Matt Pierce Goes Transatlantic, Daphna’s Quest for Bread, Zeke in Orbit, Brown Bag

Matt Pierce is the new History Detective

Professor Matt Pierce went on quite an adventure this summer.  Having already planned a trip with his wife to Rhode Island and Massachusetts, he ended up catching an episode of History Detectives on PBS before they left.  This particular episode featured a man who found remnants of copper cable on a New England beach, cable that appeared to be telegraphic in nature.  This inspired Matt to visit the French Cable Station Museum in Orleans, Massachusetts, while on vacation.  There he found out about the history of transatlantic cable, how it operated, and how the technology evolved over the years.  Back in the 1800’s, the French laid transatlantic copper cable from Brest, France, to Orleans, Massachusetts.  The station house established in Orleans became the museum as it stands today.  According to Matt, “the most fascinating thing about the museum was seeing the communication technology as it evolved over the years.”

One of the artifacts Matt saw included the first Morse code signaling device, called the Mirror Speaking Galvanometer, which provided direct communication between the ships laying the original cable lines.  The Mirror Speaking Galvanometer used an electromagnet that changed polarity according to the dots and dashes of Morse code, creating a beam of light for operators to translate.  As the technology advanced, more mechanized machines were developed including one that punched holes on paper, which was later decoded by operators.

The French Cable Station was mostly used by American and European businessmen to conduct business in real time and to receive information from overseas markets.  Sending a message took on a process similar to that of Western Union, where customers would pay per word.  In fact, the people of Orleans, Massachusetts were the first to know of Charles Lindbergh’s completed flight from New York City to Paris.  The message came across the transatlantic cable line to Orleans, where the operator working at the time went to the local baseball stadium and announced it to the crowd over the megaphone.

The technology was eventually phased out in 1959 and the town of Orleans had a bit of trouble converting the station house to a museum.  According to legend, French Prime Minister at the time, Charles de Gaulle, would  not sell the land or the building the station house was on because he wouldn’t “allow one square foot of French soil to be sold” or words and gestures to that effect.  Once he left office, a group of concerned citizens joined together to buy the house in order to convert it into the museum it is today.

Matt explained that most of the equipment in the museum is in some working order and he was able to see several demonstrations while there.  “I’m not sure if there is a similar station house on the French side, in Brest, but if I ever end up over there, I’d like to find out.”  While some  may think that the transatlantic cable system is outdated and simply a historical artifact, it actually served as the blueprint for today’s fiber optic cable system.  Check out the original transatlantic cable map here and the modern fiber optic cable map here.  For more information on the French Cable Station Museum, you can visit their website at

Daphna’s Quest for Bread: Adjusting to Food in America

Sitting in my first class of T501 last fall, PhD student Daphna Yeshua-Katz asked a question I had never heard before, “Where can I get good bread around here?” A year later I asked her if she had found a place to get good bread. “Nope, I stopped eating bread.”

For many international students, American food can be a big adjustment. After a year stateside, Yeshua-Katz, used to eating lots of homegrown fresh fruits and vegetables, is finding ways to adjust. Instead of bread, her family eats whole wheat bagels and she shops at Sam’s for her fruits and vegetables. Having a family really affects her food choices. “Two bags of vegetables at Bloomingfoods is like $80.  If I was a single college student I might be able to afford it, but not with a family.” Yeshua-Katz also occasionally taps the Israeli community when looking for comforts from home. “In Israel we have a special kind of cucumber that is smaller and they have so much flavor, so everyone from Israel is always telling each other where to find them.”

So why the differences? One of the differences, says Yeshua-Katz, is that processed foods are expensive outside of America, making locally grown fruits and vegetables the cheap option.  “Its all economics and politics,” according to her. In Israel and Europe, McDonalds and fast food in general is really expensive, usually reserved for special occasions like birthdays. Therefore they don’t become dietary staples like they are here in America. Likewise, government subsidies for corn in America tip the balance against fruits and vegetables. “In Indiana it is all corn. People aren’t growing different kinds of vegetables which make them more expensive.  I can’t blame people for being overweight in America, it’s not their fault that the cheap option is the unhealthy option.”

But it is not just the price or availability of certain kinds of food; it is what goes into them. According to Yeshua-Katz, the flour is different here, which directly contributes to her inability to find good bread. In addition, American food has more sugar and more salt than the food in Europe and Israel.

