First Brown Bag of the Semester – August 30, 2013

Edward Castronova, Professor of Telecommunications, Indiana University Bloomington


I’ll review the gamification phenomenon in a critical way, explaining its major premises and strategies and then explaining why gamified artifacts (including my own) generally fail. I’ll show some examples of the best gamification pieces. I’ll then talk about gamifying the college classroom and, again, my own failures in that regard. I’ll then suggest new approaches to using the insights of games to renovate old behavioral problems. The focus is on strategic literacy, an area that education has completely overlooked.


Edward Castronova wonders why vanilla ice cream is even produced in a world that knows chocolate. He is a Professor of Telecommunications at Indiana University and holds a PhD in Economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Professor Castronova specializes in the study of games, technology, and society. Notable works include Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games (Chicago, 2005), Exodus to the Virtual World (Palgrave), Virtual Economies: Analysis and Design (with Vili Lehdonvirta, MIT, in press), and Wildcat Currency: The Virtual Transformation of the Economy (Yale, in press). Castronova was born as Edward Bird in 1962, converted to Roman Catholicism in 1995, and took his wife’s name on marrying in 2000. He has two sons, two god-children and a beagle named Tilly. Castronova thinks God is a game designer: Get to Heaven for the win.

Production at IU: New and Improved!

by Ken Rosenberg

Professor John Walsh shows off the revamped layout of RTV 250.

Professor John Walsh has secured new equipment for the Telecom department. It is his vision that all students to be able to produce professional-quality media: video, audio, digital games, and other forms of new media. Towards that end, John has worked with other departmental colleagues to improve upon the production gear with which we work. We now have new light kits and grip equipment; our labs are now licensed to use Unity 3, a popular new game engine; we’ve updated the audio software from ProTools 8 to ProTools 10; and the computers in RTV 250 have been rearranged to enhance collaborative learning. A few years ago, Professor Ron Osgood brought the studio into high-definition era. Now, John and others have helped move our media-creation capabilities forward yet again. For a department that has partnerships with professional media outlets, including our in-house PBS affiliate WTIU, it isn’t enough to simply have equipment fit to learn – we need to impress real audiences.

The most immediately noticeable advancement is the new equipment. The cameras in the production lab were already more than adequate for most shoots and, as John pointed out, basic video gear has become cheap enough to the point where many students come to class with their own cameras. What most people do not invest in, however, is proper lighting – and control of the light. Earlier the lab was not equipped with grip gear. Now, we have the basic complement required for shooting on set – light kits and grip equipment. Lighting and grip work are very separate tasks on set, as John explained, and the new gear will allow students to specialize. Next Fall, in the T436: Advanced Production Workshop in Multi-Camera Performance Production, some students will arrange lights, while others will use flags and scrims to optimize the light. John says the new light kits will help students make documentaries, as well as indie narratives.

This summer John worked with Telecom professors and UITS to improve the production functionality of RTV 250. They purchased licenses for the video game engine Unity 3; a very expensive buy, but wholly necessary to stay current in game development. Game engines are the static (yet malleable) building blocks for games, establishing basics like physics, lighting, and textures. Unity goes even further, offering enough ready-made coding to bring the process of creating a game much closer to the fun (and, more importantly, “ease”) of playing a game. It is software like this that helps researchers make their own experimental treatments. It’s also a great set of training wheels for burgeoning designers, most of whom – even and especially in big, multi-million dollar studios – will use engines for the rest of their lives. Asking an M.S. student to create a game without an existent engine is akin to having an M.A. student build a typewriter to complete a term paper. In other words, this license acquisition is a glorious addition for our gaming-minded grads.

RTV 250 also got a much more tangible upgrade: a rearrangement of desks that eschews a lecture-style layout in favor of a setting conducive for group learning. The old setup was standard fare, with rows of desks facing the main projector. Anyone who has used a computer for more than checking email can tell you that learning about interactive media is a socially interactive affair. Often students learn as much from their classmates as from the teacher. Now, a four-pod desk sits up front, while most of the other desks are pressed against the walls.  That creates a roundtable-style classroom. John worked with Professor Ted Castronova and UITS to conceptualize and implement this new design. There will also be a large table for more organized collaboration. It will over the holiday break. The room is now easier for teachers too, John explained, because the new design permits a panopticon-esque method of observation and moderation. “It’s better for everyone,” John said.

