Fourth Brown Bag of the Semester – September 26, 2014

Rob Potter, Associate Professor, Anthony Almond, PhD Student, Sharon Mayell, ICR Lab Manager, Department of Telecommunications, Indiana University

Tools Available for Researchers in the Institute for Communication Research

We tried to come up with a catchier title.  But, in the end, we are hoping that this is enticing enough for social science researchers interested in learning about the array of data collection measures available at the Institute for Communication Research (ICR).  The mission of the ICR is to enable social scientific research conducted by faculty and students in The Media School at IU.  Eventually, we will be located in Franklin Hall—very close to the action. But, until then we are in Eigenmann Hall.  Which means, we need to bring the action to YOU.

Come and hear descriptions/see demonstrations of these tools available for you to use:

  • Media Lab & Direct RT software for experimental design, questionnaire construction, and psychological measurements
  • Qualtrics software for online survey and experimental data collection
  • Tobii eye tracking hardware & software
  • Biopac physiology data collection hardware and software (that’s actually rather easy to use)
  • Emotiv 14-channel EEG data collection hardware

    Rob demonstrating some of these gadgets

    Rob demonstrating some of these tools.

The Grand Telecom Tour

By Edo Steinberg

After being introduced to the faculty, staff and graduate students of the department, the incoming students started to get acquainted with the buildings and hardware available here. Senior Lecturer and facilities manager John Walsh led a tour of the Radio and Television building, while Prof. Rob Potter, director of the Institute for Communication Research, and lab manager Sharon Mayell took students to the ICR facilities on the sixth floor of Eigenmann Hall.

The tour of the Radio and Television Building started out with the production labs available to students, TV 250 and TV 157. Here, production students can edit their films or work on their games. As John pointed out, if you need cameras and other equipment, this is a good place to ask. Under certain circumstances, you’ll be able to borrow what you need for a shoot.

TV 157 Production Lab

TV 157 Production Lab

Next, the new students got a little glimpse into WTIU and WFIU, the local PBS and NPR affiliates housed in the RTV Building’s first floor.  John explained the advantages of having these stations here, with Telecom students getting many opportunities to work on professional shows meant for public broadcast, such as WTIU’s children’s show “The Friday Zone.”

WFIU radio station

WFIU radio station

Next to WTIU’s Studio 6 is our very own Studio 5. Many non-production students forget this, but this gargantuan room is used for more than just awkward introductions every year at orientation. Here, students actually learn how to make magic happen, with the help of faculty, staff and AIs. Here, students are trained to use cameras, microphones, studio controls, pulley-based lighting and other equipment.

Control 5, the control room for Studio 5.

Control 5, the control room for Studio 5.

The tour concluded on the third floor, where most faculty members’ offices are, as well and the grad lounge and computer lab. John ended the tour by emphasizing the collegiality of the department and urging students to socialize with veteran students. Other than going out at night, this can also be done by sticking around the grad computer lab, where we tend to naturally congregate.

After the RTV tour, Rob took newcomers to Eigenmann Hall, showing them the IU Auditorium and IU Cinema on the way. In the cavernous ICR facilities, he and Sharon introduced students to the various rooms available for research. There is one content analysis room, another room to conduct surveys on computers, as well as labs where subjects can be hooked up to various types of psychophysiological equipment.

Entrance to the ICR.

Entrance to the ICR.

At the end of the tour, Rob and Sharon told new students about the lab’s weekly meetings, in which students and faculty share their research and progress (or lack thereof). E-mail Sharon if you want to join the mailing list.

From last year’s experience, I know that it will take students a while to get their bearings and know where everything is. Hopefully, the tours helped them familiarize themselves with their new surroundings.

To be continued…

Demystifying the ICR

by Ken Rosenberg

Lab meetings are a good way to keep current on everyone’s projects … and a great way to make sure YOU keep current on your own!

Last Wednesday, our resident satirist, Edo Steinberg, wrote about weekly lab meetings as if they were a coping group for social science junkies. There is always that haunting nugget of truth at the core of all comedy but, generally speaking, it’s not so bad to be a lab rat. The Institute for Communication Research (ICR) is open to all Telecom grad students. It’s a unique facility and a precious resource for those looking for an appropriate workspace – regardless of career trajectory, chosen methodologies, or level of current expertise. It is run by ICR Director Professor Rob Potter and Lab Manager Sharon Mayell.  Even though it’s practically on the other side of campus, it’s worth the trip.

Professor Rob Potter attaches electrodes to the face of Telecom grad Sean Connolly … without IRB approval! *gasp* (It’s not necessary for fun little demonstrations like this.)

The lab is open to all graduate students and can be a resource for all kinds of scholarship. This includes:

People who are new to lab research. As long as you have IRB approval, you can observe any study in progress. Go behind the scenes and watch researchers collect data from participants – just ask the principal investigator on the study, first.

People who are curious enough to pretest. If you have a research question, you might have a study. Still, it could be wasteful to go forward with a full-fledged IRB-approved experiment without first conducting a smaller version with a handful of people. Fun fact: you don’t need IRB approval to hook up your colleagues to equipment and expose them to media. If you have a few friends in the department who, in turn, have a couple of hours to spare, bring them to the ICR and pre-test your hypotheses … or just have fun learning how to use the equipment. Rob believes that the lab can and should always be running. With plenty of time between ongoing studies, there’s always an opening for curious minds.

People who don’t use physiological measures. The ICR is great for all grads, regardless of their preferred methodologies. The ICR uses MediaLab, which is a great software tool for administering basic audiovisual treatments and questionnaires. Lab software can even be used for content analysis. A multipurpose room can serve as a neutral setting for some in-depth interviews. There are computer labs for research with stacks of methodology handbooks.

People who are new to the program. Don’t have a solidified research question? Need to know how to craft a solid survey? Not sure which classes to take next semester? As they get further into the program, many Telecom grads make the ICR their second home. Even if you’re not there to use the facilities, you can bet that someone will be there – someone with experience and good advice. Seek them out!

People who just need a break. The grad-only rooms in RTV are wonderful havens.  However, if you need an even quieter setting with fewer distractions and a slightly more serious tonality, ask Rob for a key to the ICR and have just the right place to study.

People who want to go places.  Sharon has been long helping people conduct their studies.  Recently, her contributions led to her first publication as a co-author. Rob, an alumnus of our PhD program, went to his first lab meeting at IU a long time ago and met with Professor Annie Lang and a few grad-level colleagues. Now, he is a tenured professor who literally wrote the book on psychophysiological measures in communications research.

If you want to find out more about the ICR, check out the website (props to grad Nic Matthews for his assistance in the design). Rob is also happy to give tours. Additionally, attending the brown bags on Fridays can provide glimpses into the ongoing research at the ICR and the forthcoming publications.

Rob sends out an email at the beginning of each semester. Sharon recommends getting on the mailing list, even and especially if you don’t intend to regularly attend lab meetings (she sends out notes from each meeting).

The ICR is not some imposing laboratory, it’s a resource for all Telecom students. So, head over to Eigenmann Hall (6th floor—take the elevators on the right) and see what the ICR can do for your academic career. Who knows … maybe, in time, you could be running the lab!

Students in Rob’s psychophysiology course begin to turn the tables and test his eye-blink startle response.

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.


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