Everything around us seems to be getting smarter by the day—like smart refrigerators, driverless cars and robotic assistants. The “Internet of Things” (IoT), which is the internet-enabled network of everyday devices, has become prevalent in our lives, both inside and outside of the workplace. But with the rapid developments in recent technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), will these intelligent systems make human workforce redundant?
In other words: do we run the risk of being replaced by machines?
Paul Pavlou, Milton F. Stauffer Professor at the Fox School, argues that instead of replacing us, AI and humans will work side-by-side to address some of the bigger problems that neither can solve alone. Popularly referred to as “Augmented Intelligence,” this concept focuses on the assistive role of AI to improve human intelligence, rather than computers fully taking over our jobs.
Man vs. Machine
While computers have the ability to collect, aggregate and analyze an enormous amount of data, humans surpass machines when dealing with ambiguity, vagueness and incomplete information. Augmented Intelligence recognizes these complementary strengths and problem-solving capabilities of man and machine. “This collaborative interaction between human beings and computers arises when IoT collects the data and AI tools perform calculations based on criteria determined by humans,” says Pavlou, who is also the co-director of Temple’s university-wide Data Science Institute.
For example, GIANT Food Stores has introduced “Marty,” a robotic assistant, to the 172 stores in Philadelphia and the surrounding region. The robot roams the store, seeking to identify and eliminate spills from foods, products or liquids. Other examples can be found in the retail industry, where location-based technology devices and eye-tracking devices can help optimize the placement of merchandise. Meanwhile, salespeople equipped with mobile devices can leverage personalized information in real-time to sell products customized to individual shoppers.
A More Human IoT
In the future of work, managers can embrace both the fully-automated and Augmented Intelligence solutions. This choice depends on factors such as the nature of the task, expected performance and the costs and risks of autonomous IoT solutions that would operate without any human interventions. For example, automated manufacturing, predictive maintenance and security IoT solutions may—cautiously—be fully automated. But in industries like healthcare, cybersecurity and financial technology, human oversight will still be crucial.
For the time being, appropriate IoT designs should maintain a reasonable level of human control and oversight, says Pavlou. “This will give us adequate time to get comfortable with delegating control to machines.” In the distant future, machines alone might dominate decision-making in most applications. However, Pavlou says, “It will be a fairly long time until this happens. Until then, major intellectual advances will be made by humans and computers working together.”
NAO came to Temple University about three years ago, when Li Bai and Carole Tucker, researchers from the Colleges of Engineering and Public Health, and, joined Heidi Grunwald, director of Temple’s Institute for Survey Research, to study robotics and surveys.
The team wanted to explore a big idea: What if NAO, this cute, two-foot tall, human-ish robot, could be programmed to give health surveys to children on the autism spectrum? Could they create a system to collect patient-reported outcomes in this tough-to-survey population?
Potentially, this research could solve a number of difficult problems. Currently, its parents fill out surveys on behalf of their kids. Researchers would prefer patient-reported outcomes. It’s much more accurate than information filtered through a third party, such as a parent. “Kids with autism may be willing to say they are depressed, but not in front of their mother,” says Tucker. When a one-foot-tall robot with a cute robotic voice such as NAO is asking questions instead of a human clinician, researchers might get reliable patient-reported outcomes in a way they have not been able to in the past.
The team’s research would also include another stream of valuable information: para-data. The camera inside the robot would “watch” the subject as NAO asked the survey questions. Additionally, via the sensor the subject wears (a Microsoft wristband), researchers can monitor things like facial expression, heart rate, and body motion. This para-data is a rich vein of knowledge, particularly when combined with the survey questions, response time, and answers.
If the subject pauses an extra long time when a certain question is asked, the NAO can play a game (like rock, paper, scissors), take a break, or give a high five to reduce anxiety. This is one way that the robot uses para-data to adapt to a child’s answers. The para-data also helps the researchers better understand survey responses. “For example, we can tell if a particular question made a subject nervous and then down-weight the answer, or not count it,” explains Grunwald.
“The robot’s face is much less complex than a human face and human facial expressions,” says Tucker. That makes it much less overwhelming for a young person on the autism spectrum who may find it challenging to read people’s faces and maintain eye contact.
Their project received funding through the Office for the Vice President of Research’s Targeted Grant Program at Temple University, with matching funds from all three represented schools.
