Emerging Media Initiative @ Ball State University
Emerging Media Initiative @ Ball State University

February 2010

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Ball State chosen as finalist in titanium bridge design competition

Judges have selected a student proposal from Ball State’s Institute for Digital Fabrication (IDF) as one of five finalists in the Student Pedestrian Bridge Design Competition (http://www.defensemetals.org/dmtc/app/bridge_competition), sponsored by the Defense Metals Technology Center (DMTC) and the University of Akron in Ohio. The Ball State student team, led by faculty advisor Kevin Klinger, includes four architecture students: David Kane (undergraduate), Xavier Colon (graduate), Paul Lindsay (undergraduate), and Adam Wilson Buente (IDF Graduate Student Fellow).

Teams were challenged to design a titanium bridge linking two sides of the University of Akron campus across busy train tracks. In addition to solving a logistical dilemma for the university, the competition aims to demonstrate that titanium is a realistic, cost-effective alternative to steel in significant commercial applications. Specifically, the DMTC intends the bridge to show the versatility of titanium and make the mental more affordable for life-saving military armament.

“The submissions are extraordinarily creative,” [said] Charles Clark, executive director of the North Canton-based DMTC [and a competition judge]. “They demonstrate the depth of expertise of the outstanding design, architecture, and engineering schools in our region.”

The finalists, which include teams from Kent State University, Miami University, and the University of Akron, will present their entries to judges on April 14 and final awards will be announced on May 20. The DMTC will provide scholarship money to students on the five teams, and it will convey grants to their institutions for the study of specialty metals in commercial applications. Government and private funding will be sought for the bridge construction after the competition.

Teaching in Public, Google Reader, and Self-Directed Learning

Blog post by Brian McNely, assistant professor of English and Emerging Media Faculty Fellow for :: repurposed :: ; edited for EMI Update


This is Bolutife (Bolu) Olorunda.

Bolu was a major contributor to my senior seminar for majors in English—Rhetorics, Places, and Publics (ENG 444)—at Ball State University last semester. He’s also an integral contributor to :: repurposed ::.

But Bolu is a Construction Management major. And he wasn’t registered for my course at all.

Bolu’s involvement in ENG 444 is absolutely fascinating to me. I’m going to spend some time explaining why that is, and how opening our classrooms to broader publics through emerging media platforms can provide tremendous opportunities for self-directed, lifelong learning.


[The classroom location for the course was a computer lab in the Applied Technology building, staffed full-time by a student employee.]

Every Thursday evening, when we met from 5 to 6:15, the student employee was Bolu.

A junior looking to graduate in 2011, Bolu is in many respects similar to thousands of other BSU students—he’s bright, conscientious, responsible, and intellectually curious. Bolu’s family is originally from Ibadan, Nigeria. His mother chose to pursue graduate studies at BSU (where she earned both an MA and PhD), and he moved to Muncie with his family when he was 14.

His father is an architect, and Bolu originally pursued architecture as his major. Though he is now studying Construction Management, he retains an interest in both architecture and engineering.

Not surprisingly, the serendipity of Bolu’s placement in an on-campus job in Applied Technology 208 each week, his interests in architecture and engineering, and the nature and tenor of our ongoing course on Rhetorics, Places, and Publics proved an important combination for his eventual involvement in 444.


For several class periods, our group of English majors thought and talked through the politics and rhetorics of Muncie’s “Village,” a shopping area just a couple of blocks away from campus. During a particularly lively full-group discussion one Thursday evening, while the others deliberated amongst themselves, I sat near the front of AT 208, across the desk from where Bolu patiently waited for the classroom to become a computer lab again. But this evening, about 5 or 6 weeks into the semester, Bolu asked, “is this an English class?”

“Yes,” I said. “The students are working on cognitive maps of The Village, thinking through one of our readings.”

“This isn’t like any English class I’ve ever seen,” Bolu said. “Well, the things you’re talking about, the way you teach the course, the way they’re discussing things. It’s different.”

After class, I spent some more time talking to Bolu about the course. He was genuinely interested in the subject matter—in rhetoric—and in learning more about the work we were doing.

The next day, I added him to the Blackboard site for our course, so that he could access supplemental readings. He started reading, on his own. He listened during class and took notes.

I asked Bolu to sign up for Google Reader, and had him subscribe to the Bundle that we used in conjunction with the course.

One Thursday evening after class, he told me that ENG 444 was the highlight of his day.


At the end of finals week, Bolu came by my office so that I could ask him a little more about his involvement in the course. It was frankly thrilling for me to meet someone so interested in what we were doing, so invested in a course he wasn’t even registered for, so intellectually curious.