While there are some tricks to adjusting to American food for those coming from overseas, it tends to come at a price.

Zeke in Orbit

Zeke has been abducted by terrorists and launched ruthlessly into space. It is your job to help him navigate the cosmos. Or so goes the story of Zeke in Orbit according to its creator, MS student Brendan Wood.

Zeke in Orbit, a game designed for Apple devices, stemmed from a week long experiment for one of Wood’s classes in which he was asked to design a game for the iPad.  Adopting a feature from Super Mario Galaxy in which players point their Wiimotes at orbs on a screen in order to navigate a bubble enclosed Mario, Zeke in Orbit utilizes gravity nodes to push and pull Zeke through numerous levels, all the while avoiding traps, shooting enemies, and collecting dog bones. “I consider it a puzzle-action game, because everything is changing all the time in the game,” says Wood.

Since that spring class, Wood has constantly been updating and promoting Zeke. The month before school started, Wood revamped the game’s original graphics, utilizing the artistic talents of former grad student Jenna Hoffstein to fit a “modern retro” theme that features glowing vector lines, and a very cute looking Zeke.

In order to promote Zeke Wood takes his game to review sites like Touch Arcade. According to Wood, “Touch arcade is the holy grail for idevices. Every day they have like 10,000 hits.” Likewise, Wood takes advantage of a Twitter group known as the indie developer retweet group, in which members retweet each others posts about their games in exchange for points. In addition to his online marketing, Wood is always looking for opportunities to market his game. For instance, while at a bar a few weekends ago, Wood spotted a bored looking bouncer surfing idly on his iPhone. Strolling over, Wood let him demo the game and within 5 minutes, the bouncer had downloaded Zeke in Orbit.

Although currently only available on iOS, Wood soon hopes to port Zeke using Lua in order to make the game available on the Android Market as well.  In the future, Wood intends to design and release a sequel, Zeke in Orbit II, but at the moment Wood is dedicated to updated and promoting Zeke in Orbit. You can download a copy of Zeke in Orbit from the app store.

Brown Bag Presentations

This week’s brown bag featured a split session with two of the department’s doctoral students, Soyoung Bae and Sung Wook Ji.  Soyoung’s presentation focused on online news selection and reading behavior and Sung Wook’s discussed entry behavior of IPTV.

Soyoung Bae

“Online News Selection and Reading Behavior According to News Content, Photograph, and the Audience’s Objective”

This study examined how news content and photographs affect news selection order and frequency in online newspapers. Further, it investigated how news content interacts with reading objectives on browsing and reading behavioral patterns. Results in Experiment 1 showed that threatening headlines were selected before and more often than innocuous headlines however type of headline only affected selection order, not frequency. Experiment 2 found that people spent more time reading innocuous articles compared to threatening articles and the difference was greater in the information seeking compared to the pass time condition.

Sung Wook Ji

“IPTV Redlining: Income-driven Competition”

This study examines the current status of the entry behavior of IPTV into the video programming service market, with a particular focus on income redlining and local competition. Analyzing previously unavailable data compiled by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, evidence is presented of the practice of income redlining associated with IPTVs? entry into the Indiana market, as well as of the presence of income-driven local competition.


Nicky Lewis:  Matt Pierce is the New History Detective, Brown Bag Presentations

Mike Lang:  Daphna’s Quest for Bread, Zeke in Orbit

B-Town Hot Spots, Judge Julie, IC: Econ, Emmy Noms, Rene Weber’s Brown Bag

Bloomington Hot Spots: Summer Edition

The school year has almost run its course, and the grad blog crew has been on the hunt. We’ve come up with a list of the town’s hot spots, not-to-be-missed locations for faculty and grad students, new and old. Some are reliable favorites, and others are a bit off the beaten path. We’re breaking down each spot for you, highlighting the crowd it attracts and why you should go.

Hotspot: Upland Brew Pub, 350 W 11th Street

Who’s There: Young, old, birthday partiers, microbrew enthusiasts, long-lost friends, first dates . . . when it’s packed for the hours-long window of dinnertime, you can find almost anyone at Upland. It’s popular with the local crowd and college students alike, though the college crowd tends to be mostly graduate students.

Why You Should Go: What attracts people to Upland are its beers brewed right on site, but it would be a mistake not to order something off their list of creative burgers, gourmet pizzas, and memorable entrees. Their newly expanded patio further enhances the experience of sipping local beers while enjoying the summer breeze. Pitcher specials on Tuesdays and Sundays are a definite plus.

