Audio Books Cure Boredom, October Glory in the Rugby World Cup, Kinsey Brown Bag

Multi-tasking with Audio Books

Over the past few years, general availability and ease of use have increased the popularity of audio books.  Professor Annie Lang is an avid “reader” of audio books.  She shared with us some of her personal experiences with audio books.  She has been listening to audio books for over ten years –first on cassette, then on CD, and now digitally.  She joined around six or seven years ago and has since accumulated over 475 books in her personal library, books she can pass on to friends or choose to read again.

Annie has noticed several things about her reading habits since embracing digital audio books.  First, she admits she is more than willing to read “trash” on paper, but doesn’t have time to listen to it in audio book form.  Conversely, she explains, “I’ve been reading better-quality books on audio.  Classics that I’ve never had a chance to read because they were on paper – the beauty of the language ties you up.  It’s a different experience for us media folks.”  Second, Annie finds herself listening to audio books whenever she is involved in an activity that doesn’t require a lot of cognitive effort.  Now that she is “reading” while walking, gardening, and knitting, she is reading more books than ever before.

Her productivity at work has increased too.  She has been scanning work and course-related readings into .pdf format and uploading them to Amazon’s Kindle converter so they can be transcribed to audio.  It is important to note that the converted audio file is a text-to-speech algorithm that generates an automated voice and not a human one.  While this might be off-putting for some, Annie says she has been listening to it long enough that she can no longer tell that it’s a computer-generated voice.  “My brain fills in the gaps and I don’t notice the automation or the words that it mispronounces.  My brain just fixes them.”  You can listen to a text-to speech sample, one that Annie has completely adjusted to, below.

Doctoral student Bridget Rubenking didn’t start listening to audio books until she started taking long road trips by herself.  One of her road trips is an annual event, a family reunion of sorts that happens every summer in Ogden, Iowa.  Every July, her family would make the 12.5 hour drive from Cleveland, Ohio to Ogden and now, as a graduate student, Bridget has been making the trip from Bloomington.  “It’s a 9.5 hour drive from here.  I listen to audio books on the way there and back, with some music mixed in.”  Bridget explains that audio books are versatile, as you can choose one for whatever mood you are in.  She usually chooses more light-hearted selections, if only for the reason that she has listened to some books that have left her in tears while driving.

As for her book selection process?  “I posted a Facebook status asking for suggestions this past summer.  I got a dozen good suggestions and confirmations of the collective favorites.  Also, I always ask my mom because she knows good books and what I like.”  Her favorite audio book to date is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which she found to be funny, thoughtful, compelling, and satisfying her penchant for precocious children.  When it comes to actual readers of the books, she has enjoyed self-narrations by David Sedaris and Chelsea Handler, but her ultimate preference is for readers with accents.  “It doesn’t matter from where.  I just prefer to hear people with lovely accents to read me lovely books.”

October Glory: The Rugby World Cup

October is here. In the American sports world that means two things: football, and playoff baseball. Between stadium shaking upsets, fantasy football frenzy, and ritual Saturday tailgates, no other month offers such sweet sports satisfaction. Yet, amidst the coverage of Peyton Manning’s neck injury, the record-setting collapse of the Boston Red Sox, and the collective groans of fantasy owners who took Chris Johnson in the first round, the world’s fourth largest sporting event is unfolding in front of a rabid international fan base. The Rugby World Cup, trumped by only the FIFA World Cup, the Olympics, and le Tour de France in terms of global popularity, is largely swept under the rug by American sports media outlets and ignored by Americans too occupied with the big two. However, a few in our department are displaying their rugby spirit, providing a brief look into one of the coolest sporting events in the world.

Count me among the Americans who had never paid attention to Rugby. Outside of a brief introduction by my English co-worker over the summer, the sport hadn’t crossed my mind until MS student Craig Harkness walked into T505 wearing an English rugby jersey only to receive a ribbing by Professor Mark Deuze. Inspired by their zeal (and the deer in headlights look of the rest of the class, myself included) I figured the fourth largest sporting event in the world needed a little bit of American recognition.