He told me again that he didn’t think it was an English class…he felt like the 444 students were more than students. That they were doing things beyond simply writing papers. And they were interacting in class, in Reader, and on :: repurposed ::.

Bolu told me that he felt like a part of the class on those Thursday nights. He knew the others by name. He paid attention and took notes. He read many of the same things as those enrolled, and he followed along especially in our sharing of links and ideas on Google Reader.

Bolu is truly a self-directed learner. He’s planning on graduate school after graduation, and eventually hopes to own his own business.

He doesn’t want to work 9 to 5.

Knowing what I know about Bolu, I don’t think that’s going to be a problem.

Architecture and CCIM students collaborate in high tech set design

By Jess DeVries and Brad Wanek

In one of Ball State’s television studios, six different student groups produce and film specialty shows, with sets designed and constructed in the woodshop. However, newly acquired green-screen technology at Ball State now allows for the design of virtual digital sets, merging imagination and technology.

The virtual sets project is a collaborative effort between Ball State architecture and telecommunications students. A team of architecture students worked with architecture faculty, telecommunication faculty and students, and Teleplex technical experts to design and produce new virtual sets for six different student shows. The telecommunications students took on the role of design clients, and each set was tailored to their needs and specifications for each show.

The team used Rhinoceros 3D digital modeling software, which allowed the students to build the spaces to the required dimensions and assign finish materials to create lifelike images of the spaces. The architecture students experienced more freedom of design and greater ability to collaborate with the telecommunication students using the 3D images. Once the 3D digital models were completed, they were exported to a format compatible with the Orad digital set system and ready for use.

A number of interesting digital features were built into the sets:

  • The “Cardinal Sports Live” set features a virtual video wall designed to scroll game highlights while the host is describing the action.
  • The set for “BSU Late Night” includes a set of abstract forms incorporating translucent glass screens that are used to create scattered shadows on the back walls and ceiling, while providing for an open space for interviews as well as musical bands to play.
  • “Connections Live” features glowing surfaces that provide a space for interviewers and guests to interact with a video screen and views of downtown Muncie.
  • Film discussions on the “Reel Deal” take place on a stage that mimics an actual film reel, with theater seating forming the foreground.
  • “News Watch” has a global feel, with a map transposed onto overlapping panels in the background.

This new set technology has engaged architecture students in a new dialogue that requires more understanding of virtual worlds and greater refinement of design thinking. No longer bound by space, budget or the laws of the physics, these and future student teams will be able to create new media environments limited only by their imagination.

Digital Corps highlights training opportunities

In support of its partnership with the IT giant Apple, Inc., the Digital Corps has produced an innovative short video highlighting the emerging-media training offered to students at Ball State. The video was developed as a case study for Apple to use in executive briefings related to training and education. The Digital Corps is the only Apple-certified training center in Indiana.

“It was a great chance for the [Digital Corps] students to combine many of their skills into a single product – video, audio, visual effects, storytelling – and hint at our iPhone development,” said Jonathan Huer, Director of Emerging Technologies and Media Development at Ball State.

The Digital Corps’ success is profiled on the Apple, Inc. training and certification website.

Fillwalk named president of the Hans Breder Foundation

In December 2009, John Fillwalk, director of Ball State’s Institute for Digital Intermedia Arts, was named president of the Hans Breder Foundation, whose mission is to establish an international center for the study and dissemination of intermedia art. Fillwalk now leads an international board of directors which includes:

  • John Hanhardt, Senior Curator for Media Arts at the Smithsonian American Art Museum;
  • Ursula Gather, Rector of the Technische Universität Dortmund, Germany; and
  • Reggie Amos, founder and CEO of the Amos Agency, a creative research and development company in San Jose, California.

Hans Breder Foundation

“These individuals are heavy hitters in the realm of new media art,” said Fillwalk. “Our leadership in the foundation is an important recognition of Ball State as a center of thought in this area. We look forward to exploring interesting opportunities for innovation and cross-cultural experiences for students and faculty.”

Hans Breder is widely recognized as the father of intermedia, establishing the Intermedia and Video Art program at the University of Iowa in 1968, the first of its kind to grant the MFA. His vision was an arena in which art, music, film, dance, theater and poetry could converge. The Hans Breder Foundation seeks to “create a physical and intellectual environment where students, researchers, artists, critics and the public can come together around a range of experimental perspectives, practices and programming.”

IDEE documentary focuses on green efforts in Nappanee, Indiana

The Institute for Digital Entertainment and Education (IDEE) added two documentaries to their portfolio in 2009, giving Ball State students unique immersive learning opportunities and helping record important stories for two Indiana communities. This month we highlight From Gray to Green, the result of a partnership with Scott Truex, Assistant Professor of Urban Planning and his fellowship from the Virginia B. Ball Center for Creative Inquiry.

