Russell McGee and Doctor Who

By Tamera Theodore

The best part of my job is working with graduate students. Since I’m often the first point of contact in the department and the go-to person for things grad-related, I am a front line witness to a graduate student’s journey.  From the moment they arrive wide-eyed and enthusiastic through graduation when they head out to fulfill their dreams as researchers, creators, and educators – I am here to encourage, support and help pick up the pieces as needed.

Luckily for the department, Russell McGee didn’t head out right away when he was handed his Master of Science diploma in December 2013. He stayed right here in the department. I say “luckily” because I’m quite happy having Russell around. I’ll stop myself just short of suggesting he was one of my favorite grad students (even though he was – and I can say that now that he’s graduated!).  But, I will say he is an awesome person. He’s warm, humble, and genuine and he has an impressive wealth of knowledge about media production and theater. When he graduated, he was looking for work in Bloomington, the department was looking for an adjunct instructor and everyone benefited.

His work in the department has extended well beyond teaching T206 Introduction to Design & Production the last two semesters. He also simultaneously served as an associate instructor for several of our advanced production courses and he assisted in the production lab. Spring 2015 will likely be a repeat act of juggling multiple roles with the addition of another component – he landed a new job at Big Finish Productions, a company that produces CDs, downloads and books.  While you may not have heard of Big Finish Productions, you have probably heard of one of their biggest projects:  they are best known for their Doctor Who audio dramas.

Russell had the opportunity to meet one of the executive producers at Big Finish Productions when he attended the annual Doctor Who Convention in Chicago last year. That chance meeting led to an audition process that lasted over six months and ended up with Russell being hired as a freelance audio editor. He’s working on his first assignment now – very possibly something related to Doctor Who although he couldn’t divulge the specifics.  Typical stories are four episodes, each two hours long, and the average turnaround for audio editors is one to two months.  Since one of the biggest stumbling blocks for editors is getting the work done on time, and since he’ll be a story-to-story freelancer as long as they’re happy with the work, Russell says you can bet his top priority is meeting the deadline.


Russell came to our graduate program with a goal to better himself as a director, producer and playwright. As an M.S. student, he had the opportunity to take a variety of production courses and in the process learned a lot about audio in a rather unplanned way.   “Not very many people think about the audio until the very last moment with production. As a result of that, the productions that I’ve done here [as a graduate student], trial by fire, I’ve learned audio” and that’s how he ended up with Big Finish. But the reality is, Russell points out, this very well could be a foot in the door to bigger things. It’s possible, for example, to be hired onto the Doctor Who production team for the BBC and that would be like a dream come true.

For now though, Russell is happy combining his teaching and freelance work and hopes to find a more permanent home in The Media School if an opportunity presents itself.  And in typical generous Russell McGee fashion, he asked if thank you’s could be included in this post to some of the people who have been instrumental to his success in graduate school and beyond: Harmeet Sawhney, Rob Potter, Susan Kelly, Robby Benson and even (especially!?) me.

McGee and the Marionette

by Teresa Lynch

Funeral March of a Marionette won Best Narrative at the Iris Film Festival.

Funeral March of a Marionette won Best Narrative at the Iris Film Festival.

Last fall, Russell McGee was a busy man. Working on thirteen productions busy. “That’s why nobody ever saw me,” he said with a laugh. But, his hard work and long hours have started to pay off. One of those productions, Funeral March of a Marionette, became the 2013 winner of Best Narrative Film at the Iris Film Festival on January 19th.

This particular short film came about because of a class project. “I started thinking about Hitchcock and thinking about the opening theme to Alfred Hitchcock Presents and the song that they use is entitled ‘Funeral March of a Marionette’…The song made me think what could I do if I had a Marionette come to life via stop motion thus the germ of the idea. Another part of the idea came about because this was shot as a class project in CMCL 560 and we were required to shoot on 16mm in color and black and white and I thought to myself that I could use the Black and White to show the lifeless hum drum life of my main character and color for his creation coming to life.”

Russell created the stop animation by rearranging individual segments of this paper character.

Russell created the stop animation by rearranging individual segments of this paper character.