For the uninitiated, a Rugby match is played by two teams, each fielding 15 players on a field roughly the size of a soccer pitch. For two 40 minute halves, players from each team attempt to score points by moving the ball into the team’s in-goal area (think running into the endzone), or kicking the ball through a set of uprights in the team’s in-goal area. Players move the ball by running, passing and kicking. Blocking is not allowed, and players can only pass the ball backwards or laterally. If you’re a football fan needing a visual reference, think the classic hook and ladder play from the 1982 Stanford vs. Cal game (when the marching band prematurely went on the field), but for 80 minutes. Opposing teams attempt to stop the advancing team by tackling the ball carrier. For this reason, Rugby is largely recognized by Americans for its brutality. The fact that most Rugby players match the biblical description of Goliath doesn’t help either. Tack forty pounds of solid muscle onto your prototypical well-conditioned soccer player, and have them smash into each other at full speed with no pads. And you thought football was dangerous. According to Deuze, looks can be deceiving. In football, pads provide an illusion of protection which encourages players to do dangerous things. Conversely, the lack of pads in Rugby encourages players to play fundamentally sound with an emphasis on protecting their body. While injuries do occur and it is still quite violent, Rugby isn’t the bloodbath that some make it out to be.

The Rugby World Cup, which started in 1987, takes place every four years and features twenty teams from around the world. Much like the FIFA World Cup, the first round consists of a pool phase. Five teams are assigned to a group (Groups A, B, C, and D), and each team plays every other team in their group once. Two teams with the best record from each group advance to the knockout stage, where the rules shift to single game elimination. The last team standing is awarded the William Webb Ellis Cup, which is popularly known as the Rugby World Cup.

While Harkness shouts for England, Siyabonga Africa, Mark Deuze, and Betsi Grabe all root for South Africa. Unfortunately, over the weekend, England fell to France, and South Africa fell to Australia, effectively ending their world cup dreams.

There is an old saying, “Soccer is a gentlemen’s game played by hooligans, while Rugby is a hooligan’s game played by gentlemen.” For Grabe, this saying embodies what makes Rugby so special. Despite the violent nature of the sport, and its potential to turn ugly at any time, Rugby players often possess a commitment to the game, and a level of sportsmanship rarely seen in other major sports. It’s not uncommon to see one player absolutely bury the ball carrier only to help him up a minute later. Team captains aren’t necessarily selected for their athletic prowess, but for their ability to manage a team. Individuals may shine as stars, but the concept of a team, and playing as a team, trumps any kind of individual accomplishment. This type of behavior is reflected in the ways the referees manage the game. According to Deuze and Africa, refs like to keep the game going. Therefore, when penalties are committed, it is not uncommon for the ref to let the play continue and scold the offenders with a line something like “come on guys, you should know better, play like gentlemen.”

Rugby is more than a game. For countries like South Africa, rugby has the power to bring a country torn by racial tension together. Grabe, originally from South Africa, comes from a rugby family. Both her father and her brother played rugby competitively at a very high level. Growing up, sports were largely the territory of race. Cricket was the sport for white Englishmen, soccer the sport for blacks, and rugby the sport of Afrikaners. In 1995 post-apartheid South Africa was welcomed back into the international sporting world, and President Nelson Mandela saw an opportunity to show the world that things had changed. Recruiting François Pienaar, the big blonde captain of the Springbok rugby team, who would represent South Africa on a global stage, Mandela went to work convincing the country that the South African Rugby team was everyone’s team. Mandela sent the Springbok team into the streets to play rugby with black children. The team learned the old song of black resistance, now the new national anthem, Nkosi Sikelele Afrika (God Bless Africa), and belted it out before each of their games. By the time of the final against New Zealand, the entire country was behind the team and after their victory, the entire stadium, regardless of race erupted into furious chant of “Nel-son! Nel-son!” While the racial tensions still exist, for one day, on the platform of the Rugby World Cup, the entire country came together as one. To this day sports in South Africa still serve the same function, providing its citizens an opportunity to experience national pride when the country is at its best. In the words of Grabe, South Africa does a good job rising to the occasion.

For those looking to watch the rest of the Cup, NBC currently owns the broadcast rights, and while it did broadcast USA matches (Yes, America does field a rugby team, and yes it did lose all of its games) on national television, the rest of the games are available in a pay-per-view format, usually for $25. While the pay-per-view option is available, many fans have taken to more dubious methods, usually P2P streaming services, for watching the Cup.

