainly share that camaraderie.  Brian and his wife Elizabeth are expecting expecting in April, yet the team has already devised a contingency plan in the event the baby is early, late, or on time. They take care of one another and even though they are providing their students with a real media work experience, they are also getting one themselves. “This is how you feel about a crew when you work with a crew” says John. “Its our semi-permanent work group!” jokes Sophie.

Each semester is different. AI teams come and go, group dynamics change, and new concepts are taught, but T283 continues to offer students an experience of media work that reflects the real world, and without the exceptional work of the AIs, none of that is possible, a fact not lost on the students. At the end of the fall semester Brian surprised his lab with pizza. As his wife Elizabeth walked into the studio with the stack of boxes, the students had a surprise of their own. Knowing the newlyweds were expecting, the students had pooled their money together to purchase a gift of their own. From a pile of baby clothes, one of the students pulled out a tiny onesie that read “Daddy’s Little Sweetheart.” That just doesn’t happen elsewhere.

John Walsh frequently refers to his AI team as superheroes. After my conversation with them, it is easy to see how important they are to the success of our program.

Ryland’s Stats Search, by Mike Lang

Ryland Sherman, first-year Ph.D. student, has plenty of experience with statistics. While this author humbly admits a lack of in-depth knowledge in statistics, it’s still safe to say that “proof-based multivariate calculus” sounds daunting—and, in the very first class of Ryland’s undergrad career, proficiency in it was expected before walking through the door. When in law school, he took a business class: Spreadsheet Modeling in Finance, a synthesis of “multivariate calculus, economics, finance and inter-temporal math, and statistics.” Ryland earned an “A,” impressive not only because of the material, but also because the bar for that top grade was set at ninety-six percent. The point is, simply, that one Ryland Sherman is no slouch when it comes to statistics. A self-proclaimed guru in Excel, he also knows most of those acronym-named stats programs that begin with the letter “S.” Then, he met a new letter of the alphabet, R—“the Linux of stats,” according to Ryland—and the experience has caused him to give pause when considering his next methods class.

Most Telecom students take applied stats courses, often in the psychology department. Ryland, however, decided to go to the Department of Statistics to attain a more abstract, fundamental grasp of statistics. The students in the S501: Statistical Methods I were asked to vote for the program of choice and they chose R. Though he prefers Excel, “ultimately, R is more robust,” Ryland explained. “It’s able to run these packages that were created by statisticians on this freeware, shared among people who must be advancing their careers by writing open-source R code to do cutting-edge statistical stuff. That’s why stats majors love R—but stats majors have computer programming backgrounds, apparently.” R is not for first-time programmers; it has a reputation for being clunky and sometimes outright counterintuitive. Nicky Lewis, another member of our cohort, took the class previously and did well—but she had a background in HTML programming. “Right off the bat, we were expected to be able to learn new programming languages and run loops,” Ryland said. Instead the course material ran loops around him.

“I have a love-hate relationship with R,” Ryland confessed. “She’s a rough mistress, hard to read and hard to understand. Occasionally, I was able to reach a mutually agreeable outcome—often at three or four in the morning, long after I thought I would be done.” As with most relationships, it was difficult to see the issues before diving into it. Without any background in programming, it became difficult for Ryland to learn the stats-related lessons of the course. “Programming is a world of trial and error,” Ryland said, “where you spend most of your time fixing a problem you didn’t see was there. That’s not a way to learn stats.”

“While I think everybody needs to know basic stats and be able to draw from that toolkit, I think that there are lots of areas of equations and models that can be pulled from areas other than the statistics program,” Ryland said. “On some level, I’m happy that R slapped me around a bit, because it’s made me think more outside the box.” Forced to pick a new minor, he is considering economics, sociology, and informatics. Regardless of which department he chooses, from now on, statistics will be less of an abstract affair. “Stats does not exist independent of the way it is used. The reason why so many people in our program have taken stats in psychology is that stats is taught in the context of psychological methods … putting stats in context is much more valuable. The statistical methods utilized by people coming out of psychology stats are as sophisticated as anything else and are a much better, custom fit to their applications.”