Looking forward, John said he wants to look into acquiring a multiplexer. A multiplexer replaces the old-school wall of televisions with one massive screen that can be customized to fit displays for particular shows. “It empowers students,” John said. “Instructors can teach them to design their optimal layout. This is something they will all encounter when they enter the field. It isn’t uncommon for a production assistant to carry around their customized layouts as a file in their pocket, to have with them for implementation wherever they go.”

John would like to remind people that the Telecom production equipment is for the benefit of all students of production – even researchers, even amateurs, and even those who do not belong to the department. “Overall, there are more and more students that are interested in making films,” John said. “The goal is to get the gear into the hands of as many of those students as possible. The production equipment is available to all IU students, regardless of their major.” Of course, priority is given to students enrolled in Telecom production classes; it’s best to request equipment at either the beginning or the end of the semester, or even over the summer, especially for long-term projects. “Anything is up for use,” John said. This includes production spaces like Studio 5, as well.

If you have any desire to work on your own drama, soundtrack, or first-person shooter, talk to John. Anyway, all request forms for use of production facilities and equipment get sent to him. Talk to him about what your project needs – you might find that professional-level production isn’t too hard, after all! You can find out more about the production lab and its facilities, equipment, and people by clicking here.

How to Play: Learning Game Design with Travis

by Ken Rosenberg

Travis Ross, fifth-year doctoral student, has had plenty of experience both teaching and gaming. Over the summer, he worked at the intersection of the two as a game moderator for a group playing the tabletop role-playing game (RPG) Shadowrun. This semester, he is again combining both sets of knowledge to teach his first full-fledged class, T367: Theory and Practice of Game Design. The course was originally designed and taught by Professor Ted Castronova, who decided to integrate game design principles into the structure of both lessons and grading. To teach novel material, it is vital to adopt an innovative teaching style. Since games are an interactive medium, the most effective way to appreciate their design is to play them! Game rules are best learned through experience; game design is best taught through structured play.

Almost every one of the eight games featured in T367 is considered a “Eurogame,” a broad category of board and/or card games that have become very popular in recent years. Why board games, as opposed to digital games? Video games are more mainstream and most students want to develop software, not tabletop experiences. However, while video games offer flashier, more visceral fare, board games force players to learn design principles as they play. Video games naturally constrain players and create infallible rule sets; the only actions possible in a virtual environment are ones the developers allowed for in the design process. With board games, players must read through every rule and moderate their own experience; each action must be understood before it is performed.

Though some are enthusiastic gaming hobbyists, frequently visiting places like The Game Preserve (a local game shop), most students enrolled in Travis’ class have never played a board game more exotic or complex than Monopoly or Risk. There the most important course objective is to increase gaming literacy, to make students aware of titles, genres, and rule sets that more fully explore the potential of gaming. Still, though over half the class time is spent playing in groups, “it’s not ‘just come in and play a board game,’” Travis explained. Students are required to read – among other things – The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses, currently the most comprehensive book on game design fundamentals. Furthermore, each play session is tied to a specific design principle, and to a related assignment that asks students to appreciate and manipulate the principle. Assignment prompts ask students what they would change about an game’s rules, what elements they might take from an existent game to craft their own game, or how they could change a game to reach a new audience.

Travis started them off with Wits and Wagers, a betting-based trivia game. Then, they proceeded to Dominion, a card game that doesn’t use a board at all. “One of the best games of all time,” according to Travis. Dominion is used to teach students about feedback loops and how to create a set of cards with tightly compatible (and balanced) abilities. Next, Pandemic, featured mainly to present fully-cooperative gameplay. In Pandemic, all players are working together to try and contain and cure the spread of disease across the globe; they compete against the negative states induced by the game’s trending-toward-worse system, which acts like an enemy AI.

With Settlers of Catan, probably the most well-known Eurogame, students are forced to think about the communication aspect of board games. Players can trade raw resources with each other, and it is often necessary to do so in order to continue producing properties and other victory-earning constructions. Effective traders are savvy enough to make seemingly fair offers, while simultaneously downplaying the advantages of what happens when someone accepts their superfluous Lumber in trade for some precious Ore.

