Smart phone attachment

Are you emotionally attached to your smart phone? That was the question scientists in the UK and Iceland hoped to answer.

Gísli Thorsteinsson of the University of Iceland in Reykjavik and Tom Page of Loughborough University explain how the emergence of devices such as the Apple iPhone in January 2007 gave users a computer in their pocket. The gadget not only allowed them to make phone calls and send text messages as previous phones had, but also gave users immediate access to social media and social network systems, such as Facebook and Twitter, allowed them to access their email quickly and seamlessly, provided access to the web, video clips, music files and a whole eco system of phone-based software, apps, all via a slick touch screen interface. Today, there are myriad brands and smart phone models all competing for market share.

As such, understanding how users become reliant on their smart phone for particular tasks, how they invest time and money in these gadgets and perhaps even how their relationship with these all-in-one pocket computer-communicators is important to the manufacturers hoping to beat rivals to sell more of their brand. Today, it is considered the norm for people to repeatedly and distractedly to check their phones, not for missed calls, but for the countless notifications that social sites, apps and other software spit out at them via that touch screen.

In some circles, teenagers, journalists, business users and other professionals, it is even considered something of a social faux pas, a sign of being inept not to have a constant connection with the outside world via one’s smart phone regardless of the circumstances one finds oneself at any given time.

There has been much discussion in the popular media of the pros and cons of the smart phone, irrespective of whether a person uses an iPhone, an HTC model, a Samsung, a Blackberry, a Windows phone or any other of the countless devices on the market, and whether we as a society are becoming over-reliant, dependent even, on these always-on devices. Thorsteinsson and Page wanted to know whether this attachment to one’s smart phone has a serious emotional element.

Through a questionnaire given to 205 smart phone users in the age range 16 to 64 years from the UK, Hong Kong, China, Canada, Australia, Peru and the USA and through a case study the team has drawn a preliminary conclusion. They found that people do indeed grow emotionally attached to their smart phone, or at least, the connectivity and the technology that the device facilitates (Obviously, a lost or stolen phone can be replaced with the same model and a data backup restored to the replacement; the same cannot be said of a lost pet dog, for instance).

It is the ease with which smart phone can be used, the need to keep them close, the ability to pour out one’s life into the apps and networks to which it connects and the customisation and personalisation options of a smart phone that bring emotional baggage to ownership, the team suggests.

“Smart phones are creating a huge ripple in the pond of human behaviour and it is important that, as smart phones develop, we continue to study the way they affect behaviour, emotions and emotional attachments,” the team concludes.

Thorsteinsson, G. And Page, T. (2014) ‘User attachment to smartphones and design guidelines’, Int. J. Mobile Learning and Organisation, Vol. 8, Nos. 3/4, pp.201–215.

How to write a research paper

For everyone, death and taxes are inevitable, for researchers there’s a third item on the agenda: publishing. Almost every academic in every discipline must publish to survive, but not every academic enjoys writing or can write a decent paper…enough said. Now, Michael Derntl of RWTH Aachen University, Germany, has, ironically enough, surveyed the literature and compiled some good practice guidelines on paper writing and publishing.

Derntl explains that for most journals, the “hourglass” is the most accepted format for an academic paper: Title, Abstract, Introduction, Body, Discussion/Conclusion, References. There are several key points he outlines in title creation. The title should:

  • identify the main issue of the paper
  • begin with the subject of the paper
  • be accurate, unambiguous, specific and complete
  • not contain unfamiliar abbreviations
  • be attractive

Next, the abstract, of which there are two main types: the informative abstract, which essentially provides the “executive summary” of the whole paper and the indicative abstract, which is not technically an abstract but simply outlines the content structure of the paper. An abstract should answer the following questions from a prospective reader:

  • Motivation: Why do we care about the problem and the results?
  • Problem: What problem is being solved?
  • Solution: What was done to solve the problem?
  • Results: What is the answer to the problem?
  • Implications: What implications does the answer imply?

The next layer is the introduction, which should not simply restate the abstract as many do. It should lead the reader from a perhaps general position into an understanding of the context of the specialist area and particular topic with which the paper deals. Specifically, it should address three important concerns so that the paper can be read as a standalone document without the reader being required to head for the library or click out to the references:

  • Establish a territory: bring out the importance of the subject and/or make general statements about the subject and/or present an overview on current research on the subject
  • Establish a niche: oppose an existing assumption or reveal a research gap or formulate a research question or problem or continue a tradition
  • Occupy the niche: sketch the intent of the own work and/or outline important characteristics of the own work; outline important results; and give a brief outlook on the structure of the paper

The main body of a paper should define the work that was done and can be one of or a combination of four main types:

The empirical paper: describes the material and data used for the study, the methods used to answer the research questions, and the results obtained. It should be written so that others can attempt to reproduce the experiment

  • The case study: describes the application of existing methods, theory or tools and reflects on experience and relevance to others in the same or related fields
  • The methodology paper: describes a new method and so serves as a “how to” for the specified target readership
  • The theory paper: describes principles, concepts or models on which work in the field (empirical, experience, methodology) is based and provides the context against a backdrop of related frameworks and theories

Just two more sections and you’re done. First, the discussion, which should include:

  • A presentation of background information as well as recapitulation of the research aims of the study
  • A brief summary of the results
  • A comparison of results with previously published work
  • Conclusions or hypotheses drawn from the results, with summary of evidence for each conclusion
  • Proposed follow-up research questions and outlook on further work

And, finally, the references, which must adhere to the target journal’s housestyle regardless of one’s preferred housestyle. It should go without saying that the references should cite the prior art, any methodology relied on in the current paper, reviews and conflicting papers where pertinent.