To contrast the lively and colorful doodle-come-alive, Russell and his crew created the stark world of the funeral director by shooting in black and white on 35mm film. They also filmed on location in the dissection lab at Jordan Hall. In other words, in an actual morgue. “The first person who was put to death in the state, well, their stomach was there in a jar,” said Russell of the location. Macabre as it was, the location worked perfectly for Russell’s leading man and good friend, Roy Sillings, to play the part of the funeral director.

On set in Jordan Hall with Roy Sillings as the Funeral Director. Photo courtesy of Russell McGee.

On set in Jordan Hall with Roy Sillings as the Funeral Director. Photo courtesy of Russell McGee.

Despite the success of the short film, Russell said he’d like to re-do some of the stop animation in Marionette and improve some other aspects of the filming. Still, he was thrilled to be selected and encouraged for his future work.

And, you can be assured that Russell isn’t slowing down in terms of workload. His other short film, Grief Stricken (also featured at the Iris Film Festival) is currently being scored by a composer from the Jacobs School of Music. It will be featured in the upcoming on-campus festival Double Exposure.

Be sure to catch Russell (if you can) to hear about more of his projects, both completed and in the works.

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.


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.


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)

Super Sundays, Mark Bell’s Teaching Honor, Russell’s Movie Collection, Brown Bag

 A Sunday to Remember, by Mike Lang

On Super Bowl Sunday MA student Sean Connolly received a text message. In town for the baptism of his friend’s firstborn son, he jokingly thought he would be the only person in Indianapolis not at the Super Bowl. When the message sunk in, he didn’t know how to respond. Someone was offering him a Super Bowl ticket. A friend of his in advertising had purchased a block of tickets and overbought in case someone important might want to come along at the last minute. As kickoff inched closer and she realized nobody that fit the bill was coming she sent out an email to her friends back in L.A. “Do you know anybody in Indiana who might want to go the Super Bowl.,” to which she received the response, “Isn’t Sean in Indiana?”

Always looking out for others, Sean inquired about scoring a ticket for his friend. He was celebrating the baptism of his first born son after all and what better way to celebrate than with Super Bowl tickets. At 4 o’clock the call came in. They were both Super Bowl bound.

Inside the stadium MS student Sophie Parkison was hard at work. An opportunist at heart, Sophie had stumbled across an opportunity too good to pass up. In early October IU careers posted an announcement about a merchandising job at the Super Bowl. The details were vague. But the chance at getting to a hometown Super Bowl without the astronomical price tag was too good to pass up.

In January the company held an informational meeting. The team would man the merchandise booths inside the stadium during, before, and after the game. The day would start at 6 am and end 20 hours later, well after the teams had loaded into their buses and departed. Instead of an hourly wage, the workers would split 1% of the total profit. The math would work out well below minimum wage, but it’s the Super Bowl.

Sophie crashed at her sister’s place in Speedway Saturday night and braced for an early rise and the long day ahead. The alarm sounded at 4:30, and they left with enough time to catch the 6 o’clock shuttle from the airport which would bus them into Super Bowl Village. The morning was slow and allowed plenty of time for exploring the scene. She never had she seen so many different jerseys in one place. She even managed to talk her way onto the NBC set.

As the game inched closer Sophie made her way to her assigned merchandise booth where the line grew longer and longer. Expecting a bunch of well-off East Coasters willing to spend some money, she happily directed their attention to various products which they snapped up with fervor. One guy spent over a $1,000 on merchandise between two trips.

By the time Sean made it into the stadium, Kelly Clarkson was belting out the national anthem. Seated in Section 404, five rows back from the banister, Sean had a premiere view of the North Endzone. As one of America’s premiere cultural events, many of the attendees could care less about football. It’s a place to see people and be seen. The crowd indeed seemed a bit more placid than a typical regular season game.

For those disinterested in the game, the Super Bowl offered plenty in terms of multimedia entertainment. The Super Bowl commercials were pumped in over the jumbotron for those worried about missing them. Likewise, the scoreboard broadcast Twitter pics taken by fans at the game as well as brief shots of celebrities.