Travis added a card game to the course’s list of games, the most popular trading card game in the world: Magic: The Gathering. Not only is it pervasively popular and fundamental to any game designer’s ludography for reasons of game design, the business model is quite notable, as well. Magic has been around for almost 20 years and, in that time, its creators have added hundreds of new cards while balancing them with existing cards and slowly phasing out older sets. Though it isn’t absolutely necessary to own the latest batch of cards, Travis explained that the game’s designers have effectively created an economy based on demand for new cards. Most students have not yet considered this meta-game aspect of the games industry, and Travis believes it is important to understand how and why players continue to invest – mentally and financially – in an ongoing game phenomenon.

Speaking of meta-games, Ted designed the grading system for the course, which uses a non-punitive system based on experience points – something that is familiar to anyone who has ever played a traditional RPG. Instead of a linear list of uniformly-prescribed tasks, a large set of potential assignments is available, with which students can earn the set total of points required to earn the grade of their choice. Yes, while students earn their own grade in any given class, T367 is explicitly a choose-your-own-grade course. At the beginning of the semester, students draft a list of assignments they will accept, then submit a signed contract – even going so far as to tell the instructor precisely the grade they intend to earn.

There are fifteen types of assignments, including exams, and each type can be completed multiple times. The point distribution across grades is multiplicative; it is harder to go from an A to an A+ than it is to get from a C- to a B, for instance. The two “big” assignments are to play an RPG and design a game – doing just these two will allow students to accrue enough points for a C-level grade, even without any other work. Exams exist, but are optional. Even so, this semester, most students’ contracts include all four exams– much to Travis’ surprise. “I thought they’d want to do more game-like activities,” he said.

Most importantly, completing assignments is an iterative process. Games involve task repetition to increase mastery, and game design needs plenty of play-testing and feedback. The course was designed with this in mind. “You don’t make the perfect game the first time you submit it,” Travis said. Nobody “fails” their task on the first attempt – the work is handed back, with feedback, for resubmission. Travis stressed how this model of grading required detailed rubrics and plenty of examples, so students know what they need to achieve and how to get there.

Travis loves the classroom. Most enjoyable for him has been the social aspect of connecting with his students. One of the lessons he learned while assisting with T101, another Telecom class, was to make time to interact beyond just lecturing. Travis says he teaches best in small group settings and one-on-one interactions; that’s why he memorizes everybody’s names at the beginning of each semester. Travis has been enjoying how the open course design creates a unique classroom atmosphere. “The great thing is that the games really help teaching,” he said. Lectures take a backseat to gaming, and Travis has found himself playing the role of helpful moderator, more than stoic pontificator. “A lot of the teaching comes in the form of helping them,” he explained. As the students play and discuss games, Travis makes rounds through the room to ask questions and suggest points of interest. He is excited at their insights; “they’re saying things I haven’t thought of,” Travis said, “pointing out feedback loops I haven’t seen. Then, I ask them why they think it works. It’s actually a whole lot of fun.”

Well, maybe T367 is just all fun and games, then – but, since everyone is learning and participating, perhaps that’s not such a negative description for a classroom, after all.

Media@IU, Castronova’s Gamer-Friendly Grading, Ted at the Sweet Sixteen, Brown Bag

Media@IU, by Mike Lang

Gathered in Mark Deuze’s office, Mark Deuze, Danqing Liu, Jennifer Talbott, Geng Zhang, and Adam Simpson bounce ideas off one another as they plan for the upcoming Media@IU reception at the Well’s House on April 4th.  Projector to project the Media@IU website on the wall? Check. Microphone and sound system? Check. Facebook event page? Check.  Preparations for the hush-hush VIP after party? Check. Attendance is a bit light today, as team members Christy Wessel Powell and Maria Fedorova are unable to make it, but the ideas still keep flowing. Every Thursday from 1-2 the Media@IU team convenes to discuss progress and plans, but as the buzz builds, so to do the questions surrounding the initiative.

Over the last few years, Deuze has noticed an increase in media related research and creative activities across campus including research projects in other departments, courses, speakers, student clubs and organizations, and graduate reading groups. As such, the original goal of Media@IU was simply to raise awareness of these activities. Two semesters ago, Liu, working as an RA for Deuze, was charged with one of the first awareness-raising jobs, collecting information about courses around related to media. A huge project with lots of potential, Liu recruited Talbott and Zhang to help out. Setting up a T575: Directed Group New Media Design Project under the supervision of Deuze, the three embarked on creating a database on media-related activities on campus. As Talbott explains, the trio searched for classes, talked to faculty in various departments, went to the career development center, talked to career advisors, looked up student clubs, located facilities on campus that could be useful for media projects, identified UITS classes that offered media related skills, and did some research on companies affiliated with IU that could potentially offer students internships or jobs. Along the way they recruited students from SLIS and journalism to build the website that would house all of the information.