Hotspot: Eagle Pointe Golf Resort, 2250 East Pointe Road

Who’s There: Older folks come for the food specials, like the All You Can Eat Taco Bar on Mondays.  There is a younger crowd in the evening for live entertainment and karaoke.  It’s not frequented by many university types.

Why You Should Go: Eagle Pointe features a championship golf course and driving range.  There is live music every Friday night on the open air terrace, with no cover charge.  It also features a cabana bar.  Food and drink specials run all day Saturday and Sunday.

Hotspot: The Atlas Bar, 209 S College Avenue

Who’s There: Grad students, law students, hipsters, and even a handful of locals go to Atlas to escape the crowded bar scene in the downtown area. It’s a haven for those seeking an extensive beer and liquor list, and they’ve got quite a few brews you won’t find anywhere else in town. Atlas opened its doors just a few months ago, and it’s slightly hidden with no flashy signs proclaiming its existence, but it’s a place people like to come back to after they find it.

Why You Should Go: One word – Skeeball. They’ve got a pair of Skeeball machines reminiscent of the arcades and roller skating  rinks of your past. Atlas also boasts table shuffleboard for a fun deviation from the typical games of pool or darts elsewhere, and they’re proud to emphasize that they don’t have a TV anywhere in the building. Their beer and whiskey specials vary, but the place is consistently relaxed and friendly.

Hotspot: Lennie’s Bar and Grille, 1795 E 10th Street

Who’s There: It’s a popular evening hangout for professors, students with parents in town, local beer enthusiasts, and anyone who likes to design their own calzones. Lennie’s is home to Bloomington Brewing Company (BBC), and you can try and take home whatever they’ve got on tap.

Why You Should Go: The food is delicious, and the ambiance is even better. With dim lighting and walls adorned with local art, it’s a place that begs you to stay for hours. They have pizza and soup specials daily, and their Saturday brunch is a weekend comfort. It’s an ideal place to take almost anyone, and it doesn’t typically get as crowded as some of the downtown restaurants. It’s also within walking distance of IU Telecom, which is a major plus.

Hotspot: Scenic View, 4600 South State Road 446

Who’s There: It’s a favorite of Telecom faculty and you can often scope a John Mellencamp sighting.

Why You Should Go: It’s a hidden gem overlooking Lake Monroe with great outdoor seating.  Local beers on tap and full bar.  The menu is eclectic, the food is local, and the desserts change daily.  Menu items include crab mac and cheese, corn fritters, fish tacos, and angus beef burgers.  It boasts a great Saturday and Sunday brunch, featuring crab cake benedict and a salmon scramble.

Hotspot: Player’s Pub, 424 S Walnut Street

Who’s There: This place is almost entirely comprised of fun-loving, good natured Bloomington residents and the occasional crowd of grad students looking for a good music scene. It’s not the first place that comes to mind when listing off options for entertainment, but it’s a great deviation from the normal routine. Some graduate students in the School of Music have been known to show off their talents there on some nights, too.

Why You Should Go: Player’s Pub offers a great glimpse into the local music scene of Bloomington and Brown County. They’ve got live music every night of the week and boast small or no cover fees to enjoy it. The beers are pretty cheap, and it’s a good place to go when you don’t want to run into people you know. The venue sets itself up for a lively dance space on occasion as well. Their menu lists a wide variety of food genres, so you’ll never get bored.

Judge Julie’s Coutroom

In the final weeks of this semester, a class of undergraduate students routinely rises as a judge enters the room, the bailiff calls the session to order, and one by one members of the audience are called to the stand. Nobody committed a crime – instead, the students call on each other as expert

Judge Julie listens to the cross-examination of a witness in her T314 class.

witnesses to debate media related issues. Judge Julie presides over each session in robes, and doctoral student Soyoung Bae swears in each witness using the course’s revered textbook.

Putting the “issues” on trial is Julie’s unique approach to teaching T314: Telecom Processes and Effects. While working on a grant to develop more collaborative work for a course, it occurred to Julie that trials could be a useful teaching tool. “Everyone has to participate, and everyone has a part,” she explains. “There’s no reason that media processes and effects can’t be fun, and in this format, everyone gets something out of it.”