However, no Super Bowl event creates a stir like the halftime show.  Fans, as usual, took their halftime bathroom/food/drink break a few minutes early so they wouldn’t miss the show featuring Madonna and a slew of guests including Cee-Loo Green, LMFAO, MIA, and Nicky Minaj. They missed seeing Patriots drive down the field in the final four minutes of the half.  But the halftime show was worth it. “It blew anything live out of the water that I’ve ever seen. It was so well done.”

During the game the lines died down and Sophie had brief moments of downtime and she discovered the camaraderie among Super Bowl workers.  At the beginning of the game, the concession stand workers approached her and her team to let them know that workers get a free drink, and if they wanted one, they just needed to come and ask. A security guard told them they they could pop over to his section and watch the game. While she wasn’t able to watch much of the game, she did get to watch kickoff and halftime.

The final seconds ticked off the clock in the 3rd quarter and the place transformed. Sean, pulling for the Giants, joined the crowd as the dignity and the reservation disappeared and the crowd turned into a bunch of hardcore football fans. With every big play the crowd roared louder and louder.  Those not quite sure who to root for or why started feeling the tension and began pulling for a team. Down 21-17 with 9 seconds left Tom Brady chucked up a desperate 55-yard Hail Mary pass into the end zone. Sitting on the opposite side Sean heard the crowd erupt but couldn’t tell what happened. He was too far away. Had the Patriots pulled the upset? Had the Giants taken down the Patriots again? As the jumbotron played the replay, the crowd roared its approval. This was a Giants crowd.

Everyone stuck around for the Lombardi trophy presentation and the confetti dropped from the ceiling. Shouts of “Go Giants” echoed through the stadium as happy football fans filed out of the stadium. Even though broken hearted Patriots left with their heads hanging, they weren’t harassed by the Giants faithful. The crowd was overwhelmingly positive, a stark departure from most football games where visiting fans have to keep their head down win or lose.  “I was surprised. I was expecting Brady hate. I know Boston. I know New York. I was expecting a rumble” Sean said.

Sophie watched the confetti fall as she tallied up her credit card receipts and cash from her booth. It was 1:30 in the morning and the game had been over for hours. She descended the stadium steps to find a number of people in suits down on the field kicking field goals, drinking, and making snow angels in the confetti. It was an adult playground.  Following suit shedropped to the Lucas Oil field turf and made snow angels in the confetti commerating the Giants for winning Super Bowl XLVI.

With a Little Help From My Friends, by Mike Lang

Last Semester Ph.D candidate Mark Bell had the honor of serving as the instructor of record for T205: Introduction to Media and Society and his exceptional work in the classroom did not go unnoticed. In December Tamera sent out an email alerting Telecom grad students to the Midwest Association of Graduate Schools Excellence in Teaching Award. Teaching has always been a source of pride for Mark, and figuring he had done a fairly good job in T205, he decided to apply. Maybe he could be the department’s nominee. That would be a nice line for the CV.

Because the application process required immediate attention, Mark went to work assembling his package as quickly as possible. He worked with Tamera to get his student evaluations back before the application deadline. He also leaned on friends and family. Working with his business professor wife and a slew of friends who have won teaching awards, he composed a teaching statement, something he had never done before.

He submitted the application and promptly forgot about it until Rob Potter, member of the Graduate Committee’s Awards and Fellowships Subcommittee,  sent him an email informing him that he had been selected as the department’s nominee. Mission accomplished.

Mark then got another email from Harmeet Sawhney, grad director. Don’t forget to have your video ready.  Currently an AI for T101: Media Life, he conspired with co-AI Ratan Suri and “borrowed” his class to record a short 10-minute video. He set up the video recording gear and proceeded to give his mini-lecture. By Mark’s admission it was just ok, he could have done better but at least he had his video. Sitting down outside of Ratan’s classroom he set his video camera to playback to see how had done. Nothing. He had forgotten to hit record. Sheepishly he approached Ratan after class and told him he needed to do it again. Much happier with his second take than his first, he rushed home to upload the video in accordance with the application’s strict instructions. He then moved on to other things thinking no way would he be a contender at the University level.