As a footnote to the references reference, one must also take into account the need for footnotes and follow the journal’s housestyle as to whether these are to be avoided, interspersed in the body text or aggregated with the references. And, speaking of housestyle, the overall hourglass structure of a paper must be adjusted to conform with the target journal’s instructions to authors too and, again, the classic cliché of “know your audience” must be followed in the actual writing of the paper, avoiding ambiguity, sticking to grammatical and spelling conventions and aiming to be concise rather than verbose.

The open access source from Derntl can be found here: Derntl, M. (2014) ‘Basics of research paper writing and publishing’, Int. J. Technology Enhanced Learning, Vol. 6, No. 2, pp.105–123.

January Research Picks Extra

Libraries in the mix

What can librarians and other information scientists learning from music DJs? Dan Norton, Mel Woods and Shaleph O’Neill Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art, at the University of Dundee, UK think they have the answer. The team suggests that the computer interface and interaction skills used by a top DJ (disc jokecy) include curation of digital collections (music archives), categorisation of entries (individual tracks), selection and dissemination to an audience (mixing) and archiving of new material are closely related to their counterpart in more conventional information science. They believe that librarians and others in charge of digital collections might learn useful techniques from such DJs, for instance, allowing informative, educational and entertaining links and threads within an archive to be exposed and played out for the audience of readers and researchers.

Norton, D., Woods, M. and O’Neill, S. (2014) ‘Mixing the library – information interaction and the disc jockey’, Int. J. Arts and Technology, Vol. 7, No. 4, pp.391–396


Research in concert

In playing music non-verbal communication is a critical component allowing performers to respond to each other and in the case of an orchestra to take cues and guidance from the conductor. As an example of a social group that has adopted non-verbal communication at a high level, the orchestra is thus a perfect example of a hierarchical social system in which to test theories of this type of communication. A collaboration between Swiss and Italian researchers has focused on the conductor, and two parts of a standard concert orchestra the first and second violin sections and investigated head movements among the individuals. The team suggests that head movements can act as an indicator of just how attentive the instrumentalists are to the conductor depending on the particular piece or movement that is being played. With the basics in place, the team hopes that devices such as “Google Glass”, worn like spectacles by the performers, might allow them to glean even more information. Such research might build up a bigger picture of non-verbal communication in this orchestral environment that may then translate to other arenas, such as a stockmarket trading floor, the classroom or a political rally or demonstration, forinstance.

Gnecco, G., Glowinski, D., Camurri, A. and Sanguineti, M. (2014) `On the detection of  the level of attention in an orchestra through head movements´, Int. J. Arts and  Technology, Vol. 7, No. 4, pp.316-338.


What a drag

In a car, aerodynamic drag causes various problems, increased noise and discomfort for driver and passenger, instability and a greater risk of having an accident, and, of course, greater fuel consumption. But, what about having all the side windows open, does that make a big difference to fuel consumption. Researchers at the International Islamic University Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur have used a 3D simulation and a scale model vehicle in a wind tunnel to test a property of moving cars with all windows closed and all windows open. They have found that the simulation and the test data marry well for a car travelling at a typical speed of 60 kilometres per hour and show a big difference in aerodynamic drag. For the car with all of its windows closed, the drag coefficient is 0.1754. If all of the windows are open, the drag is more than 6% higher at 0.1865. If drag correlates directly with fuel efficiency, then one might expect efficiency to fall by more than 6% if all the windows are open. The effect is more marked at higher speeds. For modern air-conditioning systems the effect on fuel efficiency is very small once the interior of the car is at the desired temperature when driving at higher speeds. The choice is obvious if you want to drive further for less money…

Mohamed Ali, J.S., Kashif, S.M., Shaik Dawood, M.S.I. and Omar, A.A. (2014) ‘Study on the effect of window opening on the drag characteristics of a car’, Int. J. Vehicle Systems Modelling and Testing, Vol. 9, Nos. 3/4, pp.311–320


You’re having a laugh

Online advertising is ubiquitous, a source of profit for some and a source of annoyance for others. Now, researchers in the US have investigated the effects of humour in banner advertising on websites and how this alters consumer perception of brands and their tendency to buy the product being advertised even if they were not actively shopping at the time they saw the advertisement. Consumers form preliminary attitudes toward the banner and the advertised brand based on the favourability of peripheral cues when exposed to banner ads involuntarily, says Igor Makienko of the Department of Managerial Sciences at the University of Nevada Reno. “Humour represents a strong executional cue and is the perfect attention-grabbing tool with a low-involved audience, in general, humourous banner advertising is likely to be more effective in an online environment than non-humourous banner advertising,” his study suggests.

Makienko I., (2014) ‘Perception of humour banner advertising: a conceptual framework‘, Int. J. of Internet Marketing and Advertising, Vol. 8, No.3, pp.181-198