In the beginning most of the initiatives were organized around undergraduates. Because media is such a broad topic, many students need a road map of sorts. Liu explains that when Joe Schmo freshman goes to register for classes or pick a major, Media@IU can help him navigate the many facets of media scholarship and gain a clearer view of what he wants to do. They also hope that the site would facilitate faculty collaboration.  This semester the team has shifted its attention to graduate student resources such information on funding sources for research, and small snippets on projects going on around campus.

The culmination of all this work will be the first ever Media@IU conference in October. Held in the Union, the conference will bring together students and faculty to present and discuss their media related work, provide opportunities to network, and facilitate collaboration. In addition, the conference will be  spotlighted by a rock star keynote speaker selected by graduate students. Although the team takes it one step at a time, it hopes the conference will grow to the point it can resemble the old Big Ten Media and Communication conference that died out years ago.

Throughout the process, the team has gained new members from around the University, some who may only come for a meeting or two, and others who stick around for longer. Zhang says that finding new recruits in the beginning was hard. However, as their ideas evolved into a more tangible product, people were more receptive and helpful. So much so that when the team put out an advertisement for website help, they received inquiries from individuals all the way in California willing to contribute at no cost.  Although the original trio is graduating this May they hope to recruit some new members to carry on the torch after they leave.

Fundamentally, Media@IU is a ground up exercise; an initiative driven by the desire and willingness of students and faculty to collaborate in the spirit of doing more with media. It’s hard to predict where it will go, or what it will look like, but with the full backing of the provost, and a team of dedicated individuals willing to put in the work, everyone gets to reap the rewards.

The Media@IU reception will take place on Wednesday, April 4th from 8-10pm in the Well’s House and refreshments will be provided. Stop by and learn what the future of media research at IU looks like. Did I mention free T-shirts and a wicked after party? Check out the Facebook event page here. Check out the Media@IU Website here.

The Media@IU Team: Danqing Liu, Jennifer Talbott, Geng Zhang, Christy Wessel Powell, Maria Fedorova, Jihoon Jo, Jin Guo, Vasumathi Sridharan, Adam Simpson, Todd Chen.

Media@IU Logo by Todd Chen.

Castronova’s Gamer-Friendly Grading, by Ken Rosenberg

Like many of my generation, I went through school wishing it were more like a video game. When I found out that this is not just a personal fantasy, but a widespread and serious movement that needs researchers, I knew I would stay in school forever. Gamification is the use of game-like systems to structure and enhance real-world behavior and its proponents often list education among the most important institutions in need of such a shift. Games are neatly designed experiences that are logical, iterative, skill-based, egalitarian, and always potentially winnable—a perfect formula for learning. Professor Ted Castronova’s grading of undergraduates resembles a leveling system common to games, one that originated in the role-playing genre.

Students must write 500-word essays, which are graded on a pass-fail basis. Though many games have point systems—or even, ironically, letter-based grading systems—at the end of a level, the most important measure is still the “level clear” screen; either you won the game, or you didn’t.

They can submit as many times as it takes to earn complete credit. There is no limit on how many times you can try to win a game, and the only thing that matters is winning. The previous attempts do not count against you—in fact, if anything, they prove beneficial. Studies show that some failed attempts can ultimately make victory more emotionally rewarding. Punishment for failure only discourages effort.

It takes a bit more to earn each next level. Gamers know that all levels are not built equally: 1 through 20 is nowhere near the grind that takes a player from 20 to 40. Essay requirements for the next highest grade work on a +1 additive progression. Earning a “C” requires two more essays than a “D”-level performance, but going from a “C” to a “B” takes three.

The grade breakdown:

  • 1 essay   =   D
  • 3 essays  =  C
  • 6 essays  =  B
  • 10 essays = A

When Ted told other teachers about his system, they assumed that most students would earn an “A.” In fact the class still keeps the typical “C” average. Ted believes that students pick their grade from the beginning and decide to do a set number of essays. (Regardless of when or how students determine their grade, they still turn in most of them at the end of the semester.) Despite the unfortunate conclusion that game-like systems will not push everyone toward maximum achievement, there is one enormously significant upshot that all teachers can appreciate: nobody complains about their grade.

