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Measuring Price Discrimination and Steering on E-commerce Web Sites

October 28, 2014 Comments off

Measuring Price Discrimination and Steering on E-commerce Web Sites (PDF)
Source: Northeastern University

Today, many e-commerce websites personalize their content, including Netflix (movie recommendations), Amazon (product suggestions), and Yelp (business reviews). In many cases, personalization provides advantages for users: for example, when a user searches for an ambiguous query such as “router,” Amazon may be able to suggest the woodworking tool instead of the networking device. However, personalization on e-commerce sites may also be used to the user’s disadvantage by manipulating the products shown (price steering) or by customizing the prices of products (price discrimination). Unfortunately, today, we lack the tools and techniques necessary to be able to detect such behavior.

In this paper, we make three contributions towards addressing this problem. First, we develop a methodology for accurately measuring when price steering and discrimination occur and implement it for a variety of e-commerce web sites. While it may seem conceptually simple to detect differences between users’ results, accurately attributing these dfferences to price discrimination and steering requires correctly addressing a number of sources of noise. Second, we use the accounts and cookies of over 300 real-world users to detect price steering and discrimination on 16 popular e-commerce sites. We find evidence for some form of personalization on nine of these e-commerce sites. Third, we investigate the effect of user behaviors on personalization. We create fake accounts to simulate different user features including web browser/OS choice, owning an account, and history of purchased or viewed products. Overall, we find numerous instances of price steering and discrimination on a variety of top e-commerce sites.

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The Chapman Survey on American Fears

October 24, 2014 Comments off

The Chapman Survey on American Fears
Source: Chapman University

Chapman University has initiated a nationwide poll on what strikes fear in Americans. The Chapman Survey on American Fears included 1,500 participants from across the nation and all walks of life. The research team leading this effort pared the information down into four basic categories: personal fears, crime, natural disasters and fear factors. According to the Chapman poll, the number one fear in America today is walking alone at night.

A multi-disciplinary team of Chapman faculty and students wanted to capture this information on a year-over-year basis to draw comparisons regarding what items are increasing in fear as well as decreasing. The fears are presented according to fears vs. concerns because that was the necessary phrasing to capture the information correctly.

Measuring Managerial Skill in the Mutual Fund Industry

October 23, 2014 Comments off

Measuring Managerial Skill in the Mutual Fund Industry
Source: Stanford Graduate School of Business

Using the dollar-value a mutual fund manager adds as the measure of skill, we find that not only does skill exist (the average mutual fund manager adds about $2 million per year), but this skill is persistent, as far out as 10 years. We further document that investors recognize this skill and reward it by investing more capital with skilled managers. Higher skilled managers are paid more and there is a strong positive correlation between current managerial compensation and future performance.

When the Internet Sleeps: Correlating Diurnal Networks With External Factors (extended)

October 23, 2014 Comments off

When the Internet Sleeps: Correlating Diurnal Networks With External Factors (extended) (PDF)
Source: University of Southern California, Information Science Institute

As the Internet matures, policy questions loom larger in its operation. When should an ISP, city, or government invest in infrastructure? How do their policies affect use? In this work, we develop a new approach to evaluate how policies, economic conditions and technology correlates with Internet use around the world. First, we develop an adaptive and accurate approach to estimate block availability, the fraction of active IP addresses in each /24 block over short timescales (every 11 minutes). Our estimator provides a new lens to interpret data taken from existing long-term outage measurements, thus requiring no additional traffic. (If new collection was required, it would be lightweight, since on average, out- age detection requires less than 20 probes per hour per /24 block; less than 1% of background radiation.) Second, we show that spectral analysis of this measure can identify diurnal usage: blocks where addresses are regularly used during part of the day and idle in other times. Finally, we analyze data for the entire responsive Internet (3.7M /24 blocks) over 35 days. These global observations show when and where the Internet sleeps|networks are mostly always-on in the US and Western Europe, and diurnal in much of Asia, South America, and Eastern Europe. ANOVA (Analysis of Variance) testing shows that diurnal networks correlate negatively with country GDP and electrical consumption, quantifying that national policies and economics relate to networks.