Awhile later, Mark had to attend a funeral in Columbus for a distant relative. He got home to an email from Tamera at around 2 o’clock in the afternoon.  The University Graduate School needed department chair Walt Gantz’s signature on his application form – an important detail he had overlooked.  No problem, he would be on campus all day Tuesday and could do it then. He sent out the reply, changed into workout clothes, and went for a run. He returned sweaty and out of breath to another email. Tuesday was too late, the form needed to be turned in today. The clock was ticking. Still in his workout clothes he jumped in his car and raced to campus. Tamera worked her magic and got the form signed, and told Mark the form had to be turned in to the graduate school, which was located behind the Union. Mark hopped back in his car and parked in front of the HPER. He cut through the Union and thought he would sneak through the back of the bookstore. No luck, that exit doesn’t exist anymore.  He ran back out of the bookstore and into the Union again. Time was ticking. The office closed at 5. He ran through the Union to the Starbucks exit. Relief, the graduate school was in front of him and he had 5 minutes.

As he exited the Union, the form flew out of his hand and flew down the street on the gusts of wind blowing that way like a scene out of a movie. Fortunate for Mark, IU is full of considerate undergrads who helped chase down that important piece of paper. He asked one of the undergrads for directions to the office and ran over.

As the clock ticked 5 o’clock he submitted the form to Yvonne Dwigans, fellowships coordinator in the graduate office. Completely oblivious to the entire procedure, he asked what the next step was. Surely the candidates needed to be evaluated and he could forget about this until then. He was told that the candidates had already been evaluated. He was confused. If the candidates had been evaluated why had he just raced around campus trying to turn in this form?  Much to Mark’s surprise, Yvonne informed him that he was the nominee, not just for the department but for IU. Out of all the talented grad students on campus he had been selected as IU’s nominee!

Soon Mark will get an email from somebody telling him he needs to go to somewhere to do something for the next stage of the competition where he has to compete with students teachers from 60 schools. Here is to hoping the process goes a bit smoother.

Russell’s massive movie collection, by Ken Rosenberg

If you want to talk about film history in a serious sense, or just rattle off your list of favorite productions, there is someone you should stop in the halls for some good discussion. Master’s student Russell McGee collects comic books and plays video games, but his biggest passion is cinema. As evidence, consider his movie collection, which he estimates contains somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000 films and television series. Media scholars are guaranteed, almost by definition, to have more than a passing interest in audiovisual entertainment, but Russell takes this axiom to its furthest extent. “I easily spend over a thousand dollars a year on DVDs,” he said. Think of a classic movie, fun cartoon, or cheesy B-movie. Without knowing your choice, I can practically guarantee that Russell has a copy of it. He has almost everything with Dracula star Bela Lugosi, including the obscure 1923 film The Silent Command. Every available Hitchcock film is in this aficionado’s massive stock of movies, including various alternate versions from France and Germany.

Russell really likes Godzilla…

Russell’s first love, though, was with older horror and science fiction films; his favorite movie is the 1960 version of The Time Machine. With his grandmother, he would watch movies like Invasion of the Body Snatchers on a tiny television at her home in New Jersey. Russell also remembers watching horror movies on Indiana’s Channel 4, during the “Nightmare Theater” block hosted by personality Sammy Terry, who would dress up as a ghoulish figure to introduce such classics as Godzilla and King Kong. “As a kid, they weren’t really that cheesy,” Russell explained. Of course, as he got older, the ‘quality’ of some of these movies became readily apparent. However, that does not diminish his love for these low-budget gems. In fact, it just gives Russell another way to enjoy them, by having weekly screenings with friends to enjoy the company, a drink or two, and the resultant roasting of campy flicks. For the past seven years, Russell has started off his Monday evenings by pulling out a stack of selections from his collection, to be whittled down to the night’s viewing list by his cohorts. Ironically, as a filmmaker, Russell is not interested in making anything related to horror or science fiction. As the artistic director of Starrynight Productions, he focuses on drama and other more serious fare.