Ted at the Sweet Sixteen, by Mike Lang

Ted Jamison-Koenig was never a basketball fan. Then he moved to Bloomington to attend IU. For the last 5 years, Jamison-Koenig has sat through the worst years of Indiana basketball, yet cheered the Hoosiers on with ferver regardless. With the Hoosiers having a better than expected year this year, making it to the Sweet Sixteen, Ted road tripped to Atlanta to watch the fabled matchup with IU’s rival Kentucky. Edward Jones Dome, home field of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, may not have been the best suited for a basketball game (especially with all the good tickets going to alumni and high roller donors).  But that didn’t stop Ted from having a good time, as he was just happy to be there. Unfortunately IU lost the game, but the proclamation was loud and clear. IU basketball is back, and Ted was there to witness it.

Brown bag

Dynamic Motivational Activation in Media Use and Processing

Zheng Wang

A mathematical theoretical framework called Dynamic Motivational Activation (DMA) will be described. DMA models help reveal how we attend to, process, respond to, and are affected by the ever-changing information environment in an adaptive way. The models tease apart the influences of the exogenous vs. the endogenous variables (e.g., communication variables vs. audience physiological and cognitive system variables), and allow the study of their dynamic interactions. A few DAM studies will be discussed. They examine the dynamics of real-time processing of entertainment and persuasive messages, and also longitudinal communication activities in daily life.


Conceptualizing Flow, Presence and Transportation as Motivated Cognitive States

Rachel Bailey

Flow, Presence and Transportation will be discussed as the outcome of the motivated cognitive dynamic system settling into different attractor states. Conceptual definitions from the literatures concerning each of these states will be discussed and translated into motivated cognition variables. Data from three experiments will be presented in support of this reconceptualization. Implications for taking this dynamical, complex approach to studying these states, and media processing in general, will be discussed.


Zheng Joyce Wang (Ph.D. in Communications & Cognitive Science, IU-Bloomington, 2007) is an Assistant Professor in the School of Communication at the Ohio State University, Columbus. One of her research foci is the use of real time data (e.g., psychophysiological measures, real life experience sampling) in conjunction with formal dynamic models to study how people process and use media. In particular, she is interested in the dynamic reciprocal effects between media choice/use behavior and its impact on emotion and cognition over time. Another research foci is to understand contextual influences on decision and cognition by building new probabilistic and dynamic systems based on quantum rather than classic probability theory. Her research has been supported by National Science Foundation.

Rachel Bailey is a third-year doctoral student at Indiana University. Her research interests focus on understanding how motivationally and psychologically relevant variables come together in complex ways to influence and constrain how information is processed in mediated contexts over time.

Random Search Term of the Week

One of the search terms that led a viewer to the grad blog was: “a stone with bryant substance”!

And the viewer was treated to last year’s February 28 story on Bryant Paul’s Rock Tumbler.

Fabio’s Classroom Introduction, Dan Schiffman at the Intersections, Paul Wright’s Recognition, Brown Bag

Fabio’s Classroom Introduction, by Ken Rosenberg

Fabio Monticone, a former Italian journalist, graduated in 2011 with a BA from our department. Drawn by his deepening interest in documentary, he decided to pursue graduate studies. In the Fall of the same year, he joined our MS (Design & Production) program.

As a design and production graduate student, Fabio knew that he would be called upon to handle labs and discussion sessions—but not in the very first semester!  As circumstances would have it, in Fall of 2011, the very semester Fabio entered graduate school, the department was short of associate instructors who had the relevant expertise to handle discussion sessions of T206: Introduction to Design and Production. He was called on to step in and help out the department.

At first fazed by the fact that a few months ago he was an undergrad and now he was donning the role of an instructor, he soon found his footing.  The masterful way he introduced himself to the class set the tone for the semester.

He realized that one of the most important things a teacher must do is maintain control of the classroom. Sometimes, this means dealing with the elephant in the room. “Just get it out now,” he told his students last semester, after putting up a PowerPoint slide with a familiar face—the famous “Fabio” (Fabio Lanzoni, the brawny Italian fashion model and actor who has graced many magazine covers, calendars, TV commercials, etc.).  He told the class he was not “that.”  In effect, he first declared who he was not before acquainting the class with the real Fabio they would be dealing with.  “He (Lanzoni) ruined my name,” our Fabio said, jokingly. After coming to the States, he was often subjected to the comparison. By the time he was ready to lead his first discussion sessions for T206, he knew it was only a matter of time before an undergrad would snicker—so he beat them to it.