Brown Bag

This week’s brown bag presentation featured Erick Janssen, Senior Scientist and Director of Education and Research Training at The Kinsey Institute.  His presentation provided an overview of The Kinsey Institute’s workings as a research organization with an emphasis on how collaborative efforts with other schools, departments, and scholars can advance sexual health and knowledge. Telecom doctoral student Lelia Samson served as the respondent and talked about how she had benefited from her interactions with Erick and The Kinsey Institute.  She offered thoughts on how Department of Telecommunications and The Kinsey Institute could collaborate for research on issues related to media and sexuality.  For more information about Erick’s research, click here.  You can also visit the Kinsey Institute’s website at

Listen to the full audio of the presentation:

The Kinsey Institute: Erick Janssen and Lelia Samson     


Mike Lang:  October Glory – The Rugby World Cup

Nicky Lewis:  Multi-tasking with Audio Books, Brown Bag

Nicole Martins’ Toys, Ryan Newman’s Music Videos, Siya’s Knowledge Ball, and Andrew Weaver is the New Fresh Prince

Objects in Faculty Offices, Segment 6: Nicole Martins’ Educational Toys

Professor Nicole Martins doesn’t just use the toys in her office for fun and games.  For a researcher who studies issues related to children and media, her educational toys serve a greater purpose in both research and class discussions. Earlier this week, she took some time to talk about several of the ones she keeps in her office.  On the one hand, Nicole cautioned about the emergence of toys that encourage parents to register their information online, which can have many repercussions.  Among other things, they can facilitate advertising and marketing campaigns aimed directly at their children.  On the other, she highlighted the effectiveness of programs like Sesame Street, which utilize feedback from parents, children, and researchers to improve the learning and cognition capabilities of children who watch.

Nicole’s research was most recently cited in a New York Times article titled, The Playground Gets Even Tougher, on Sunday, October 10th.  The article describes the issues surrounding mean-girl bullying, which is receiving national media attention due in part to the recent occurrence of suicides among children at the grade school level.  Go to the full article here: The Playground Gets Even Tougher

See Nicole discuss the deeper purposes behind two toys in her office: the seemingly harmless Scout and the lovable favorite, Elmo:

Ryan Newman’s Music Videos

This fall former IU undergraduate Ryan Newman returned to the Telecom Department to pursue an MS degree. In his time away from the Radio-TV building, Ryan wasn’t working on an entry-level job somewhere or sitting in an office wearing a suit – he was in Nashville, Tennessee, directing and producing music videos. “When I was a wee sophomore, I started my own video production company as a side project outside of classes,” Ryan says, “and they signed me based on those videos.”

Ryan spent his first months in Nashville as a production assistant until he convinced the company he was working for to let him take on bigger jobs. For his first video, Ryan had to build a miniature set of a theater stage from scratch, learning as he went along. Eventually, towards the end of his time in Nashville, Ryan landed a job as the director for a Patty Loveless Video.

Shortly after that, Ryan signed on with AOL’s Studio Now, where he began working on commercials for publishers and other media companies. “Right now I’m working on a series of what will be 24 Sprint commercials,” Ryan adds. He has hired a producer to help with the production of these commercials. In addition to this work, Ryan flies out to film a major SEC football game every other weekend for their conference’s Tailgate Show. “I fly out to shoot content, then I edit it overnight for the morning,” Ryan says. “It’s great fun.”

The whole goal of this, says Ryan, is to work towards raising the funds necessary to produce a stop motion film. “It is about a little boy striking up a conversation with a giant turtle and how it all goes wrong,” Ryan says. He also plans on recording a 5 song EP that will become the soundtrack for the film. “I’m using my connections from my Nashville days,” Ryan says, hoping to work the songs into further promotion for the finished film.

For now, Ryan is focusing on getting his stop motion film off the ground. “I guess I came back to do this,” Ryan says. “I like the flexibility this program offers. I feel like I can accomplish a lot an not be bogged down by too many prerequisites.”

To view more of Ryan’s work, check out his Vimeo page here.

Siya’s Knowledge Ball

Since arriving at IU in the fall of 2009, MS student and Ford Foundation Fellow Siyabonga Africa’s had journalism on his mind. Hailing from South Africa, Siya previously worked as a journalist and freelancer in Johannesburg and the Western Cape before coming to Bloomington.  His prior work in the industry brought him to the Indiana Daily Student this semester.

Part of Siya’s interest in journalism lies in the contrast between newspapers at his colleges in South Africa and what he’s observed in the newsroom at IDS. “Here, I’ve noticed there’s more emphasis on community news, and they publish more frequently than the newsrooms at the universities in South Africa,” he says.

