Research Picks – January 2017

Helpful smart phones

Smart phones are ubiquitous, but are they actually useful? An international team from Canada, Korea and the USA has set out to answer that question in terms of the computational functionality of modern internet-enabled smart phones in particular with a managerial and organisational perspective in terms of informational, social networking and resource management functions. This study suggests that smart phones are not used for simple communication, as one would expect, but rather are mobile computing device that provide various types of work-related computing tools. “We found that informational functions influence all three dimensions of organisational roles, while social networking and resource management functions influence interpersonal role performance only,” the team reports.

Lee, K.Y., Lee, M. and Kim, K. (2017) ‘Are Smartphones helpful? An empirical investigation of the role of Smartphones in users’ role performance’, Int. J. Mobile Communications, Vol. 15, No. 2, pp.119-143.

The rise of the Twitter botnet

Researchers in Italy and the USA have demonstrated how so-called cyber criminals might exploit the social media/networking site, Twitter, also known as a microblogging platform, to create a network of zombie accounts, a botnet, that could be controlled and commanded to carry out specific malicious tasks. The team has demonstrated proof of principle as to how such a botnet might reach epidemic proportions of activity allowing the controller with malicious intent to carry out spam attacks and distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks on computer systems. The simulation of their botnet, known as SocioBot, using the Docker system could allow security personnel to improve the protection of Twitter and other potentially vulnerable systems against the emergence of such botnets.

Makkar, I.K., Di Troia, F., Visaggio, C.A., Austin, T.H. and Stamp, M. (2017) ‘SocioBot: a Twitter-based botnet’, Int. J. Security and Networks, Vol. 12, No. 1, pp.1-12.

Social learning

Students and “learners” in general can benefit greatly from interaction with other users of electronic education, or e-learning, systems. Researchers in Algeria have now developed an experimental method for analysing the meaning of interactions on an e-learning social network. The analysis shows who the leaders are and who those learners that hold a strategic position are. The analysis could be used in an e-learning environment to bring collaborators and peer mentors together as appropriate to enhance the overall learning experience for everyone. Moreover, the analysis shows how dynamic an e-learning social network can be rather than assuming connections and interactions are fixed and this insight will assist educators in improving such systems.

Hamadache, B. and Seridi-Bouchelaghem, H. (2016) ‘How to analyse a semantic social network of learners in a social learning environment?‘, Int. J. Web Based Communities, Vol. 12, No. 4, pp.393-418.

Sounding out music education

The well-known music platform SoundCloud could be a useful tool in music education, according to researchers in Canada. SoundCloud allows users to upload their own music or other sound files and to listen to those shared by other users. It is available as a web-based site as well as a smart phone application, or app. The team’s pilot study shows how the functionality of the mobile app is appropriate for use in high school music education. “The important question about the role of mobile learning in music education is not whether it should have a role, but how,” the team asserts. “SoundCloud is only one example of a mobile technology which may be used in the context of music education,” they point out. “Encouraging mobile musicianship within formal music classes provides a synergy between the students’ love for music which they actively engage in outside the classroom, and creative musical behaviour which represents authentic musicianship in the 21st century,” they conclude.

Birch, H.J.S. (2017) ‘Potential of SoundCloud for mobile learning in music education: a pilot study‘, Int. J. Mobile Learning and Organisation, Vol. 11, No. 1, pp.30-40.

Author: David Bradley

Award-winning, freelance science writer based in Cambridge, England.