Students first pick topics and then gather “evidence” through research over the semester. The exercise culminates with the trials in the last two weeks of the semester, wherein each student is expected to participate as a jury member, witness, or lawyers, defense and prosecuting.

With incoming Professor Paul Wright taking over T314 for the forseeable future, Julie may have pounded her last gavel, at least for a while.

PhD Candidate Soyoung Bae swears in a witness before he takes the stand.

“I’m feeling a bit nostalgic about it,” she says. “It’s a fun, creative activity, and I’m going to miss it.” The grand finale was particularly sweet as Julie’s current semester has seen the best group of student presentations to date.  In Julie’s words, “This was the strongest set so far.”

For Julie, the court cases have been a creative way to give everyone in the class an opportunity to present while still keeping the 60-person class manageable. Since the students work in teams and feedback is oriented towards fostering collaboration, the entire group has pressure to succeed. More importantly, the courtroom model is versatile. “It’s a good format, and these topic come up all the time, so conceivably the trials could be done in a variety of courses,” she explains. She may pass the gavel on to other faculty, but more than likely, we’ll see Judge Julie bringing “issues” to trial in one of her other classes.

Intellectual Circuits, Part 5: Economics

Doctoral student Sung Wook Ji’s journey into the field of economics started completely by chance.  While pursing his MA at the Michigan State University, he read Dr. James Rosse’s paper, “The Evolution of One-Newspaper Cities.”  That’s all it took to prompt Sung Wook to study economics.  Rosse’s paper detailed how media economics dealt with some of the practical aspects of the media industry.  Sung Wook explains, “I always wanted to study something that was practical and applicable to the real world.  This is what brought me to the Department of Telecommunications.”

Sung Wook’s first course, “The Theory of Price and Markets,” presented a major challenge because many of the other students trained in economics were familiar with the basic concepts and techniques, whereas Sung Wook was not.  It took a lot of hard work to catch up.  Thereafter he began to read papers in the field of mass communication differently.  “I began wondering what would happen if communication scholars were to consider some of the concepts and variables commonly used in economics.” For example, selective exposure theory states that individuals prefer to expose themselves to specific media messages.  However, if an individual has already paid to consume media, will he expose himself to something he doesn’t necessarily prefer?  The payment requirement might strengthen an individual’s selective exposure to media messages.  “Adding economic variables, like price, to existing theories in mass communication leads to more fruitful insights into media phenomena.”

Sung Wook explains that the connection between the Department of Telecommunications and economics will continue to grow because research about the media industry from an economic perspective has increased.  The Department of Telecommunications offers courses on media economics.  The students also take courses in the Department of Economics in the College of Arts & Sciences (COAS) and the Department of Business Economics and Public Policy in the Kelley School of Business.

Professor David Waterman has been exploring this relationship ever since his doctoral work in economics at Stanford University, where his dissertation focused on the economics of the movie industry. David explains that economics provides well-developed models that explain why some media are competitive and others are practically monopolized; and for understanding whether regulations and other government policies are likely to work or not.  “The study of economics fits well within the interdisciplinary mix of the Telecom Department.  Several different disciplinary perspectives are important to understand media and its effects on society.”

Many of David’s students have minored in economics or received MA degrees in economics in addition to their PhD in Telecommunications. This interaction has paid multiple dividends.  The majority of the articles he has published in the last 17 years have been co-authored with those students.  Nearly all of them have gone on to productive academic or research careers.  Furthermore, these interactions have benefitted the university as a whole by broadening perspectives and inspiring further research collaborations.

Telecom Faculty Receive Emmy Nominations

Congratulations are in order for Telecom faculty members Steve Krahnke and Ron Osgood, who both received regional Emmy nominations this week.  Steve was nominated in the Arts and Entertainment category for his work as the executive producer of the documentary, “Harp Dreams.”  Ron was nominated in the Documentary category for “My Vietnam Your Iraq,” which premiered on WTIU last fall.

The Great Lakes Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Emmy Awards Ceremony will take place Saturday, June 18th in Cleveland, Ohio.  Cheers to Steve and Ron!

Brown Bag

René Weber, Department of Communication, University of California, Santa Barbara

Mass Communication Research and Cognitive Neuroscience: A Promising Combination?