Russell has engaged with films in a variety of roles. He started collecting movies in high school and cringed when he had to make the transition from VHS to DVD.  But now he has embraced the battle to keep his collection on the sharpest possible format – while still judiciously deciding which titles deserve the Blu-Ray double-dip. In his youth he worked for Suncoast Video, whose employee discount only provided further encouragement for his hobby. While at Suncoast, Russell vehemently explained that the widescreen format, while appearing to crop the image, actually shows more of the picture. “I did my part in the conversion,” Russell affirmed like a proud civil servant. As part of the projection and management teams at Spencer’s Cinema 67 drive-in theater, he got to know the owners, who allowed him to perform live tributes to Charlie Chaplin before screenings.

Russell (far right) and Emily (far left) on the set of “Popping the Question and Tying the Knot.”

Reprising his role as a lovable tramp earlier this year, Russell wrote and co-starred in a short film for a Hugo-related film contest. With the help of fellow graduate student Shannon Schenck, he edited a second of the film which he will use in lieu of the traditional “save the date” cards, entitled Popping the Question and Tying the Knot. This summer Russell will be getting married to opera singer and Ph.D. student in the music school Emily Solt. Their engagement photos will look like old lobby cards. She is definitely onboard with his stylistic choice. “I hit the motherload,” Emily thought to herself when first setting eyes upon Russell’s ridiculously large amassment of movies. She estimates that her collection of DVDs –impressive, but meager in comparison – has contributed a little less than 10% to their now-shared stock.

Those shelves are layered–there are twice as many movies than are visible in this shot. (Plus, there’s an entire third one off-camera!)

Upon merging both their movies and their lives, Russell set out to build the massive shelving system that houses their media. To make sure it was a lasting edifice, he eschewed nails and screws in favor of drilling holes and using wood pegs to lock everything into place—a laborious and time-consuming process that cost him almost six months. As helpful as those units have been, Russell might have to build more soon; they already have a surplus that has trickled into other rooms in the house. Off to the side of the home theater setup, Russell has resurrected a bit of his past: a “theater corner” of sorts where he keeps memorabilia, like his old hand-crank film projector from the 1920s and an old-fashioned popcorn machine. After making popcorn the “right” way at the drive-in for so long, Russell wanted something more authentic and better-tasting than the microwaveable stuff.

Movie buffs, beware – if you sit down with Russell, prepare to meet your match. After all, do you have the Laserdisc copy of the 1985 version of Godzilla? Didn’t think so.

Brown bag 

Where social and technological forces collide: New protest tools reveal authoritarian regimes fumbling to maintain political power

Lindsay Ems (Presenter), Hans Ibold and Joe DiGrazi (Discussants)

Due to the recent proliferation and impact of protest events in the Middle East, northern Africa, and the recent development of a worldwide Occupy Wall Street movement, scholars in a number of disciplines are beginning to examine the people, social structures and technologies that help give these social movements form.  Some theorists have focused on communication technologies, some on social forces and others argue that both of these two perspectives are essential to understanding recent phenomena. Interestingly, all authors (even those who call for a more holistic approach) view these two entities as separate. In this paper, it is suggested, that by side-stepping this distinction, a different kind of inquiry can occur – one which sees the use of a technology as a local artifact which reveals individual and institutional motivations. Aiding this analysis is the presentation of three 2009 cases in which Twitter was used as a tool for expressing political dissent by protesters around the world.


Lindsay Ems is a doctoral student at Indiana University in the Department of Telecommunications. Her research topics deal generally with exploring how social and cultural values are expressed in the use of technologies in small groups of people. She examines media technologies and their adoption and impact on and in subcultures. Her recent work explores manifestations of political dissent, anarchy and systemic breakdown in the use of technologies in power struggles between protesters and governments. Her studies also aim to uncover cultural forces at work in shaping the use of technologies in groups of users like the Amish.

Hans Ibold is an assistant professor at the Indiana University School of Journalism in Bloomington. His research and teaching explore the ways in which the Internet is transforming journalism and social life. Previously, Hans was technology reporter for the Los Angeles Business Journal, arts editor for the Idaho Mountain Express in Sun Valley, Idaho, and online editor for the J. Paul Getty Trust¹s in Los Angeles. He earned a bachelor¹s degree from The Evergreen State College, a master¹s degree in communication studies from Shippensburg University, and a doctorate in journalism from the University of

Joe DiGrazia is a PhD candidate in the department of sociology at Indiana University and is engaged in research at the intersections of social movements, political participation, public discourse and the media.  His current research focuses on the Tea Party movement and the role of social media in organizing Tea Party activities and mobilizing participants.