Planning the research has been an iterative process. On the computer science side, Bai and his engineering students have been exploring the feasibility of using NAO this way. Bai and the students have been answering questions like, “What features would be nice? How can we use sensors to pull in data and incorporate the Microsoft band?” They have iterated and refined the data architecture, a database where the data are meshed together so that the robot can read all of the survey response data–coupled with the para-data (sensor data).
Meanwhile, the questionnaire and para-data collection process have been tested on different groups, starting with older kids not on the autism spectrum. As trial subjects, children aged 10 and up can provide specific, meaningful feedback on interacting with NAO. More recently, a community event brought a group of children on the autism spectrum to campus, and the team had an opportunity to see NAO interact with the intended study subjects. Going forward, they have the kind of pilot data that can win the funding to drive this effort forward.
This work can benefit groups beyond younger people on the autism spectrum. Any time data reported directly from a patient may be skewed or inaccurate—such as dementia patients, for example—the survey methods used in this work could prove enormously helpful to clinicians.
“With future improvement in this type of research, I think we will see more robotic diagnostic platforms that will be developed. One of the functionalities will be surveys of the patients about their health conditions. It could be particularly important for people who can not find a good hospital in their neighborhood,” says Bai.
Practical applications of this work in the future aren’t limited to the realms of research and medicine by any means. “Artificial intelligence and robotics will be the next technology push to drive the economy of our country, There will be countless business world applications—such as personal robotic assistants (such as the iPhone’s Siri) or self-driving cars,” says Bai. He believes that the technology in this project will fuel innovations across all sectors of the economy in the years to come.
This story was originally published in On the Verge, the Fox School’s flagship research magazine. For more stories, visit www.fox.temple.edu/ontheverge.
Etsy—the online treasure chest for all things handmade—cultivates a community for those who have a knack for crafts like candle-making, knitwear, jewelry, or pottery. With over 1.7 million active vendors and close to 28.6 million active consumers, Etsy has established a peer-to-peer business platform that eliminates the middleman of corporate production. Yet this marketplace is more than just an e-commerce site; it is a community of like-minded individuals who appreciate handicrafts.
Within the site, buyers and sellers interact through a variety of IT-enabled features, like following and messaging shops, reviewing and favoriting products, and curating lists of products. Yet as sellers socialize by favoriting and promoting others’ products, are they redirecting potential customers away from their shops?
Professor Sunil Wattal and doctoral student Ermira Zifla of the Management Information Systems Department at the Fox School of Business investigate how social mingling affects e-commerce marketplaces in their paper, “Understanding IT-enabled Social Features in Online Peer-to-Peer Business for Cultural Goods.”
“What really fascinated us about this platform is that you have this community aspect, but you are also introducing this e-commerce agenda,” says Wattal.
“We thought that sellers may have mixed incentives to participate in the online community,” adds Zifla. “On the one hand, participating by following others and posting in forums may increase the visibility of sellers and subsequently increase their sales. On the other hand,” she continues, “following other sellers and sharing their products could negatively impact sales by diverting traffic away from their own page.”
While online communities have often been the subject of research, this is one of the first studies to link social indicators with economic performance. Using a dataset of nearly 2,000 sellers on Etsy, Wattal and Zifla examined their interactions in the online community and found how socializing with others can inherently affect a shop’s sales.
The researchers identified two categories of social e-features that promote new products and validate users:
1. Community participation features—such as following other sellers and joining teams—which facilitates socializing with other members, and
2. Content curation features—such as curating favorite lists, sharing products, and favoriting shops—which serve as tools for validation and tastemaking.
“When you are following other people on Etsy, those people are listed on your page as a form of validation, for what you like to buy as a consumer or what you can provide as a producer,” said Wattal.
The researchers hypothesized that community participation and content curation would increase a seller’s online status by increasing their number of followers, but would decrease a seller’s sales by diverting attention away from their own products.
Using a web crawler to collect public information, the pair obtained a dataset of 1,728 unique glass sculpture sellers—a randomly chosen subcategory of marketplace shops on Etsy—to compile a year’s worth of data, including sellers’ followers, lists, favorited products, and sales.
