Year-End Wrapup


Much like my social life, this blog had a bombastic start that petered out. But hey, it’s the summertime now and I’m learning to come back out of my shell a bit.

This past April, I was able to attend the Broadcast Educators of America conference. As my first academic conference, I’m not sure how much valuable insight I can offer in that regard. But I can offer a little advice:

  • Be prepared to eat over-priced, terrible food. Seriously, like $8 for a soggy sandwich made with only the cheapest ingredients.
  • You won’t be able to get to everything you want to.

I felt that from a scheduling standpoint, BEA was very well organized. There was minimal – if any – overlap within divisions. Most overlaps occurred when my interests were represented in different divisions and those were scheduled simultaneously. Obviously, no one could predict that.

One experience that I found to be surprising and strange was in a business meeting for the audio division. Each year, the audio division holds a contest for students and faculty to show off their projects. The focus is on news reporting, story telling, and advertisements. It is my understanding that other types of content are not explicitly excluded. That being said, a few music submissions are made each year and each year they are rejected.

This year, a music recording submission was not immediately rejected and went through several stages of the contest before being removed. Of course, the person whose entry was removed was not gracious and complained to the division and to HQ. So it boiled down to this: the audio division was debating in this meeting whether or not to include music submissions in the contest. I couldn’t fathom this. Music radio programming dwarfs news programming – Country music stations alone beat out all of news/talk listening.

The choice wasn’t necessarily ideological. It was based out of an inability to judge the material and an unfamiliarity with the core concepts of music production. Let me be clear, I am grateful that the group recognized these issues instead of plowing forward with hubris and ego. However, it still struck me as odd. It would be like a television division having no idea about what a TV show even is, really. People don’t tune into radio for advertisements or even the news necessarily. The product, to the customer, is the content. It baffled me to sit in with a group of radio experts that had no idea how to judge the content of a non-news/talk radio station.

The good news is that the group is working on solving this problem. And again, I am grateful that they didn’t think they could just wing it.

I hope the take away from this is not that I dislike BEA. Quite the opposite. It was an opportunity for me to engage with a lot of different educators on a lot of different levels. BEA has research, production, and pedagogy. What more could you want? Oh, you want free passes to NAB? Well sure, you can have those too.


Anyway, aside from reflections on the conference, here’s an update on some of the research I’ve been working on:

  • Evolved vs Symbolic Persuasion: working within the Dynamic Human-Centered Communication Systems Theory framework to see if mediated messages that don’t rely on symbolic communication (written or spoken language) and only use real/natural sounds and visuals are more persuasive (in the form of an implicit attitude change) than those that do use symbolic communication. Results: Not much. I still feel like we are onto something, but I feel like we need different stimuli.
  • My Missing Bridge: working within the Limited Capacity Model of Motivated Mediated Message Processing framework to see if familiarity with a song impacts the orienting response to edited out sections. Meaning, all of the songs were edited to remove every and any section of a song that was not a chorus after the first chorus. Most of our edited songs had this structure: Intro – Verse 1 – Chorus 1 – Chorus 2 – Chorus 3 – Outro. Typically a pop song would have a structure like this: Intro – Verse 1 – Chorus 1 – Verse 2 – Chorus 2 – Bridge – Chorus 3 – Outro. We thought that people that were more familiar with the song would respond more strongly to the edited version because it defied their expectations. Results: Not much. I feel like we struggled against the language of music in this one. Regardless of familiarity, people have implicit attitudes about western pop music and its song structure. Even if a person is not familiar with the song itself, they’re familiar with how similar songs should be shaped. When this song defies that expectation, people orient to it. That’s my thought anyway.
  • Fletcher-Munson Revisited: put on hold for the time being. Hopefully it will be resurrected this coming semester.
  • Up The Hill Backwards: to be confused with the track off of Scary Monsters. This is the working name for the generative music systems in video games study previously mentioned. This will very likely be my thesis. The literature review is done and the study is designed. Now I just need to polish up the proposal paper. I’m excited about this one because if there are significant findings, it should demonstrate the value of generative music systems in interactive media. Could you imagine playing a video game where each moment feels like the soundtrack to a movie? Perfectly timed with every movement and action on screen? That’s where I’d like to go, personally.
  • Spotify: in limbo. My fault, really. Going to be looking for evidence of inverted payola in Spotify. As my committee chair put it: “Well, of course there IS payola, but the question is where?” Hopefully it’ll be the first place I look. That’d just be convenient.
  • Party Music: a bit hush-hush for now. It’s a collaboration between Cognitive Science, Psychology, and Telecommunication people. What I can say is this: it’s partially about party music.
  • Change Deafness: Ever see one of those comedy sketches where an actor approaches a person to ask for help with a map, then the actor is briefly blocked from the person’s vision only to be replaced by an obviously different (to the audience) actor but the person doesn’t notice? That’s called change blindness. So logically, if change blindness is a thing, then is change deafness? Participants listened to a series of messages where the voice actors change during the message. How big of a change needs to occur before it’s reliably noticeable to the participant? Results: Participants notice some changes but not others. We’re working on quantifying the differences in the voices to better understand why some were noticed and others weren’t.

Other than all that, I’m teaching a course of my own design: Location Audio. It’s all about capturing good audio in the field and how to fix it when it goes wrong. Oh, and my fiancee and I are tying the knot in 2 and half weeks.

I’ll sleep when I’m dead.