The audio to last Friday’s seminar can be found here: Brown bag 4 (Feb 10, 2012 – Lindsay, Hans, and Joe)

Fox’s Tavern, Doctor Who Goes Gaming, Brown Bag

Sweet Spots: Fox’s Tavern

Nancy Schwartz Descends the Stairs into Fox's Tavern

Sweet Spots: Fox’s Tavern

In 2000 Professor Julia Fox got a sign. Out house hunting after officially joining the department, Fox found a house with a bar in the basement. Mounted above the bar a wooden sign read “Fox’s Tavern.”


By sheer coincidence, the previous owners shared Fox’s last name, and when it came time to draw up the contract, the new owners of Fox’s Tavern requested that the sign remain in place.

Set up in the basement, Fox’s Tavern runs the length of the house; the simple wooden bar equipped with a sink and a mini-fridge overlooking the room. Little knick-knacks and a large picture of a fox with cubs add to the Fox motif. Two other pictures adorn the walls. One depicting Chicago, where Fox and her husband grew up, and one depicting Ithaca, where they met. To top off, Fox’s Tavern features a walk-out porch equipped with grill for warm weather barbeques.

While Fox’s Tavern has hosted numerous parties over the years, some are more memorable than others. A surprise birthday party for Annie Lang, Nancy Schwartz, and Bob Affe (whose birthday happened to be a month earlier) stands out in particular.  Assisted by party planner extraordinaire Susan Eastman, the tavern was covered in green. Attendants were encouraged to give presents wrapped in green paper to represent Lang’s love of gardening, while dollar bills hung from the walls to celebrate a big grant Lang had landed. Attendants were even given red bandanas, reflecting Lang’s red hair (Based on the pictures, most people just ended up looking like pirates).

For Fox, the party stands out for other reasons. Prior to the party, Fox had learned that she had cancer and had to tell her family. In addition, Lang had learned about the coming surprise. She was stuck between a rock and a hard place. Tell her family she had cancer, or tell Eastman that Lang knew about the surprise party. After telling Eastman both bits of bad news, Eastman, a cancer survivor herself, shrugged it off, “cancer-schamncer, we’ve got a party to plan.”

A few months prior to the birthday bash, Fox had hosted her husband’s 50th birthday party. The night of the party, Fox received a letter in the mail from the doctor’s office.  During her routine mammogram the doctors discovered an abnormality that could be cancer. It was Friday night and the doctor’s office wouldn’t be open again until Monday. Sick to her stomach, a houseful of people on their way, some from out of town, Fox decided that there was absolutely nothing she could do about it until Monday. She diverted her attention to the party.

While those stand in particular, Fox’s tavern has played host to numerous lab parties, graduation parties, birthday parties, New Year’s Eve parties, going away parties, and end of semester parties for spring grad classes (hint hint students still looking for spring classes).

When the bar isn’t filled with partyers, it’s filled with the sound of her husband and son’s music. Her husband plays the bass guitar while her son plays the electric guitar. Although both play well, it may be time to fill Fox’s Tavern once again with the sound of a lively party.

Russell and Ken’s Board Game Journey

It may have seemed that Telecom grad students Russell McGee and Ken Rosenberg have just been playing around over the past several months.  But, it’s not all fun and games.  Along with Theatre and Drama grad students Carle Gaier and Eric “C” Heaps, they are deep in the developmental process of a Dr. Who-inspired board game, the final project for Professor Ted Castronova’s Storytelling and Video Games course.  While the connection between Telecom students and game design is clear, what attracted grad students from Theatre and Drama to the Ted’s class?  Carle explains, “Games tell a story in a live and interactive way, similar to a theatre performance. The audience is involved and composes a crucial element of the experience, unlike other formats such as film.”  On the other hand, Eric was drawn to the course because he is a self-confessed game junkie – the fact that a course was offered on the topic simply justified his addiction.