Analyzing the data proved the researchers’ hypotheses correct: a 10 percent increase in community participation, like following other sellers, and content curation, like favoriting products, resulted in a 3.89 percent decrease in sales. Yet this reduction was outweighed by the effects of cultivating a stronger social following. In other words, the same activities that led to a direct decrease in sales helped sellers attract more followers, and were associated with an indirect increase in sales by 4.64 percent—an overall net gain.
“IT-enabled features have benefits that supersede the negative,” says Wattal, “since exposure is what can ultimately lead you to be on an influential list or you can simply commercialize yourself to the point of high-status.”
Trends can come and go as quickly as a trendsetting blogger changes her mind. Yet in the realm of vintage trinkets and artisanal finds, relationships stay relevant.
This story was originally published in On the Verge, the Fox School’s flagship research magazine. For more, visit www.fox.temple.edu/ontheverge.
What was it like to be a woman earning a doctorate degree forty years ago? Dr. Gloria Thomas, PhD ’80, has firsthand experience.
Today, Dr. Thomas is an accomplished researcher, a dedicated professor, and an esteemed administrator at Baruch College.
But in 1980, she was a trendsetter for women at the Fox School of Business.
As the first woman to obtain a doctorate from the Fox School, Thomas received her PhD in marketing, a field that is now predominantly women, but was all men during her tenure at Temple. “Women were very uncommon in business PhDs, even marketing, when I was in school,” she recalled. “And I rarely saw women at conferences.”
Dr. Thomas is currently a professor of marketing and the Director of the Zicklin Undergraduate Honors Program at the Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College, City University of New York. Thomas praises her experience at Temple University for the appreciation she has developed towards public institutions.
“Temple has taught me to believe in public education,” Thomas professed. “I went to Baruch right from Temple and we have really smart students from all over the world with parents who don’t speak English or have any money.” After years of private schools, Thomas’ experience at the Fox School helped her appreciate the value of diversity in education. “Cultural exposure makes public institutions more valuable and it gives students opportunities they normally wouldn’t have,” she said.
With undergraduate degrees in math and art history, Thomas pursued a doctorate in marketing. Following graduation, she went straight to Baruch, where her roles included professor, associate dean, and director of the doctoral program. She currently serves as director of the business honors program.
“My current role is my most favorite,” Thomas said. “Many students at large public schools don’t get the attention they would at a private school, but I make sure to give that attention in my honors program.”
Thomas credits her mother, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s law school in the 1940s, for her then unconventional educational choices. “I grew up thinking everyone was equal. I never thought that [by going to business school] I was going into a man’s profession,” Thomas said.
That ‘man’s profession’ has changed. Today, 50-percent of PhD students are women at the Fox School, compared to 45-percent for all business-focused doctoral programs in the United States, according to the Council of Graduates Schools’ 2017 report.
Thomas did not let any obstacles get in her way of her goals. “It never occurred to me that women couldn’t do whatever they wanted to,” she recounted. “In reality, many women [at that time] didn’t even know they had options.”
“It never occurred to me that I didn’t.”
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Data-driven decision-making is now the norm in many workplaces. Executives collect and analyze information to inform hiring practices, promotions, and insurance premiums. However, Leora Eisenstadt, assistant professor of Legal Studies at the Fox School, warns that the kinds of data that employers can track should be safeguarded by law, to both protect employees’ privacy and limit employers’ liability.
For many, work and personal time have begun to blur together as smartphones and emails have invaded the home. As this line erodes between the home and office, employees are often left unaware that their employers can glean so much information from their personal lives. “Most of us have left enormous data trails,” says Eisenstadt, “that employers are now beginning to access in order to create the most efficient workplaces possible.”
With social media, FitBits, and online healthcare platforms, Eisenstadt says, employers are gathering data from more than just workplace activities. Healthcare service platforms, for example, can tell by looking at internet searches, prescriptions changes, or specialist appointments that employees are planning to start a family or have major surgery.
The platforms indicate that only top-level numbers are shared with employers, not individual names of employees. However, she argues, “that knowledge could lead to companies making decisions about promotions, hiring, and terminations based on this information.” Narrowing down gender and age, for example, could give employers enough clues to know which of their employees were likely to be trying to have a baby soon.
In her paper, “Data Analytics and the Erosion of the Work/Non-Work Divide,” which was accepted for publication by the American Business Law Journal, Eisenstadt asserts that the current legal statutes do not provide enough protection to both employers and employees. “Laws like HIPAA and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act likely do not apply to data gleaned from search queries,” she says. And there are virtually no laws or regulations prohibiting employers from collecting and relying on data gleaned from employees’ social media profiles, from facial recognition software, or from Fitbits.