Russell’s Thesis, by Ken Rosenberg

Russell McGee and Brad Cho, both second-semester master’s students and experienced filmmakers, are going to collaborate on a project of thesis-level proportions. Cinema 67 (working title) is a postmodern coming-of-age movie that deals with intolerance of homosexuality in a small rural town. Some of the more lighthearted elements, like a prank involving cotton candy dye, are loosely derived from Russell’s past experiences working at a drive-in theater. Brad has been commissioned as the director of cinematography.  This project will be a fresh and exciting undertaking for Brad, as his past experience has mainly been with documentaries. With the script complete and a tentative schedule in place, they are in the process of finalizing the cast and building sets—shooting will begin over the summer. If you want to provide encouragement—or maybe a headshot, depending on your intended career trajectory—feel free to stop them in the hall for a quick chat about their work. Stay tuned for further updates!

Random Photo of the Week: The Ted

Ted Jamison-Koenig's new vanity plate finally offers the department a way to distinguish between the student and the professor in casual conversation.

Brown Bag

We are all kinda here: Collaborating in virtual and analog environments

Mark Bell

Over the past few months, I have been assisting Dr. Anne Massey (Dean’s Research Professor & Professor of Information Systems) and a team of researchers with a National Science Foundation Grant. This grant studies collaborative virtual presence (CVP) in collaborative virtual environments (CVE), such as Second Life. Using a range of measurements (SL activity, eye tracking and physiological) and researchers from a number of areas (Telecommunications, Information Systems, HPER) this project is, in itself, a collaborative effort that synchronously captures three streams of data.  I will give an overview of the project, its goals and the part I am playing.

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Reconceptualizing Gatekeeping in Multimodal Contexts: The Case of Italian Radiovision RTL 102.5

Asta Zelenkauskaite

A change is occurring in media production and consumption in mass media contexts that affects the gatekeeping process of content selection: User-generated content (UGC) is increasingly being incorporated into programming. This research asks: What are the differences between attitudes and practices with regards to UGC integration in mass media programming, and what are the actual audience participation patterns? To address these questions, gatekeeping theory is applied to a case study of an interactive multimedia setting — a leading Italian radio-television-web station, station RTL 102.5. Through interviews with media producers and content analysis, this study analyzed two types of UGC:  SMS messages and Facebook messages.

Bios:

Mark Bell is a PhD candidate at Indiana University in the Department of Telecommunications. His past research has focused on virtual words but more recent work focuses on deception in computer mediated environments. He is interested in digital deception detection, group information verification, digital image and video manipulation and online identity manipulation.

Asta Zelenkauskaite is a Ph.D. candidate at the Department of Telecommunications, Indiana University. Her research interests include Computer-Mediated Communication, and Social Media. She researched user-generated content mediated by TV such as Facebook messages and mobile texting; user participation pattertns in online environment – online Internet Relay Chat; collaboratevely analyzed knowledge depositories such as Wikipedia and user interaction patterns in an online massively multiplayer game BZFlag.

 The audio from last Friday’s seminar: Brown bag 6 (Feb. 24, 2012 – Asta and Mark)

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

Credits

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)

Credits

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

Mike, Mark and Metal, Sharon’s View from the Lab, Matt Falk’s Lucky Purple Socks

Mike Lang and Extreme Metal

Grad student Mike Lang admits that he was listening to Metallica when he learned how to walk.  Now, he’s conducting research on extreme metal.  After his undergrad studies here at IU as a Communication and Culture and Political Science major, Mike planned to go on to law school.  But, something happened in his junior year that changed all that.  He took a course on video games and discovered that there were similarities between video game and extreme metal culture.  Mike began work on an independent study, leading him to Professor Mark Deuze and ultimately to becoming a MA student in our department.


Mike explores the dynamics of metal culture.  People find identity in extreme metal, which for many people is not just a musical genre but a lifestyle.  His current research focuses on the dynamics of extreme metal and virtual space.  Mike explains that regional sensibilities have started coloring metal culture and they are much appreciated.  Earlier they were seen as a negative.  Now where one comes from can act as a badge of honor.

Mike currently serves as president of the Metal Underground, an organization on campus devoted to metal culture.  This is where he met Parker Weidner, lead singer and guitarist of extreme metal band, Massakren.  When Mike first met Parker, Massakren was just forming.  Mike explains that he has been able to see the progression of the band as it has grown.

What does Mike’s new bride think about all of this metal stuff?  “Actually, my wife hates metal, but the fact that she deals with me is pretty incredible.  She’s really supportive of my work.”