Abstract:  Numerous histories of communication science argue that our discipline evolved from earlier investigations in psychology and sociology in the early to mid 20th century and was always characterized by transdisciplinary perspectives. Today, scholars in still related fields such as cognitive psychology have long begun to study human behavior with state-of-the-art neuroscientific approaches. In the field of communication, however, it seems that this opportunity remains unexplored with few exceptions.  This colloquium debates potential benefits and pitfalls of incorporating neuroscientific approaches – mainly functional brain imaging – into communication research. René Weber will present a selection of his brain imaging studies in the areas of media violence, media entertainment, and health communication/persuasion as examples for how examining media processes with a modern neuroscientific perspective might have the potential to enhance mass communication research. A new analytical paradigm for brain imaging experiments using typical low-controlled stimuli in mass communication research will be presented. The colloquium will also demonstrate that the communication discipline has a lot to offer for cognitive neuroscientists.

Bio: René Weber is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He holds bachelor/masters degrees in Communication and Quantitative Economics, a Ph.D. (Dr.rer.nat.; University of Technology Berlin, Germany) in Psychology, and an M.D. (Dr.rer.medic.; RWTH University of Aachen, Germany) in Psychiatry & Cognitive Neuroscience. In his recent research he focuses on cognitive and emotional effects of television and new technology media, including new generation video games. He develops and applies both traditional social scientific and neuroscientific methodology (fMRI) to test media related theories. His research has been published in major communication and neuroscience journals. He is the author of two books and numerous book chapters.

Listen to René’s talk here: Weber Brown Bag

Random Photo of the Week:

Professor Mark Deuze creates a sea of blue students by asking them to dress like Nav'i from the film "Avatar" in his T101 class.


Nicky Lewis: Bloomington Hot Spots, Intellectual Circuits: Economics, Emmy Nominations

Katie Birge: Bloomington Hot Spots, Judge Julie, Brown Bag

Winter Travels, Home Improvement 101, Thesis: Defeated! and Brown Bag Podcasts

Travis Ross’ Amusement Park Adventures

While most of us spent winter break trying to dodge the snow and stay warm, PhD student Travis Ross got to be a kid again.  He spent six days with his family, enjoying the Disney World and Universal Studios amusement parks.  They woke up at 7:00 am every morning to take on the day’s attractions.  And they weren’t the only ones.  Thanks to crowds from the annual Capital One Bowl and Disney Marathon, records were set for attendance at Disney World two of four days Travis and his family were there.  One of the highlights included the 3D Toy Story Ride, where a pair of riders, wearing 3D glasses, fire a cannon to shoot baseballs at plates, darts at balloons and throw pies at faces.  Travis accomplished something to be proud of – he set his ride car’s high score for the week.

After Disney World, Travis and his family went to Universal Studios, where the highlight was the Harry Potter attraction.  Spending time in Hogsmeade, the town portrayed in the Harry Potter novels, and drinking butterbeers made for amusing experience.  Travis explained, “The butterbeer was cream soda flavored with butterscotch… I didn’t really like it, but it was interesting.”  Travis was further impressed by the detail of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizadry replica.  Since the Harry Potter attraction is so new, actually less than a year old, people were waiting in line two to three hours just to get in.  “Looking back, Disney World was crazy with all the people and all the walking we did.  It was too much.”

Now that Travis’ parents have moved to Houston, they have been looking for ways to remain close.  Winter break provided the perfect opportunity for the family to take a trip and spend some time together.  Travis’ mom was the organizer this time around, booking flights and hotels for everyone.  Now, plans are being made to take trips to different places every few years in order to stay in touch.  “My parents are adventurous and like to try new things.  I’m really lucky.”

Lindsay Ems in Germany

When PhD student Lindsay Ems was in high school, she spent a year as an exchange student in Meilitz, Germany. Over winter break, she spent 9 days reconnecting with her host family and friends during the heaviest snow accumulation the region had

The ice village Lindsay constructed with her host-brother

seen in 60 years. This was her third visit back to Meilitz over the years, and traveling wasn’t a large part of the agenda. “We spent most of the trip eating, drinking, talking and catching up on the events of each others’ lives. These were pretty common activities when I lived with them as well,” Lindsay says.

Though the journey to Meilitz did not include sightseeing this time around, the trip was still an important experience for Lindsay and her host family. Her host father passed away unexpectedly last summer,

Lindsay and her host-mother in Meilitz, Germany.

and this was the first opportunity for Lindsay to return to the family to share memories and stories. “The trip was motivated by an unfortunate set of circumstances, but it was absolutely fantastic to be back in the village where I lived and reconnect with the people who make that place so special to me,” she says. Much of Lindsay’s time with her host family was spent taking advantage of the unique weather conditions: playing in the snow with her host-brother’s daughter, building a miniature ice village, and navigating the little-plowed roads.