So why should employers care about overreaches into employee privacy?
“The erosion of the work/non-work divide will impact the concept of a ‘scope of employment’ and employer attempts to avoid liability for their workers’ actions,” says Eisenstadt. Over the years, courts have seen the line blur between personal and work-related activities—like a case in 1928 in which an auto sales manager crashed a car, killing an employee on the way home from a staff appreciation dinner. The courts found the company liable for the death, and considered the events to be “within the scope of employment.” This move toward an expanding “scope of employment” has only grown with the advent of laptop computers, smartphones, and the myriad other devices and technologies that make it easier and sometimes even essential to bring work outside of the traditional physical boundaries of the workplace.
By gathering data from nonwork activities, Eisenstadt cautions that employers may be pushing this trend to new, more troubling places. By eroding the work/non-work divide so dramatically, companies may be opening themselves up to new liabilities for employee health issues, violent outbursts, or other employee behavior that would previously have been considered to be outside the “scope of employment.”
Data analytics can be an extremely powerful tool. “It allows humans to capture, analyze, and use massive quantities of data,” says Eisenstadt, “that the human brain can not make sense of on its own.” Yet, in today’s environment of data concerns and privacy breaches, Eisenstadt warns, companies should be cautious of data mining that goes too far.
This story was originally published in On the Verge, the Fox School’s flagship research magazine. For more stories, visit www.fox.temple.edu/ontheverge.
In today’s fast-paced society, if there is one word that doesn’t escape us, it is “busy.” How does this ongoing obsession with the idea of being busy affect the choices we make?
As a behavioral scientist, Monica Wadhwa, associate professor in Marketing and Supply Chain Management at the Fox School, studies the impact of having a busy mindset on decision making. In a paper that was recently published in the Journal of Consumer Research, Wadhwa discovered that people who see themselves as busy are more likely to make decisions that are beneficial in the long run, such as making healthier choices.
Prior research has established that high-stress situations—especially when work has to be completed within set deadlines—impair consumers’ ability to exercise self-control. As a result, people tend to give in to impulses that have negative long-term health consequences.
But turns out that that is not the end of the story. While being overworked can be problematic, there are benefits to feeling busy.
Wadhwa highlights that there lies a difference between being busy under time pressure and having a busy mindset. “A busy mindset is merely a perception that one is busy,” says Wadhwa. “Two people could have the same amount of work to do, but the perceptions of busyness could differ.”
Wadhwa notes, “Feeling busy gives people a sense of pride.” This behavior stems from the fact that busy people are perceived to be more important and have a higher social status. “It makes us feel valued and makes us believe that every moment of our lives matters,” says Wadhwa. “When you feel you are important, you make decisions that are better for you from a long-term beneficial perspective.”
For example, if one had to choose between an apple and a chocolate brownie, someone who is under significant time pressure would give in to their momentary impulses and pick the brownie. However, a person with a busy mindset would more likely focus on the long-term implications of the choice. Wadhwa says, “They’re more likely to choose the apple, favoring health consequences over taste, which provides only immediate gratification.”
To capture the busy mindset behavior over a wide range of scenarios, Wadhwa and her fellow researchers, Jeehye Christine Kim and Amitava Chattopadhyay, conducted seven experiments, including a field study. In one of the experiments, the researchers analyzed the buying pattern of students at a college dining hall. “We created two types of visual signs to be posted on different days,” explains Wadhwa. One read “Good to go, for busy college students!” whereas the other read “Good to go, for summer college students!” Wadhwa notes that the days when ‘busyness’ was made salient through visual signs, students chose to consume less unhealthy food and fewer fat calories.
To analyze how busyness affects branding, the researchers compared the buying behavior of consumers for brands perceived to be indulgent, such as Carl’s Jr. For the study, consumers were shown an advertisement that featured a tagline that either made busyness salient (It’s good to go for busy college students) or not (It’s good to go for college students). Those participants who saw the ad with busy tagline were less likely to consume the indulgent food from Carl’s Jr. than those who saw the ad with a non-busy tagline. It turns out that for brands that are not perceived as indulgent, such as Subway, busy taglines did not negatively impact consumption behaviors.
