IU Telecommunications graduate student Nicky Lewis discussed her masters thesis today on fantasy sports in the department’s brown bag seminar series. In her talk she said that the number of fantasy sports players is the same as the popluation of Texas. She said, “Fantasy Football is the Dungeons and Dragons for guys who used to beat up the kids who played Dungeons and Dragons.” In her study she asked questions about what motivates people to play fantasy sports. She noted that traits like extraversion, competitiveness, Machiavellianism, sensation-seeking and impulsiveness impact one’s level of participation in fantasy sports. She also noted that people are motivated to play fantasy sports for social reasons, competitive reasons, social-identification and financial gain. Her study involved doing a survey of 457 people. 177 of those participated in fantasy football. She found that fantasy football players are more competitive and less impulsive than those who did not play.
Evan L. Frederick presented his work on Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) blogging. He found that most MMA blog users were male, white and had at least a college degree. Blogs were used to find information about fighters and fights that they couldn’t get elsewhere. One of the major reasons for consuming this content is to feel associated with a particular group (athletes and fans). Users also reported using blogs to engage in conversations with others in the group. If one considers MMA to be a niche sport, Evan suggests that MMA blog users could be similar to those of other niche sports in that users go to blogs in order to get information about the sport and athletes since it does not receive much traditional mass media coverage.
In Erick Janssen’s brown bag discussion in the Department of Telecommunications today he introduced the Kinsey Institute to our band of communications and media scholars and students. Located in Morrison Hall on the Bloomington campus, the Kinsey Institute is an international center for the study of human sex and sexuality.
According to Janssen, there is a still void in academic research when it comes to work on emotions and sexual arousal. This, Janssen says has more to do with culture than it does science. He says the Kinsey Institute’s grants have been voted on and debated in Congress many times. It is a challenge to maintain funding and convince politicians and administrators that sex research is important, Janssen says. Part of his job is knowing how to negotiate doing research and pleasing the NIH. He says, if you put the phrase ‘sexual arousal’ in a grant title, you will not get funded by the NIH. NSF has also told him that they are not that interested in sexual arousal research. He has had to figure out how to still do his work while also maintaining a favorable relationship with these governmental entities. Janssen says that in his experience this is a particularly American problem as he did not have face this challenge in his work in the Netherlands.
Interestingly, Janssen has noticed that the pornography that they often use as stimuli in research studies has had increasingly weaker affects on the sexual arousal of research subjects over the past 15-2-0 years. He says researchers do not yet understand why this is the case. It may be that the context surrounding the sexual experience is becoming more arousing to research subjects (often undergraduates).
Graduate student Lelia Samson also discussed her research at the Kinsey Institiute and informed the group that there are funding opportunites for graduate students who are interested in doing interdiciplinary research on sex at IU.
Last Friday we graduate students in IU’s Department of Telecommunications were spoiled as famous media scholars Henry Jenkins and Mimi Ito treated us to one of the most amazing brownbag discussions I’ve witnessed. Though they had events planned across campus all day, including individual talks in the afternoon, they sat together in the morning in front of a packed room full of undergraduates, graduate students, faculty and even some staff members and discussed the series of events leading them to accomplish the professional successes both of them have had. Both Mimi and Henry are self-described outsiders in various institutions they’ve worked in in the past and enjoy the freedom that they have now to do work without worrying much about pressures that institutional or diciplinary forces can often apply. They cautioned us though, suggesting that the path they took is not necessarily for everyone. Ito, especially, offered great advice stating that when you go outside of the safety of the usual academic professional trajectory, you must be very careful to maintain professional relationships. They are what sustains you, she says. She pointed to the importance of building a solid, widespread and diverse professional social network. Ito also advised us to be helpful and participate in conversations where you have something to add. Being nice to people is important, according to Jenkins, especially when you’re making public comments.
In short, hearing about their careers and philosophies about managing life and work pressures was reinvigorating. They are both surprisingly down to earth, helpful and it was easy to see from them that they are just being themselves, doing what they love to do and doing it very, very well.