Having taken the class himself as an undergrad, Fabio eagerly prepared to make T206 an enjoyable experience for the students, one with his personal stamp. In addition to the required weekly posts, Fabio created his own structure for the discussion sessions. Fabio is interested in making documentaries, which helped when planning a project for his students; in groups, they made movies. Though teaching in a language other than his mother tongue made things “kind of hard,” Fabio still had an advantage that most international students do not have in their first semester as an AI: experience with the grading system of U.S. universities, which he gained firsthand, as a student here at IU—in the same class, no less.

Our Fabio certainly has his own style.

Dan Schiffman at the Intersections, by Mike Lang

MS student Dan Schiffman likes to turn ideas into reality.

Schiffman opens his laptop and pulls up his latest project—a visualization tool designed to track trends on Twitter. Schiffman clicks on the search field and plugs in “JeremyLin,” and from the digital abyss a slew of words emerge, appearing and disappearing with the trendiness of modern Web 2.0 applications. By gathering bits of informatiom from Twitter with the help of hashtag search terms, the program gives the user a feel for what the Twitter world thinks about a certain subject. Ultimately, Schiffman hopes the program will be able to answer questions about trends.

Nestled somewhere between a designer, the folks who come up with ideas, and a developer, the folks who put those ideas into action, Schiffman has positioned himself for maximum flexibility.  “I’m not a developer and I’m not a designer. I’m somewhere in the middle. I try to make things happen.” Taking courses in Informatics in interaction design and experience design in order to learn the relevant languages and tools used by designers, and courses in SLIS in order to learn the developer side, Schiffman gets the best of both worlds without being pigeonholed into either category.  At the same time, he has positioned himself to handle the turbulent waters that periodically rock the field. He has learned two very different languages, and can serve as a bridge connecting one side to another, transcending the barrier which often stalls the process that takes an idea from conception to realization, and for Schiffman, it’s all about getting things done.

As an economics major at the University of Colorado with an eye for venture capital, Schiffman has also studied the business aspect of his projects. Taking MBA courses at Kelley, Schiffman has worked to understand one of the biggest hurdles entrepreneurial ideas face—the pressure of securing funding and turning a profit. In one of his favorite courses so far, business negotiations, Schiffman learned the ins and outs of handling and understanding complex social situations, a skill not often taught in school. Likewise, he has worked extensively on drafting business proposals in his class on venture capital and in Telecom’s T505: Media Organizations.

At the moment Schiffman is currently working on a way to partner media with social outreach programs. One of his proposed projects includes SMS microloans as a tool to expand information networks and increase economic development in areas suffering poverty. (Check out a recent interview with Netsquared for more details).  In addition he has partnered with a contact in San Francisco to work on a new venture. But he also talks about couch surfing after graduation.

Schiffman’s trajectory in the program has landed him somewhere between business, design, and development, and equipped him with the ability to navigate different fields quickly and efficiently. With that kind of ability to navigate, Schiffman likely won’t find himself couch surfing for too long.

Paul Wright’s Special Recognition, by Mike Lang

Last semester starting center for the IU women’s basketball team Sasha Chaplin enrolled in Wright’s T314 Processes and Effects course.  As the semester progressed, Chaplin sought out Wright for additional help. Once a week for the entire semester, Wright would meet with Chaplin for an hour to review everything they had gone over in class. “She was just a great person, great personality, very sharp,” says Wright. As a result, she ended up with a really good grade in the class.

In the middle of February Wright received an email for Chaplin. The team had a home game coming up against Wisconsin and in was both a senior night and a faculty appreciation night. Players were asked to invite one faculty member who had contributed to their academic success. Chaplin chose Wright. As a huge basketball fan, Wright had planned on attending the game anyway, as he had been attending games for some time. So, he happily accepted. At halftime, the team trotted Wright out onto the court and presented him with a certificate acknowledging the impact he had on Chaplin’s academic success. That night, IU won its first conference game after going 0-14.

Paul Wright on the Jumbotron

Recognition for excellence in the classroom comes in many different forms. Being recognized on the floor of assembly hall has to rank as one of the coolest.