The researchers also studied the impact of this mindset on other self-control situations, like saving for retirement among adults and making good grades among students. “We asked adults the percentage of income they are willing to save,” says Wadhwa. “Busy people were willing to save more.” Similar behavior was seen in students—busier students said they’d rather take extra credit even if it means more work.
The findings of this study, besides adding a new dimension to the otherwise popular perspective of being busy, also have important real-world implications, especially to marketers. A growing number of commercials are using the busy appeal to make the product more relevant and favorable to new-age consumers. But the study shows that this strategy could backfire for brands that are perceived as indulgent. “For instance, Dunkin Donuts’ advertisements using a busy appeal may actually reduce consumers’ desire for donuts,” adds Wadhwa.
To consumers and policymakers who are concerned with people’s self-discipline, especially in societal problems such as overeating and food waste, Wadhwa offers: “Perhaps activating a busy mindset may be an effective nudge to facilitate self-control behavior.”
It’s the moment every woman dreads: A routine breast self-examination during an otherwise relaxing shower ends in the panic-inducing discovery of a lump.
Often, what happens next is a long, harrowing journey through a combination of biopsies, surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. While it’s true that, thanks to advancements in screening and treatment, more and more women survive breast cancer, it’s also true that 80 percent of breast cancer cases have already advanced to an invasive stage at the time of diagnosis.
Today, just 20 percent of breast cancers are identified at the earliest stage, when treatment is most effective and the five-year survivorship rate hovers near 100 percent.
Carlos Barrero, MD, and Oscar Perez-Leal, MD, assistant professors in the Pharmaceutical Sciences Department at Temple University’s School of Pharmacy, wants to change all that. “I believe we can invert those numbers so we’re discovering 80 percent of breast cancers at the very earliest stage,” he says.
The research Barrero and Perez-Leal are conducting may represent a major breakthrough in breast cancer screening. Their work could lead to a simple routine blood test that detects breast cancer sooner than ever before for more women. To do this, Barrero and Perez-Leal are working on identifying a set of biomarkers for breast cancer, a specific signature of early-stage breast cancer detectable in a blood sample.
Their work on this project received funding through the Office for the Vice President of Research’s Targeted Grant Program, and the team is currently in the process of securing additional funding from the National Institutes for Health, and the National Cancer Institute. Perez-Leal is also using the knowledge gleaned from his master’s degree from the Fox School’s Innovation Management & Entrepreneurship program to turn the idea into a feasible product.
Though mammograms are a recommended cancer screening for women age 40 and older, only 65 percent of women over 40 have had one in the past two years, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
“Many women avoid mammograms because they can be uncomfortable, and because of the hassle of needing to make a separate appointment. If screening for early-stage breast cancer became a part of routine blood work, more women would be screened regularly,” says Barrero. That would likely result in more early diagnoses, more effective treatment, and ultimately more long-term cancer survivors.
Through systems biology, advances in mass spectrometry technology that allow the detection of very low concentration of proteins and metabolites, and the availability of large public datasets from thousands of breast cancer tumors, Barrero and Perez-Leal can move this cutting-edge work forward. “Most research of this kind starts with analyzing the blood sample. We start by analyzing the data,” says Perez-Leal. It’s a fresh approach to a longstanding problem.
The researchers start by looking for specific proteins secreted by breast cancer tumor cells across many thousands of samples drawn from breast cancer tumors. The team is searching for a signature set of proteins that can be detected in very low amounts. A vast data set and formidable computing power are essential for finding the precise biomarkers that could, in five to 10 years, lead to the blood test. Recently upgraded mass spectrometry equipment at Temple’s School of Pharmacy allows him to carry out this innovative research.
The promise of this research extends even beyond the hopes of early detection into the possibility of new, more effective medicines to battle breast cancer. Going forward, biomarkers are likely to be an increasingly hot topic for those in the pharmaceutical industry, which represents a significant part of the U.S. economy. Biomarkers such as these are often used as a reference point in drug development; when the biomarkers diminish or disappear in blood tests, it’s evidence that the new drug is working.
Current treatments for breast cancer are effective, but they come with their own health risks and side effects, some of which lead to different health challenges years after patients have recovered from cancer. The identification of these biomarkers would also mean that, in addition to early intervention, a breast cancer patient could get a form of personalized medicine, which is another area of potential business growth for the pharmaceutical industry. For patients, that might mean fewer side effects and complications down the line.