Lindsay hopes it won’t be very long before she reunites with her host family again. They’re trying to convince her to make the trip once more this upcoming summer, as the women’s soccer World Cup is in Germany at that time. “It would be absolutely phenomenal if I could work it out to do this,” she says.

Home Improvement 101: Rob Potter and Bryant Paul

While the grad students were away over break, two faculty members decided to trade their research tools for craftsman tools. Professors Rob Potter and Bryant Paul both tackled various home improvement projects during the holiday recess and lived to tell the tale. We caught up with them this week to see how the renovations changed them, how they changed the renovations, and how to use media to install a toilet.

Rob Potter’s idea for two separate renovation projects came about when he returned from his sabbatical in Australia with an urge to transform his house into a greener, more efficient living space. Rob first installed three low-flow toilets. A second project, more complicated than swapping out toilets, says Rob, involved insulating the crawlspace underneath their house to make the entire place a little warmer. The crawlspace project found Rob underground for 5 days wearing a gas mask as he placed insulation and added a vapor barrier sheet. “There was extra vapor barrier left, and this is where my personality really kicks in,” Rob explains. His proclivity for order made him contemplate removing the crawlspace’s original vapor barrier just because it was a different color than the new one. “It drove me absolutely nuts that I had a 2-tone crawlspace,” he says. For now, Rob still has time to think about it. Rising temperatures on the 3rd day of the project revealed water leaking into the area, and installing French drains is next on the to-do list.

Professor Rob Potter

Rob is acquiring his expertise in the art of crawlspace insulation and French drains through the use of his phone. “I use my cell phone to snap photos of parts and items, then I take my phone to the hardware store,” he says. When he doesn’t know how to do some part of the projects, he simply searches for a how-to video on YouTube. And how does Rob like the cozier house with its newly insulated crawlspace? “It’s still colder than Australia,” he says.

Similarly, Professor Bryant Paul spent nearly every day of break renovating an entire bathroom. “I put new everything in it, and I worked until the day before classes started,” he says. The project involved tearing out drywall, installing new cabinets and shelving, and putting in new tile. Working alone on the project, Bryant spent much of the time kneeling on the floor working on the tile. Looking back, he admits the biggest mistake may have been not to invest in a $4.95 pair of kneepads. “My hands and knees still hurt,” he says later in the week.

The project gave Bryant new insight into the world of construction. “People who do this for a living probably don’t get paid enough,” he says. “It’s nice to build something tangible, and there’s still another bathroom to be done in the future.” Bryant is satisfied with the final project, due in large part to his tedious attention to detail. “When you set me loose on this stuff, it has to be perfect,” he adds. Check out the video below to see how the project evolved:

Thesis: Defeated!

In the closing days of fall semester, two graduate students successfully defended their MA theses. We took some time to speak with both students – James Ball and Katie Birge – to hear their reflections on their work.

Corresponding via phone from Louisville, Kentucky, James Ball explained how a final paper from his first semester slowly evolved into his thesis (Quantifying the Claim that Nixon Looked Bad: A Visual Analysis of the 1960 Presidential Debates, Committee: Erik Bucy, Chair, Mike McGregor, Rob Potter). “We were doing a focus group on different political gaffes, and I saw Nixon and noticed that it wasn’t just about what he was doing all the time (his poor performance), but it was also about what the production people were doing,” James explains.  From there, James developed this idea into his thesis, which examined both body language and production values in the Nixon/Kennedy debates.

For James, his approach to studying the debates in this way were a reflection of his interest in both production and political communication research. “I had a skill set that allowed me to look at this in a new way, and a content analysis seemed like a good fit for my knowledge base,” he says, also adding that a content analysis of the debates had not been done in such a way prior to his thesis.

James says the experience was a positive one, but he’s thrilled to be finished with the thesis. “The fact that it’s defended is possibly the best ever,” he says. “It’s a weight off of your shoulders.” Planning to move to Los Angeles over the next month, James plans to use his newly acquired knowledge of production values in the debates to teach production techniques while continuing his production career.