Brown Bag

Love, Loss, and Leeeeeeeroy: Aesthetic Interaction in World of Warcraft

Jeffrey Bardzell (Presenter), Ted Castronova (Discussant)

In the 1980s, Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) emerged to develop more productive, less error-prone, more learnable, and more pleasing systems. These criteria would come to comprise the concept of “usability” and help define what makes a “good” workplace computer system. Since the 1990s, however, computing has moved beyond the workplace into everyday life. Usability, though important, is no longer sufficient to define good systems; increasingly, aesthetic considerations have come to the fore in both academic and industry-based HCI. Yet understanding and designing for aesthetic experiences remains a difficult and unfinished project in HCI, partly because of disciplinary divides between the arts and sciences.

In this talk, I will explore ways that both critical and empirical research of World of Warcraft (WoW) can contribute to HCI’s understanding of aesthetic experiences. I will summarize research conducted by the Cultural Research in Technology (CRIT) group in the School of Informatics on three aspects of WoW. First is intimacy, romance, and friendship in WoW, understood as a contribution to research on user experience (UX). Second is progression raiding, understood from the perspective of computer-supported cooperative work (CSCW). Third is the emergent visual language of WoW machinima, understood from the perspective of creativity support software. I will also share some of our efforts to find strategies to combine critical and empirical methodologies in the first place, and then subsequently to articulate our findings in ways that can be heard in HCI and influence practice.


Jeffrey Bardzell is an Associate Professor of HCI/Design and new media in the School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University – Bloomington. Having done his doctoral work in Comparative Literature and Philosophy, Bardzell brings a humanist perspective to HCI and is known for developing a theory of interaction criticism. His other HCI specialties include aesthetic interaction, user experience design, amateur multimedia design theory and practice, and digital creativity. Currently, he is using theories from film, fashion, science fiction, and philosophical aesthetics to theorize about users and interaction, especially in the context of user experience design and supporting creativity. He co-directs the Cultural Research in Technology (CRIT) group:

Edward Castronova (PhD Economics, Wisconsin, 1991) is a Professor of Telecommunications and Cognitive Science, Indiana University. He  is a founder of scholarly online game studies and an expert on the societies of virtual worlds. Among his academic publications on these topics are two books: Synthetic Worlds (University of Chicago Press, 2005) and Exodus to the Virtual World (Palgrave, 2007). Professor Castronova teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on the design of games, the game industry, and the management of virtual societies. Outside his academic work, Professor Castronova makes regular appearances in mainstream media (60 Minutes, the New York Times, and The Economist), gives keynotes at major conferences (Austin Game Conference, Digital Games Research Association Conference, Interactive Software Federation of Europe), and consults for business (McKinsey, Vivendi, Forrester).

The audio for last Friday’s seminar can be found here: Brown Bag 7 (March 2, 2012 – Jeff Bardzell and Ted Castronova)

Andrew and Ted at DePauw, Beerfest 2011, Sports and Media Brown Bag

Andrew and Ted at DePauw

Professor Andrew Weaver had an opportunity to return to his alma mater DePauw University this week, just an hour or so up State Route 231.  DePauw University is a small liberal arts college located in the town of Greencastle, Indiana.  Along with doctoral student Nicky Lewis, he made a research presentation at the Ethical Inquiry through Video Game Play and Design Conference.  Andrew was also asked by a former professor, Jeff McCall, to give a guest lecture for his Media and Society course.  His lecture on the appeal of violence in media and the impact of racial casting in selective exposure was well received by the students in attendance.  The guest lecture took place in the very same building where Andrew used to put in time at the student radio and TV stations.

Andrew noted several changes on the DePauw campus since his last visit.  After acquiring a nature park approximately a quarter mile from campus, DePauw constructed several new facilities – one being the Bartlett Reflection Center, a place for meditation and relaxation, and the Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics, where the conference took place.  The nature park also features an amphitheater, quarry research area, and campground.  According to Andrew, “It’s fun to see the changes the campus has gone through since I was a student, so it’s nice to be able to come back every few years.”

Fellow faculty member Ted Castronova was also invited to the conference as a key note speaker.  He presented his thoughts on natural laws, suggesting that they exist prior to society.  With regard to the implications that games have for ethical inquiry, he offered the idea that fantasies and dreams should be thought of as the “real” reality and that games serve as a reflection of that reality.  Citing a priest that recently visited his church, he said “We are not made for this earth.  We are made for the next.”  Ted posited that perhaps fantasy is not a forecast of paradise, but a memory.