“It’s rare to find a scientist with a business background,” says Perez-Leal. He praises the Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship program with helping him take an idea, establish a business plan, and pitch to investors. “The research community should continue to focus on finding solutions and products to real problems.”
Clearly, breast cancer is a real problem, as the most common cancer among women: one in eight will face a diagnosis in her lifetime. But if Barrero and Perez-Leal succeed, it will be a game-changing advance. Many more women will be diagnosed in cancer’s earliest stages, receive more personalized treatment, overcome the disease, and lead long and healthy lives.
This story was originally published in On the Verge, the Fox School’s flagship research magazine. For more stories, visit www.fox.temple.edu/ontheverge.
March is Women’s History Month. To celebrate, we are highlighting a few of the women who have inspired us by making an impact on their communities, careers, and the business world at large.
For Dr. Leila Bouamatou, DBA ’17, women’s leadership in business is deeply personal
As the daughter of the founder of a family-owned bank in the West African country of Mauritania, Bouamatou studied the challenges that women in francophone Africa face when seeking to take over the family business during her time in the Fox Executive Doctorate in Business Administration (DBA) program.
Bouamatou found that women’s biggest struggles included the institutionalized stigma of working outside the home; resistance from both older male and female members of the family, who were often unwilling to break with tradition; and the convention of women taking their husband’s last names, thus having a different last name than the family company.
To succeed in leading a family business in this environment, Bouamatou identified several key factors—such as modern-thinking fathers, supportive husbands, access to educational opportunities, and personality traits like determination and ability.
As the general manager at the Mauritanian General Bank, Bouamatou hopes to inspire young African girls and women to become leaders in business. She wants others to receive the encouragement that she felt at home from her parents and siblings. “I am particularly lucky to be the daughter of a modern-thinking father who has great respect towards women,” said Bouamatou, “and who believes in the potential of his daughters.” She recalls her mother teaching her from an early age about the importance of education and ambition.
Despite the barriers that remain, she sees hope for the future. “Africa is changing, and so is the mentality,” Bouamatou said. “Women are getting more and more educated and becoming more and more ambitious. Fathers are more and more supportive of their daughters and more open-minded, compared to previous generations.”
“I am fully aware that it would be hard for one single African woman to change the world,” said Bouamatou. “But I know that this African woman can shape her world and destiny.”
Nirmala Menon, MS ’91, International Change Agent
Nirmala Menon, MS ’91, worked in the Global Diversity and Multicultural Team at IBM before becoming the founder and CEO of Interweave Consulting, a diversity and inclusiveness solutions company. At IBM, she experienced the diversity and inclusion challenges across various countries. The experience prepared her to found Interweave and lead it to be a pioneer in India, where the arena was a non-existent market when the company began operations.
Through Interweave, Menon works with companies to implement progressive policies to support diverse groups. The company has touched the minds and hearts of over 150,000 people, including senior leaders and managers through its workshops and initiatives. Others receive these messages through e-modules and webinars.
“Diversity and inclusion is still a new area of work in India and it is hard to provide a direct ROI on the efforts,” said Menon, addressing the impact of her efforts. “However, there are several anecdotes that show that the efforts have translated into positive behaviors at work. A better understanding of respectful behaviors at work and more conscious efforts at gender, disability, and LGBT inclusion are all, we believe, influenced by our efforts.”
When asked how she is making the world a better place, Menon said, “In my mind, everything we do dovetails into building a better world! The work we do has a tremendous positive impact as it is directly focused on building inclusion. From helping organizations understand the value of diversity and inclusion and helping to build enabling workplace policies to support the same, it has a direct impact for the nation.”
She believes organizations are powerful vehicles of change and teach people to become influencers. “A mind expanded or enriched with knowledge and sensitivity is bound to be applied not just at work but equally in their behaviors at home and in society.”
As a result, Interweave is building the foundations for social change in India and beyond.
There are two types of neighbors in a social network: the ones you know directly, and the ones your friends know. Research has shown that direct peers have a significant influence on social networks, from joining Facebook to subscribing to Netflix. Yet indirect neighbors—those with whom you have a mutual friend, but do not interact directly—can also affect behaviors.