Over the course of the semester, students formed groups in order to create and develop a game design.  Russell first came up with the game idea, which was supported by the rest of the group members, as a modification of a storyline of British science fiction TV program Doctor Who called War Games.  In the War  Games story, soldiers from the past are removed by an alien race from their respective time periods and pitted against each other with the goal of  the ultimate Army.  Doctor Who is out to stop it.  The corresponding board game design is a hex-based war-strategy game.  Eric explains that while many ideas were floated around, all members of the group wanted a card driven game, where the cards would add spontaneity to a rule based system.

Fresh off a trip to the annual Doctor Who Convention in Chicago to playtest the game, spirits of the game design team are high.  The group even got their names on the official program and held a play test for three hours.  Ken was thrilled with the experience.  “We had access to the right type of fan and demographic.  Everyone from 8 year olds to 60 year olds were able to play our game.”  Russell reflected on the convention as well.  “We really got a chance to talk to the audiences we are going after with this game.  It was a really great experience.”

Looking ahead, the best case scenario for the game would be to sell the design to BBC or receive a percentage of the licensing.  This is where some of the group members have different perspectives on where they would like to see the game goo.  Carle is not looking to make money off the project.  “Creative control is important to me and I’d be afraid to sell the design otherwise.”  Ken, on the other hand, would like to see it go as far as it can.  So far, the group has been in contact with BBC’s licensing department but has not yet heard back.

Reflecting back on their experiences over the course of the semester, they all agree that the group dynamic was extremely important.  Carle states, “Having a concrete deadline reinforced the idea that this is a doable task – a group can design a game from scratch within a reasonable time frame.”  Indeed, Ken knows that he could have never done this alone.  To see something take shape as a group while learning to let go of certain things as an individual is part of the give and take that occurs in collaborative projects – an important learning experience. Russell seconds that the frustrations you go through at the beginning become rewards at the end and to experience this as a team is really special.

So, what’s the end goal?  For Carle, seeing it on the shelf at a board game store would be the ultimate achievement. Ken is excited about the potential fan community that could grow around it, while Eric explains that this project has a much longer shelf life for him than participating in a play.  “Once a play is over, it’s done.  This is different.  I can get this thing out and play it again and again.”  And as for Russell?  “I think Ted should give us an A.”

Brown Bag

This week’s Brown Bag Presentation featured visiting speaker Thomas Malaby, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.  His research focuses on games, practice, and interderminacy.  You can listen to the full audio of the presentation here: Thomas Malaby

Title: Digital Anthropology, Games, and the Cultural Logics of Modernity

Abstract: Anthropology is currently turning toward a new engagement with what may have been Weber’s central question: How do people come to understand the distribution of fortune in the world? Such a question troubles productively our discipline?s recent and fruitful examination of the uses of the past to ask how stances toward the future, in all its indeterminacy, are both the product of cultural logics and the target of institutional and market interests. In this paper I compare the instrumentally nonchalant stance toward the future found in Greek society with a markedly different disposition, one of individual gaming mastery that is architected into the digital domains of human experience, though quite pointedly in the virtual world Second Life. Through them we can glimpse how and why institutions today have become so interested in contriving games and game-like experiences, and in what ways cultural subjectivities are implicated in them and also transformed by them. I close by considering why the cultural form we call game has come to be the primary site for such contests, and how its importance may come to be comparable to that of ritual for digital anthropology.

Signing Off

I hope you enjoyed the feature on Ken this week; you’ll be hearing a lot more from him as he takes over my writing position with the blog.  To have the opportunity to chat with so many different students, staff members, and faculty of the Department – individuals I may not have otherwise – was really wonderful.  Thanks for reading.  And, for those of you that I kindly stalked for blog content over the past year and a half, I’m sure I’ll be getting what’s coming to me.  Ken has already sent out a warning: “Now that you’re off the blog, you’ll be on the blog!”



Nicky Lewis:  Ken and Russell’s Board Game Journey and Brown Bag

Mike Lang:  Fox’s Tavern