Truex’s immersive learning project, “Coffee, Community and Climate Change,” was intended to help a community find ways to be more sustainable. He and a multi-disciplinary team of students chose the Indiana town of Nappanee and approached IDEE for videotaping and other technical assistance to document the students’ findings. IDEE agreed to help and decided to also make its own documentary.

Truex’s students found that many Nappanee businesses were already reusing materials, composting for their gardens, recycling and setting up alternative energy sources, sometimes without awareness that they were practicing green building standards. Rather than introducing many new ideas to the community, Truex saw a different opportunity.

“The value we brought to Nappanee was that of ‘organizer’ and ‘seller’ for some very different interests in the community,” said Truex. “We were able to bring together groups of people that weren’t aware that others were also interested in practicing in these areas.”

Truex and his students worked with Nappanee’s Chamber of Commerce to plan the Nappanee Green Summit, which was held in July 2009 and attracted some big names in the green movement, including the founder and president of Global Green USA and the CEO of Electric Motors Corporation. President Jo Ann Gora spoke at the event that drew 200 local residents from Nappanee and Elkhart County.

The finished 30-minute video documentary, From Gray to Green, captures the town’s intention to go from a place of “gray industry” to one that uses green business practices. In addition to shooting and editing, IDEE also provided three-day boot camp courses to train Truex’s architecture students how to use cameras and other digital devices during their research.

Next month, we will highlight IDEE’s documentary, Changing Gears.

New Book on Undergraduate Research in English Studies

Press Release from the National Council of Teachers in English (http://www.ncte.org/)

Brian J. McNely, Assistant Professor of English [and Emerging Media Faculty Fellow] has authored an article in a new collection that focuses on undergraduate research in English. His chapter focuses on how the curriculum can be enhanced in Technical and Professional Communication and in the process engage students in significant inquiry.

Undergraduate Research in English Studies is a groundbreaking collection—the first to focus on student scholarship in English–that aims to mobilize the profession of English studies to further participate in undergraduate research, an educational movement and comprehensive curricular innovation that is “the pedagogy for the twenty-first century,” according to the Joint Statement of Principles composed by the Council on Undergraduate Research and the National Conferences on Undergraduate Research.

The volume is part of the Refiguring English Studies series available from the National Council on Teachers of English (NCTE).

EM Fellow Spotlight: Matthew Mullins, English

In addition to teaching scriptwriting, Matthew Mullins, assistant professor of English and Emerging Media New Faculty Fellow, enjoys working on script projects with an emerging media twist. In one such endeavor, Mullins is creating a Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) through which users will be able to play with combinations of poetry, visual images, musical and sonic elements. The goal is to allow users to engage with language using a variety of senses, eliciting new meanings through the multimedia experience.

Not only are his creative and research projects unconventional, but he is using unusual approaches to teach scriptwriting concepts in the classroom. Mulllins is developing an innovative scriptwriting class for fall semester 2010 that will involve two other EM Faculty Fellows – Brad King (Journalism) and Brian McNely (English). The course, called “The Remix Writing Project,” will utilize previously captured digital ethnographies to test a new scripting paradigm. The ethnographies, collected by cultural anthropologist Michael Wesch at Kansas State University, were part of an observation-based study of how contemporary media shapes human reality. Students in this new class will learn basic screenwriting techniques and will then use the ethnographies to shape fictional narratives in new contexts.

Likewise, Mullins is revamping Ball State’s Advanced Script Writing class (ENG 410). In a typical scriptwriting class, students rarely see their work produced on the stage or screen. As in previous years, Mullins is connecting his course with the Cinema Education Immersion (CEI) group, a collaboration between the English, Telecommunications, and Theatre and Dance departments that allows students to experience various aspects of movie-making, from casting and set design to pre- and post-production. What is different about the class being held this spring is the scriptwriting students’ level of involvment. The planned number of scripts going to CEI has grown to 15, and up to eight will be produced into 10-minute movies. For the first time, student screenwriter involvement will extend beyond the spring semester; they will contribute throughout the entire production, giving them a unique view of the process to bring their scripts to life.

Innovation Grant Spotlight: Development of a virtual convening portal for parenting

Family involvement is a key component to a child’s educational success, yet conventional public schooling approaches to parental involvement (e.g., parent conferences) have had little effect on the lack of educational attainment and generational cycles of poverty, particularly in urban settings, according to Sheron Fraser-Burgess, assistant professor of educational studies at Ball State.