“People want to know what others think of them,” says Paul A. Pavlou, senior associate dean of research and professor of management information systems at the Fox School, “especially those in similar positions. In order not to lose influence, an individual would eventually make the same judgment and same decision as his peers.”
Pavlou, alongside co-researchers Bin Zhang of the University of Arizona and Ramayya Krishnan of Carnegie Mellon University, studied how direct and indirect peers influence groups by using Caller Ring Back Tones (CRBT) adoption in Asian cellphone markets, in their paper published in Information Systems Research last year. In analyzing 200 million calls from 1.4 million users, the researchers overcame statistical and computational challenges of the immense dataset by using subpopulations of 200 or 500 people, each group its own network of friends.
The researchers found that, in the larger group, indirect peer influence has a significant positive effect. In the case of CRBTs, a caller’s knowledge of her acquaintances’ use of ringback tones encourage her to be “on-trend” and thus adopt the same behavior. Yet in a smaller group, a caller has a greater desire for individuality, resulting in a decision not to adopt.
This study sheds more light on the complicated, large-scale networks that exist today. By understanding how peer influence works with both direct and indirect neighbors, businesses can learn the best strategies for things like product diffusion, content creation, and software adoption within social networks. “If businesses want to trigger higher adoption rates, then for smaller groups, they only need to focus on individuals with many direct connections,” says Pavlou. “While in for larger groups, they should not only focus on popular individuals but also those who have many common friends.”
How much is a hashtag worth to you?
This simple symbol has become ubiquitous across many social media platforms. Started in August 2007, the hashtag, also known as the pound (#) sign, was officially adopted by Twitter in 2009 as a way to group conversations and aggregate similar themes. Now, having spread to sites like Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest, the hashtag has become a key element of many companies’ social media strategies. With that pervasiveness comes power—and pitfalls.
“Creating an original hashtag gives a firm control over a specific social media space,” says Subodha Kumar, professor of Marketing and Supply Chain Management at the Fox School. Businesses can use this tool to increase recognition of their brand, generate buzz, and expand their audiences.
Yet creating a hashtag does not automatically mean the company owns it, says Kumar. Hashtags are susceptible to hijacking, in which competitors or consumers use the hashtag for unofficial messaging—like when McDonald’s attempted to generate positive publicity with #McDStories but instead received thousands of complaints about the fast food chain.
So, how can a company protect its social media reputation? For some, the answer lies in trademarking.
“The trademark protection of hashtags can increase consumer confidence,” says Kumar. Since the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office began allowing hashtags to be registered trademarks in 2013, more and more companies are protecting their intellectual social media property. In 2015, nearly 1,400 hashtags were submitted in trademark applications. “It prevents other competitors from using similar hashtags to mislead consumers.”
However, trademarks may come with a price. “Trademarking a hashtag may prevent or restrict its use,” Kumar says. The successful spread of a hashtag lies in its ability to be used by anyone, connecting millions of Twitter threads and Instagram photos into one conversation. By trademarking, companies could be stifling this kind of organic engagement.
Little research has been done to understand whether a trademarked hashtag makes a firm’s social media audience more or less engaging. Kumar, along with Naveen Kumar of the University of Memphis and Liangfei Qiu of the University of Florida, wanted to know: does trademarking a hashtag defeat its original purpose?
Kumar and his co-authors investigated the tension in these two opposing sides—the organic nature of a hashtag and the restrictive nature of a trademark—in their paper, “A Hashtag is Worth a Thousand Words: An Empirical Investigation of Social Media Strategies in Trademarking Hashtags.”
The researchers compared firm-level tweet data from 102 companies, split between a “treated” group of companies who had trademarked a hashtag between 2014 and 2017 and a “control” group of similar firms. The study compared tweets from before and after the hashtag’s trademark approval, analyzing the level of engagement through likes, comments, and tweets, as well as the linguistic content of the tweet, including its emotions, tone, and style.
Based on this study, Kumar and his colleagues discovered some key factors of making a trademarked hashtag work for a company:
1. Companies that trademark hashtags have higher social media engagement.
This study is the first to identify that trademarking hashtags can improve firms’ engagement with its audiences on social media—though the effects have varying levels of intensity for different types of firms and social strategies. “Trademarking a hashtag can increase the number of retweets by 27 percent,” says Kumar, “which is a considerable amount.”