Do Experts or Collective Intelligence Write with More Bias? Evidence from Encyclopædia Britannica and Wikipedia

October 22, 2014 Comments off

Do Experts or Collective Intelligence Write with More Bias? Evidence from Encyclopædia Britannica and Wikipedia (PDF)
Source: Harvard Business School Working Papers

Which source of information contains greater bias and slant-text written by an expert or that constructed via collective intelligence? Do the costs of acquiring, storing, displaying, and revising information shape those differences? We evaluate these questions empirically by examining slanted and biased phrases in content on U.S. political issues from two sources-Encyclopedia Britannica and Wikipedia. Our overall slant measure is less (more) than zero when an article leans towards Democrat (Republican) viewpoints, while bias is the absolute value of the slant. Using a matched sample of pairs of articles from Britannica and Wikipedia, we show that, overall, Wikipedia articles are more slanted towards Democrat than Britannica articles, as well as more biased. Slanted Wikipedia articles tend to become less biased than Britannica articles on the same topic as they become substantially revised, and the bias on a per word basis hardly differs between the sources. These results have implications for the segregation of readers in online sources and the allocation of editorial resources in online sources using collective intelligence.

Quantifying the Lasting Harm to the U.S. Economy from the Financial Crisis

October 22, 2014 Comments off

Quantifying the Lasting Harm to the U.S. Economy from the Financial Crisis (PDF)
Source: Stanford University and NBER

The financial crisis and ensuing Great Recession left the U.S. economy in an injured state. In 2013, output was 13 percent below its trend path from 1990 through 2007. Part of this shortfall — 3.0 percentage points of real GDP — was the result of lingering slackness in the labor market in the form of abnormal unemployment and substandard weekly hours of work. The single biggest contributor was a shortfall in business capital, which accounted for 3.9 percentage points. The second largest was a shortfall of 3.5 percentage points in total factor productivity. The fourth was a shortfall of 2.4 percentage points in labor-force participation. I discuss these four sources of the injury in detail, focusing on identifying state variables that may or may not return to earlier growth paths. The conclusion is optimistic about the capital stock and slackness in the labor market and pessimistic about reversing the declines in total factor productivity and the part of the participation shortfall not associated with the weak labor market.

Veteranness : Representations of Combat-related PTSD in U.S. Popular Visual Media

October 20, 2014 Comments off

Veteranness : Representations of Combat-related PTSD in U.S. Popular Visual Media (PDF)
Source: Michigan Technological University (Keranen)

Posttraumatic stress and PTSD are becoming familiar terms to refer to what we often call the invisible wounds of war, yet these are recent additions to a popular discourse in which images of and ideas about combat-affected veterans have long circulated. A legacy of ideas about combat veterans and war trauma thus intersects with more recent clinical information about PTSD to become part of a discourse of visual media that has defined and continues to redefine veteran for popular audiences.

In this dissertation I examine realist combat veteran representations in selected films and other visual media from three periods: during and after World Wars I and II (James Allen from I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang, Fred Derry and Al Stephenson from The Best Years of Our Lives); after the Vietnam War (Michael from The Deer Hunter, Eriksson from Casualties of War), and post 9/11 (Will James from The Hurt Locker, a collection of veterans from Wartorn: 1861-2010.) Employing a theoretical framework informed by visual media studies, Barthes’ concept of myth, and Foucault’s concept ofdiscursive unity, I analyze how these veteran representations are endowed with PTSD symptom-like behaviors and responses that seem reasonable and natural within the narrative arc. I contend that veteran myths appear through each veteran representation as the narrative develops and resolves. I argue that these veteran myths are many and varied but that they crystallize in a dominant veteran discourse, a discursive unity that I term veteranness. I further argue that veteranness entangles discrete categories such as veteran, combat veteran, and PTSD with veteran myths, often tying dominant discourse about combat-related PTSD to outdated or outmoded notions that significantly affect our attitudes about and treatment of veterans.

A basic premise of my research is that unless and until we learn about the lasting effects of the trauma inherent to combat, we hinder our ability to fulfill our responsibilities to war veterans. A society that limits its understanding of posttraumatic stress, PTSD and post-war experiences of actual veterans affected by war trauma to veteranness or veteran myths risks normalizing or naturalizing an unexamined set of sociocultural expectations of all veterans, rendering them voice-less, invisible, and, ultimately disposable.

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