Katie Birge took time to chat about her thesis (Framing Politics in Science Fiction: Problem Solving Through Altered Time and Space; Committee: Harmeet Sawhney, Chair, Erik Bucy, Mike McGregor) over coffee during the first week of classes.  Her thesis examined how science fiction television shows frame big political issues in ways different from the contemporary news dialogue.  She argued that science fiction provides a unique venue for testing out new ways of thinking about the political topics by suspending the boundaries of time and space.  Using Star TrekBattlestar Galactica, and V as case studies, Katie demonstrated that science fiction can offer a dynamic forum for framing political topics in unique ways.

The inspiration for her thesis was sparked by friends who are big science fiction fans.  After a class discussion about Trekkies as early adopters of technology, Katie brought the phenomenon up to one of her sci-fi friends.  He explained that science fiction is all about the language of possibility, as in, “boldly going where no man has gone before.”  Once the idea struck, Katie pursued her thesis through a political framing approach.  “While framing is becoming a popular way of looking at politics and how audiences receive and interpret political issues, little has been done on framing outside of the news and none of the prior research has examined actual media genres like science fiction.”

Looking back at the process, Katie explained that the hardest part about writing her thesis was the unfamiliarity she had with the actual science fiction shows she researched.  “I spent a lot of time familiarizing myself with these fictional worlds . . .  It took several viewings of the original Star Trek episodes to really understand the Star Trek universe.”  Now that she has completed a major accomplishment in her academic career, what’s next for Katie?  “I’m interested to see how audience members interpret the content of these science fiction shows.  I’m conducting focus groups this semester to see if the politics present in these series are overt enough to be understood by an observer who isn’t necessarily paying attention to such cues.”

Brown Bag Presentations

The first T600 Brown Bag Presentation of 2011 was a split-session that featured two PhD students from our department: Sung Wook Ji and Matt Falk.

The Effects of Cable Clustering on the Flow of Cable Programming Networks

Sung Wook Ji

Abstract:  A “clustering” in the cable industry refers to a combination of geographically contiguous cable systems.  In their early history, cable systems grew simply through the addition of new systems as opportunities arose and, as a consequence, the holdings of cable systems were typically scattered across the country.  By the early 1990s, however, the cable TV industry began moving toward regional consolidation (in other words, “clustering”), with specific companies carving out large parts of the country within which to group their systems.

Several studies have asserted that the clustering activity of incumbent cable system operators might be motivated by both the pro- and anti-competitive effects of clustering. On the one hand, clustering may increase the efficiency of cable systems, mainly because of the economies of scope and scale thus achieved.

On the other hand, clustering may have an anti-competitive effect on the multi-channel video programming distribution (MVPD) industry. In particular, previous studies have focused on the effect of clustering on the vertical foreclosure of regional programming, especially regional sports networks (RSN). They examined how cable clustering increases a clustered MSO’s market power within a given area, and, thus, strengthens the vertical foreclosure of a rival regional cable network. As a consequence, a clustered MSO has anti-competitive effects on the competition within a regional programming market. However, no single study has, as far as I know, systematically examined the effects of clustering on the flow of national cable programming networks.

The proposed study will examine the effects of clusters on the Multi-channel Video Programming Distribution (MVPD) market and, in particular, on the carriage of national cable networks, thus filling a gap in present research concerning the effects of clustering. It is hypothesized that, although cable clustering positively affects the probability a certain cable network will be carried (the pro-competitive effect), when the clustering effect is combined with vertical integration, vertical MSOs’ incentives to favor carrying their own affiliated cable network increase and, at the same time, the incentives to foreclose a rival network increase (the anti-competitive effect).

Listen to the full audio here: Sung Wook Ji

Habituation of the Orienting Response to Auditory Structural Features

Matt Falk

Absract:  Previous work has shown that several auditory structural features of radio broadcasts cause cardiac orienting responses, an indicator of the automatic allocation of cognitive resources to message processing. The current study was designed to further investigate whether repeated exposure to the same structural feature causes habituation, or a loss of the cardiac orienting response, over time. Listeners (n=91) were exposed to three repetitions each of a jingle, a production effect and silence in a simulated radio broadcast. Physiological data were collected time locked to the stimulus. Results confirm earlier findings that auditory structural features cause cardiac orienting. Heart rate data indicate that production effects and jingles begin to show habituation by the third exposure. Skin conductance data may indicate that subjects have a defensive reaction to the third exposure to jingles.

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