Specifically, Siya wants to keep thinking about where journalism is headed and how new media will play a role in reshaping the industry. “It’s a mind-bending school of thought,” he says. “For example, Twitter is going to change journalism – but how?” From his perspective, the answer may lie in the way Twitter can call on everyone to create the news pulse. “It’s a kind of knowledge ball,” he says. “We can share ideas, and from these ideas comes a tangible project.”

At present, Siya is wondering what the changing journalism landscape will mean for his future. “Chances are, when I go back to South Africa, I’m not going to be a ‘journalist,'” he says. “It’s not so much the position of journalism. We should be teaching the identity of the journalist,” he points out, crediting Mark Deuze for first planting that idea in his head.

Siya, who hopes to one day move back to the Western Cape, is currently working on a web content analysis of news aggregation. Before he returns home, Siya wants to find internships in the States, and he’s spent some time traveling to New York and other east coast locales as well as Chicago. “It’s all about immersing yourself in the culture while you’re here,” he says.

For more of Siya’s thoughts on journalism and new media, check out his website here. You can also catch up on Siya’s daily happenings via Twitter: siyafrica

Andrew Weaver’s Brown Bag Presentation

This week Professor Andrew Weaver’s brown bag presentation on the racial makeup of film casts inspired a lot of feedback from the audience.  Having completed three studies on this topic, he is in the process of designing the fourth and welcomed input from those in attendance.

The Fresh Prince Conundrum: How and why the racial makeup of a cast influences selective exposure to movies

Abstract: Several movie producers have recently spoken of a perceived “tipping point” in the racial casting of movies.  The fear is that if the number of minority actors in a film goes over a certain mark, then the White audience will be driven away.  Thus, producers often consciously avoid casting minorities in supposedly race-neutral roles in order to maximize their prospective audience.  In this talk I will present a program of research designed to examine how and why the racial makeup of a cast could influence White audiences’ selective exposure to movies.  Using social identity theory as a framework, these studies demonstrate the actors’ race does influence selective exposure in certain contexts, primarily by affecting viewers’ perceived identification with the characters and perceived relevance of the film.  I will discuss what these findings mean both for current casting practices in Hollywood and for our understanding of the psychology of race and person perception.  We will also consider other questions that future studies in this line of research could address.

See the highlights here:


Katie Birge:  Ryan Newman’s Music Videos and Siya’s Knowledge Ball

Nicky Lewis:  Nicole Martins’ Educational Toys and Brown Bag

A Top Paper, Mark and the Janissary Collective, the Third Dimension, and the Market for Eyeballs

This week’s edition brings an array of happenings from all ends of the department:   conference honors for Travis Ross,  Wednesday meetings of  the Janissary Collective in Mark Deuze’s office,  Chris Eller’s 3D project “An Ancient Pond,” and the brown bag featuring Ted Castronova’s quest for the elusive eyeballs of video game players.

Travis Ross has a Top 5 Paper at Meaningful Play 2010

Doctoral student Travis Ross has received recognition with a Top 5 paper at the upcoming 2010 Meaningful Play conference.

PhD student Travis Ross and co-author Jim Cummings received top paper recognition for the upcoming Meaningful Play 2010 Conference. Photo Credit: Travis Ross

The paper, entitled “Optimizing the Psychological Benefits of Choice: Information Transparency & Heuristic Use in Game Environments,” was co-authored by Travis and IU Telecom grad alum Jim Cummings. Jim, who completed his MA here, is currently pursuing his doctoral studies at Stanford University’s Department of Communication.

Travis and Jim will present the paper at the conference, which will be held October 21-23 at Michigan State University. With regard to the top paper honor, Travis says, “I’m really excited. I knew our paper had some potential, but I thought it would lead to an empirical study, not an award.” The paper, along with the other 4 top papers, will be compiled into a special issue of the International Journal of Gaming and Computer-Mediated Simulations on meaningful play.

Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of writing this paper, according to Travis, is the opportunity to work with Jim, a former classmate. “Although writing the paper was time consuming, I really enjoyed it,” he says. “Jim is a great co-author, and it isn’t everyday that you get to produce academic work with someone you also consider a close friend.”

Mark Deuze and the Janissary Collective

If you happen to walk by Professor Mark Deuze’s office on Wednesdays around lunch time, you might notice a small group of students and faculty inside.  It is a constant flow with people popping in for minutes or hours at a time, crowded on the couch or sitting on the floor.  What they talk about varies from week to week, but it often revolves around works in progress, current research ideas, and life in general.  The meetings often include some variations of caffeine and sweets and the discussions range from popular culture to philosophy.