See extreme metal band Massakren’s music video, directed by Telecom undergrad students Lorne Golman and Edward Wu here: Threshold

Brown Bag Presentation

This week’s brown bag presentation featured grad student Mike Lang, Professor Mark Deuze, and Parker Weidner, lead singer of extreme metal band Massakren.

Media Life, Extreme Metal, and Scenic Capital in a Post-Geographical World.

Abstract: In our presentation, we offer a history of extreme metal in terms of what we call ‘scenic capital’ – the discourses and resources that produce and reproduce the boundaries of scenes – moving from locally articulated scenes in the 1980s to boundaryless or post-geographic scenes in the 2000s. We discuss the implications for communities of practice, the formation of identity, the nature of participation, and the continued importance of place for extreme metal scenes. As a case study, we will present the history and ongoing development of Indiana-based black metal band Massakren.

Check out the highlights:

Sharon’s View from the Lab

In her almost four years as the lab manager of our department’s Institute for Communication Research, Sharon Mayell has worn many figurative hats. As one of the mainstays of the department’s experimental research wing on the sixth floor of Eigenmann, Sharon has assisted in studies, managed the subject pool, played the role of a test subject, and helped with grants, among other day-to-day tasks. “My hours are all over the map,” Sharon explains, adding that she goes wherever help is most needed. “It isn’t routine, which is why I like it.”

Sharon has collected some great stories from her desk and around the lab, which can run anywhere from 600-1500 subjects per year. Sharon recalls one study where a subject kept falling asleep during the experiment, and she also remembers several instances when subjects have sought life advice while waiting for the experiment to begin, including tips for attracting members of the opposite gender. Another perk of her office is the view of grad students working across the hall. “I’ve watched several dissertations cranked out at the last minute,” she says. “The tension is palpable. And of course, they always complete it.”

With an MA in Communications Management and a love from her undergraduate days for psychophysiology related classes, the lab seems a perfect fit for Sharon. One of her favorite parts of the lab culture is the collaborative effort involved. “There’s a lot of helping and hand-me-down knowledge,” she says. The studies cover a wide range of interests, and the crew holds weekly lab meetings to discuss what everyone is working on. “Work from the lab can be a painstaking process for new grad students,” Sharon explains, “but the ‘pushing’ that takes places gets them to new intellectual heights.”

Matt Falk Explains Purple Socks, Test-taking Rituals

On the morning of PhD student Matt Falk’s comprehensive exams, he carefully planned appropriate attire, down to his lucky FC Telecom purple socks. The socks, Matt explains, are not just a superstition—they have a history. “An important part of soccer is a well-matched kit,” he says, “so when the soccer team got lavender jerseys, I bought purple socks and started wearing them.” The team improved in the socks’ debut season, and members of the team joked, “It’s all about the socks.” So, when Matt was piecing together his wardrobe for the exams, the socks seemed to be the natural choice. “Besides,” he adds, “with those pants and shoes, they look like dark dress socks anyway.”

Matt arrived hours ahead of time on exam days and spent the time trying out different techniques to remain calm. “I got up and paced a bit, and I talked to myself,” he says, adding that he completed numerous laps in the basement of the building. His coping mechanisms for the stress extend into his test-taking also, as Matt has been known to pace and talk out loud to work through difficult ideas.

To prepare for the exams, Matt spent weeks talking to advisors, creating reading lists, and compiling notes that were written and rewritten numerous times in the process. The week before, though, Matt didn’t read anything new. “The actual week of the exams is kind of a deer-in-the-headlights kind of time,” he says. “It’s an intense process, challenging but relevant to the future.”

Matt, who actually got sick in the three weeks between his exams and his oral defense, used the time to reread through his answers and figure out what he would change. For him, the exams were an important way to figure out how all of his knowledge acquired from his classes fit together. “After three and a half years of learning, you have these exams and you finally see it all before you and realize, ‘Wow. This is my knowledge,’” he says.

As for his purple socks, Matt believes they’ve helped the soccer team, and he’s confident they’ve helped him too. He plans on keeping them around for now: “In the end, they turned out lucky, I think.”

Random Photo of the Week:

Professor Andrew Weaver and grad student Katie Birge, both DePauw University Alum, at Yogi's watching their alma mater's annual Monon Bell Classic football game.

Credits

Katie Birge:  Sharon’s View from the Lab, and Matt Falk Explains Purple Socks, Test-taking Rituals

Nicky Lewis:  Mike, Mark and Metal, and Brown Bag