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

Paul Wright, Our New Professor

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

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

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

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

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

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

PhD Student Katie Birge Puts Her Research Skills to Work

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

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

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

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

David Waterman Returns from Oxford, UK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Satoka Kurita Returns

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

Random Quote of the Week

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

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

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


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

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