Mark explains that the group began last year, with just Laura Speers and Peter Blank coming to his office to chat.  Eventually it grew to the size it is today, with a core group of around 10 people, coming from several different departments on campus.  In addition to both graduate and undergraduate students from Telecom, the group includes students from Learning Sciences, Journalism, Informatics, and Communication and Culture. Professors Mary Gray (CMCL) and Hans Ibold (Journalism) also drop by regularly.

Recently, several  students from the Wednesday meetings collaborated to write a chapter for the upcoming Routledge Handbook of Participatory Cultures under the pseudonym The Janissary Collective (evoking the spirit of Ottoman warriors against theories, paradigms, and methods that dampen free thinking). This chapter focuses on developing a definition of participatory culture and situating the individual in it. The group is also collaborating on future writing projects, including an essay on authority and digital media in the British fashion magazine Under The Influence, and a chapter in a forthcoming NYU Press anthology on social media and dissent.

Last week’s meeting covered a wide range of topics, including: concepts of online identity, the idea that being delusional can lead to happiness (according to Woody Allen), and notions of what makes a culture unique.  Participants of last week’s meeting included: Siyabonga Africa, Mark Bell, Peter Blank, Watson Brown, Lindsay Ems, Mary Gray, Hans Ibold, Mike Lang, Nicky Lewis, Jenna McWilliams, Nina Metha, Brian Steward, Mary Gray and Daphna Yeshua-Katz.

See a clip of the discussion on the possibility that we all exist in our own Truman Shows and how the concept of delusion may hold an answer:

3D at IU Telecom

“An Ancient Pond,” a stereoscopic 3D short film project by MS student Chris Eller, wrapped up its filming over the weekend. The project’s shooting finished on Sunday with cast and crew recording final scenes in the IU Arboretum and in Telecom’s own Studio 5. “It’s a film about power, assassination, revenge, and innocence,” says Chris, who is filming “An Ancient Pond” as part of his final project, which will eventually include two other shorts in 3D. “This is the first project that Telecom has really been involved in. This has been in pre-production for three months.”

In addition to shooting his own work, Chris is also helping Professor Susan Kelly teach T452: 3D Storytelling. The course,

Chris Eller edits 3D video footage for "An Ancient Pond."

a pioneering one in the country, immerses 12 students in semester-long advanced 3D production work. The students were selected on the basis of an application process, and the high demand led to the addition of another course in the spring.  Chris is hoping to develop a course design for future 3D production classes through a special T540 project this semester.

Chris says that producing 3D film is really interesting because it presents unique challenges. “There’s the added complexity of the 3D camera rig. The two cameras have to work together,” he says. From a production standpoint, Chris says he’s gaining a new awareness for the techniques involved in capturing the magic of 3D. “You have to be much more conscious of how you frame. You have to reconceptualize everything, but then there’s a new sense of realism,” he says.

The finished product of “An Ancient Pond” will be viewed in the soon-to-be completed IU Cinema, which will be 3D-ready when its renovations are finished. Chris is also helping IU Cinema gather 3D content through both grad and undergrad projects. The IU Cinema’s grand opening gala will be in January.

Grad student Chris Eller makes adjustments to the stereoscopic 3D camera.

For the future, Chris has several other 3D projects planned. On the agenda for upcoming months are a thriller/comedy involving zombies and a documentary on the art of bookbinding.

In addition to talking with us this week, Chris was interviewed for a pair of 3D-themed stories in the Indiana Daily Student for the Weekender section. You can view one of the stories through the IDS website here:

Brown Bag

Professor Ted Castronova was featured in the T600 Brown Bag Presentation this past Friday:



Much has been written about the Attention Economy, yet there are not many conceptual tools for thinking about it in terms of Communications.  How does a game designer know how many monsters to put into a Facebook game?  Adding monsters costs money, yet more monsters – to a point – are needed to capture the eyeballs she needs to make a profit.  What is this market for eyeballs??  In this talk I start with a model of limited cognitive resources and end with a model of supply and demand for attention.  In other words, I walk the long, arduous, dangerous, difficult road from Annie to David.  I’ll need help on the way, so come with me!

Take a look at some of Ted’s presentation here:


Nicky Lewis: Mark and the Janissary Collective and the Market for Eyeballs

Katie Birge: Travis Ross has Top Paper and 3D at IU Telecom