Beerfest 2011

For a majority of beer drinkers, beer begins and ends with the big three, Budweiser, Miller, and Coors. Their commercials dominate television, their products monopolize most bar and restaurant taps, and together they control over 90% of the American beer market. However, a small but growing contingent is turning towards craft beer for new tastes and styles. At the 19th annual Beerfest, sponsored by Big Red Liquors, a wealth of beers were available for beer aficionados to try.

The three hour sessions on both Thursday and Friday night featured over 330 beers from all around the world with all proceeds going to local charities.  Armed with a tasting glass provided at the entrance, participants walk around to the various tables sponsored by breweries and beer distributors, sampling beers while picking up stickers, coasters, bottle openers, and occasional T-shirts along the way.

PhD students and Beerfest veterans Travis Ross and Ryland Sherman attended on Friday night. Sherman, who enjoys craft beer, but is often deterred by its high price, enjoys the festival because he gets to try all the beers he would never try on his own. With so many offerings though, a little bit of strategy is required. Sherman decided to focus on the most exotic beers he could find. Ross expressed similar sentiments, as he normally heads to the back corner first, where the more unique offerings can be found.  However, acknowledges Ross, after an hour strategy starts to fall apart.  A ruined palette from all the flavors and the inevitable effect of 20 or so little samples turns the focus from drinking and critiquing to drinking and socializing.

Ross acknowledges a dual tension between sampling and socializing. Accompanied by his wife and brother this year, Beerfest was a great opportunity to show his little brother, an IUPUI student, a good time in Bloomington. Sherman, who went with a group of friends enjoys running into people from around Bloomington and chatting over beers.

According to Ross and Sherman, this year’s Beerfest was a bit more low key than previous years. Perhaps due to the increase in ticket price, crowds were lighter and less rowdy, meaning less waiting and more sampling.

A few highlights from this years beerfest:

Mike’s favorites
Cutters  Empire Imperial Stout – Whoa. Hands down one of the best stouts I’ve ever had.  This is Bloomington’s new big boy beer from the 2010 upstarts. Look out Upland. This blows your entire lineup out of the water.
Four Horsemen  Irish Red – Goes down like a traditional Irish red, but the creamy butter aftertaste adds a unique twist.
Southern Tier Unearthly – Breaks the traditional double IPA mold. Hop profile takes a backseat to the lush floral and citrus notes. Very complex. Nice biscuit malty on the back end. Best (and most unusual) double IPA of the day
New Holland Chartooka Rye – Tastes just like Carolina smoked pork. Seriously.
Sam Adams Maple Pecan Porter –A brief reminder from Sam Adams on why they are the biggest microbrew in the country. Sweet and syrupy. Pecan Pie in a bottle. Absolutely Delicious.

Travis’s Favorites
Cutters Floyd’s Folly
Sun King  Cream Ale
Goose Island – Pepe Nero
Wychwood – Hobgoblin

Ryland’s favorites
Veldensteiner Weiβbier
Sun King – Double IPA

Brown Bag 

This week’s brown bag presentation featured a split-session with two graduate students with research interests in sports and media.  Nicky Lewis is a first year Ph.D. student in the Department of Telecommunications and Evan Frederick is a third year Ph.D. student in Sports Marketing at the Department of Kinesiology.  You can listen to the full audio of their presentation here: Sport and Media Brown Bag

Trait and Motivational Differences in Fantasy Football Participation

Nicky Lewis

This thesis explores the trait and motivational differences that exist among fantasy football participants.  Analysis of the relationships between theoretically relevant trait and motivational variables allowed for predictions of time invested in the activity.  Accordingly, a meaningful model of participation was developed.  Implications and directions for future research are discussed.

Demographics and Usage Trends of the Typical MMA Blog User: A Case Study

Evan Frederick

For this case study, an Internet-based survey was posted on a popular Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) blog in order to ascertain the demographics and usage trends of its users.  Data analysis revealed that users were predominately White males, between the ages of 23-39, with some college education and an annual income of $40,000-$59,999. An exploratory factor analysis (EFA) revealed six dimensions of gratification including evaluation, community, information-gathering, knowledge demonstration, argumentation, and diversion.  Findings indicated that users utilized this particular blog for both interactive and information-gathering purposes.


Nicky Lewis: Andrew and Ted at DePauw, Brown Bag

Mike Lang: Beerfest 2011

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