In collaboration with Matt Stuve of the Center for Technology in Education and John Fillwalk of the Institute for Digital Intermedia Arts, Fraser-Burgess has set out to determine how online, emerging media could serve to empower parents to participate in the educational development of their children in schooling contexts. The team has designed an interactive web portal that provides parents and educational service providers with multiple types of online content – podcasts, text-based blog content and an innovative Second Life environment that allows visitors to interact with content and each other via anonymous virtual reality avatars.

“Currently, there are few clearinghouses with university backing that support Indiana parents with researched-based dialogue on child development, schooling, and advocacy of children and parents in public policy,” said Fraser-Burgess. “Not only does our web portal offer credible content, the variety of synchronous and asynchronous formats is designed to meet the needs and interests of a diverse group of parents and providers.”

Once the portal is complete, the team will reach out to the target audience via local agencies and existing relationships with parents and schools. Beyond the specific scope of this project, Fraser-Burgess, Stuve and Fillwalk hope that the interface serves as a new template for the University’s engagement in public dialogues around significant social issues such as parenting and education.

In The News

  • iPad reactions: Nothing could have met hype (msNBC)

    Jonathan Blake [Huer], director of emerging media technologies at Ball State University, which has a partnership with Apple, said he is disappointed the iPad does not have a camera, “but no contract” required from AT&T “is a huge plus to me.”
    Right now, he said, “When I look at the iPad, it’s just a big blank slate that inspires a bunch of ideas. That’s what I think the strength is more than anything. That’s why it’s going to be a while before people figure out exactly how best to use it.”

  • Apple’s iPad: The Future of Mobile Computing in Education? (Campus Technology)

    Besides teaching, Hanley directs the Institute for Mobile Media Research at Ball State, which is focused on the creation, testing, and practical application of mobile media for academia, consumers, business, and community. “The university is really focused on digital media and how to use that for research,” he said. “We can’t wait to get our hands on some of these iPads to start using them for research purposes, in education, as well as in commerce and mobile marketing.”
    What Hanley found most compelling in Apple’s announcement, he said, was the focus on publishing, for which, he said, this device could herald a new future. “We’re doing a lot looking at the future of journalism, of newspapers and magazines,” he explained. “It’s pretty dismal in the print version. Publishers have had a little bit of success on the Internet and a little bit of success with the iPhone and some other touchscreens. But all of a sudden, we see a big opportunity to use this device.

  • TV Braces for the Apple Tablet (Broadcasting & Cable)

    “Apple is trying to reduce the cost on iTunes,” said Dominic Caristi, associate professor of telecommunications at Ball State University. “If they can make Desperate Housewives available for 99 cents, that’s what people are used to paying for RedBox rentals. I do think a smaller unit price would see more sales.”

On Campus

  • February 19: Emerging Media Initiative Brownbag Series. Featuring SportsLink (Tim Pollard, Chris Taylor).

On The Road

  • Flying ForcesFebruary: “Flying Forces,” a museum exhibit built by Matt Erwin, Ball State Music Technology senior, was installed at the Academy of Model Aeronautics in Muncie, IN. This interactive exhibition was produced in partnership with IDIA and the BSU Department of Theatre and Dance.
  • February 3: John Fillwalk (IDIA) served as a juror for the 2010 Siggraph Art Gallery. This year, the focus was on artists who engaged haptic physicality in their work.
  • February 5: Panelist Mike Bloxham (Insight and Research) shared his views and best practices for developing effective social media marketing platforms for TechPoint’s New Economy New Rules videocast “Embracing Social Media: What, How, Why Not,” Part II.
  • February 19: Matthew Wilson (EM Faculty Fellow, Geography) presented “Coding Community” at the American Geographical Society Library at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
  • February 24 – 25: Dave Ferguson presented “The New Media Revolution: Ball State’s National Impact” to alumni groups in Tampa, Sarasota and Naples, FL.
  • February 25: John Fillwalk (IDIA), Phil Repp (IT) and Roy Weaver (Teachers College) met with the Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. to discuss interest in developing virtual exhibitions.
  • February 23-27: Rodger Smith (IDEE) and Mike Brown attended the Annual Criminal Justice Sciences meeting in San Diego. Smith and Brown presented the Juvenile Justice ViziSwap interface to criminal justice experts.

EM Up Next

  • March 1: Emerging Media Innovation Grant Concept Papers due
  • March 8-14: My Name Is Jerry will be screened as an official selection for the 2010 Omaha Film Festival
  • March 24: Invitations will be sent to submit full proposals for Emerging Media Innovation Grants
  • April 8: Emerging Media Faculty Symposium, Letterman Lobby
  • April 17: Emerging Media Advisory Board meeting
  • April 30: Emerging Media Innovation Grant awards to be announced