Research Picks Extra – August 2017

Birth rights

In many places, people conceived with artificial reproductive technology have a right to know their origins in terms of genetic and biological parents. In instances where someone other than a person who will take care of the child has been involved either as a surrogate mother for the gestation or in providing genetic material, then there are issues not only of biology, genetics but biography to consider too. Ludovica Poli of the Department of Law, at the University of Turin, Italy, explores the legal foundations of the right to genetic and biographic origins under international law and envisages possible principles to be applied in balancing it with other competing interests.

Poli, L. (2017) ‘Artificial reproductive technologies and the right to the truth about genetic and biographic origins’, Int. J. Technology Policy and Law, Vol. 3, No. 1, pp.56–67.

Aircraft emissions

Air pollution in and around airports is a critical issue. But, determining the effects on the local environment and the people live and work there is a complex problem in which meteorology plays a confounding role in any attempt to model the situation with a view to reducing detrimental effects on the environment. Oleksandr Zaporozhets and Kateryna Synylo of the Institute of Environmental Safety, at the National Aviation University, in Kyiv, Ukraine, have reviewed the way in which aircraft emissions and pollutions are analysed and suggest that the most apposite models take into account fuel flow rates, operational periods of engines, the age of the engines and their maintenance as well as ambient temperatures.

Zaporozhets, O. and Synylo, K. (2017) ‘Operational conditions influence on aircraft engine emission and pollution inside the airport’, Int. J. Sustainable Aviation, Vol. 3, No. 1, pp.1–17.

Tourist crime

Rob Mawby of the Rural Security Research Group, at Harper Adams University, in Newport, UK, suggests that it has long been recognised that tourism generates crime. There is considerable evidence, he says, that many tourist resorts suffer higher than average crime rates and that tourists are disproportionately victimised. Moreover, some touristsare themselves the criminals, especially when it comes to public disorder problems. Tourism is thus a double-edged sword for any town or city: it brings money and other benefits but it boosts crime. However, research data is not available to give policymakers are clear perspective of the pros and cons and he offers a way to remedy this problem. “Only by collecting data in a more rigorous and systematic way can appropriate policies be developed and successfully applied, with the aim of reducing crime and disorder in tourist destinations and crime against tourists. This, in turn, will benefit visitors, local residents and the tourist industry,” he concludes.

Mawby, R.I. (2017) ‘Crime and tourism: what the available statistics do or do not tell us’, Int. J. Tourism Policy, Vol. 7, No. 2, pp.81–92.

Childhood sound perception

A novel musical toy described by scientists in Italy could be used to study sound perception and auditory preferences in young children. The mechanical-electronic device generates sounds depending on how a child plays with the toy and at the same time measures and assesses through sensors and software, exactly how they are responding to those sounds. The device might help musicologists investigate childhood perception of music, but equally could be used in language development studies.

Taffoni, F., Di Perna, L., Formica, D., Focaroli, V., Keller, F. and Di Stefano, N. (2017) ‘A sensor-based approach to study sound perception in children’, Int. J. Computer Applications in Technology, Vol. 55, No. 3, pp.173–182.

Copyleft, right, left, right…

Copyright is contentious…to say the least. It is at the centre of much debate in academia, in society, and certainly between corporate entities and consumers. Companies’ share price and profits often hinge on the protection of their intellectual property and copyrighted materials whether movies, TV shows, music, photographs, articles and much more. In the age of the Internet, of course, there are few barriers to individuals and organizations breaking copyright law, and in some countries copyright laws are permissive.

From fair use to creative commons to copyright theft and digital downloads, opinions diverge widely. Some see the notion that “sharing is caring” as vital to creativity and even democracy and copyright as nothing but an evil whereas others see all breaches of copyright law as morally, legally and commercially wrong.

Writing in the International Journal of Technology Policy and Law, Julian Hauser of the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences at the University of Edinburgh, UK, puts forward a moral argument for limiting copyright protection. He argues that today’s expansive copyright laws not only hurt consumers and stifle creativity, but do little to protect content creators and authors.

Hauser puts forward a pared-down version of copyright that he defends as consisting of the right to attribution, the right to have one’s non-endorsement of modifications or uses of one’s work explicitly noted, and the right to a fair share of the profit resulting from the commercial uses of one’s work.

“The significance of copyright can hardly be understated as it shapes one of the defining aspects of our humanity: our culture,” Hauser asserts. “Given these stakes, I have no doubt that copyright will remain a domain of heated debates for many years to come. We need more than that however – we need honest efforts at mutual understanding and constructive criticism.”

Copyright has its roots in laws written three hundred years ago. Maybe it is time for a reboot.

Hauser, J. (2017) ‘Sharing is caring vs. stealing is wrong: a moral argument for limiting copyright protection‘, Int. J. Technology Policy and Law, Vol. 3, No. 1, pp.68-85.

Second-hand opinions

Tracking the Twitter updates of a random sample of 300,000 active users over the course of a month reveals that this particular corner of social media and social networking is not quite as equitable and democratic as popular perception might have us believe. Indeed, the research published in the International Journal of Internet Marketing and Advertising reveals that there is a two-step flow of information through which a minority of users accounts for the majority of influence. Opinion leaders follow other opinion leaders and effectively form a community of influencers within the wider user base and the information they disseminate then follows a power-law distribution as everyday users share, retweet and reuse that information.

Harsha Gangadharbatla of the Department of Advertising, Public Relations and Media Design, College of Media, Communication and Information, at the University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, and Masoud Valafar a software engineer at Twitter, in San Francisco, California, USA, explain that there are numerous theories about how information is disseminated and how “word-of-mouth” works to influence popular opinion and consumer decision making. There have also been many studies into how the media and social media influencing individuals and groups.

One such theory is known as two-step flow theory. This says that most people form an opinion about a given subject when they are exposed to the views of opinion leaders. Those opinion leaders themselves are influenced by the mass media. This is in contrast to the one-step flow theory, colloquially known as the hypodermic needle, or magic bullet theory, in which people are directly influenced by mass media. Obviously, people are constantly exposed to the mass media at the individual level whether that is television, radio, newspapers or the web. But, the researchers suggest that opinions are actually more likely to be formed second hand in a two-step process. This is especially true of opinions shared on social media but might also apply to the influencers in traditional media – TV pundits, newspaper and magazine columnists, and the like.

It has been claimed that with the wave of new media in the form of Youtube, Twitter, Instagram, and other so-called Web 2.0 sites democratization of information and influence occurred. Gangadharbatla and Valafar suggest that this may not be the case, at least in the Twitter context. Social media is changing radically the way users and consumers receive information, news, opinion, but as with the old vanguard, there still exists the big influencers. These people or organizations, which might include information hubs and news outlets, pressure groups, and even celebrities, act as the primary source of information and opinion.

“Our study suggests that the way information propagates on social media is not all that different from that of traditional media. In other words, even on supposedly democratic and gatekeeper-less environments like Twitter and Instagram, information propagates mostly through opinion leaders, and, more so, these opinion leaders are all connected to other opinion leaders on the medium resulting in a virtual community of opinion leaders that yield a strong influence on how and how fast information spreads on social media,” the team reports. In the business context, the team adds that their, “results suggest that targeting this virtual community of opinion leaders will be a more effective use of advertising dollars than reaching the masses on Twitter.”

Gangadharbatla, H. and Valafar, M. (2017) ‘Propagation of user-generated content online’, Int. J. Internet Marketing and Advertising, Vol. 11, No. 3, pp.218–232.