Yet firms can not trademark hashtags arbitrarily. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office treats hashtags like any other trademark: in order to be approved, the company needs to prove that the hashtag is a key part of the firm’s identity and that trademarking works in the consumers’ favor by preventing or reducing confusion.
2. Trademarking hashtags works better for smaller, less popular companies with fewer Twitter followers.
While the study demonstrates that trademarking increases social media engagement, Kumar and his colleagues investigated how this effect varies among different types of firms. After comparing the companies in the top and bottom percentiles in terms of Twitter followers, the researchers found that firms with fewer Twitter followers had more significant increases in their engagement after trademarking hashtags than companies with larger followings.
Kumar hypothesizes that small companies see larger positive effects because fewer consumers are aware of their brands and products. “Without trademark protection, other competitors can easily use similar hashtags to mislead consumers,” he says. “In contrast, for popular firms with more Twitter followers, it is more difficult to mislead consumers, even in the absence of trademark protections.”
3. Writing styles are more important to firms that use trademarked hashtags.
The researchers also studied how companies used language in their social media strategies to understand the key drivers that cause trademarking hashtags to increase engagement. “This is based on the assumption that the way that people use words reflect how they think,” says Kumar. For example, using pronouns can reflect a self-centered focus, or using prepositions and conjunctions can indicate more nuanced thinking.
The study found that when hashtags are trademarked, a firm’s writing style becomes more important to its social media engagement. “People tend to like a more narrative and informal writing style in tweets,” Kumar says. The researchers saw that more positive, colloquial, and confident writing increase retweeting by up to 10 percent.
4. Effects of increased social media engagement last longer when hashtags are trademarked.
Recognizing that trademarking is a lengthy and expensive process, the researchers sought to discover whether the increased engagement lasted in the long term.
“Before trademarking hashtags, writing more tweets with desirable linguistic styles has only a contemporaneous effect,” says Kumar, meaning that the tweets’ increase in engagement was immediate, but dropped off quickly. After one month, it was no longer significant. “Trademarking hashtags makes things different,” Kumar says. After trademarking, the researchers found that the effects of increased engagement were still happening a month later.
Based on their research, Kumar and his colleagues believe that, especially for smaller companies with fewer followers, trademarking their intellectual social property, like hashtags, is a worthwhile investment. However, to get the maximum bang for your buck, Kumar suggests that companies consider the longevity of their chosen hashtag.
Social media can be fleeting, so invest wisely.
This is one of the most common questions that people considering a DBA ask, after “What is a DBA?” We asked alumni and current students in the Fox School’s Executive Doctorate in Business Administration program to share why they believe the Fox DBA was the right choice for them.
Become An Expert
With many years of work experience, most people may feel like they are an expert in their fields. With the Fox DBA program, however, students have the opportunity to back up their experience with data.
Jim Smith, Jr., CSP, is a full-time entrepreneur, motivational speaker and author while also a student in the Fox DBA program. “In my line of work as a perceived expert, I wanted to enhance my credibility,” he says. As he prepares to defend his dissertation this spring, he notes that the program has broadened and sharpened his view in his area of expertise.
“By now having the scholarly perspective, I can bring in the research, I can bring in the numbers, I can bring in the studies and I can bring in both historical and current viewpoints,” he says. “It’s not just my opinion. I balance my delivery by speaking as a scholar, a researcher and a practitioner.”
Finding the right opportunity can be daunting, even as a high-level executive. Most job markets are extremely competitive and many people are looking for a way to distinguish themselves from the crowd of qualified applicants.
Maggie Jordan, DBA ’18, said it was tough for her to attract attention as an adjunct professor when she moved from New York to Pennsylvania. The Fox DBA allowed her to stand out from the crowd in a unique way. “Before I had the corporate experience, but not the degree,” she says. “Now, I have both.”
“I found that having the blend of experience as well as the doctorate was a magic combination to get attention.” With the Fox DBA, Maggie was able to move from a marketing role in the pharmaceutical industry and become a visiting assistant professor at Lehigh University, which she does in addition to leveraging her expertise as a consultant and adjunct professor at the Fox School.
Gain Credentials to Do More
Others might find that the DBA opens doors in ways that they never had thought of before. Tammy Schwartz, a current DBA student who is also defending her dissertation this spring, retired from the U.S. Air Force and was looking for new opportunities outside of the defense industry.
“Despite the fact that I was working in cyber,” she says, “I couldn’t break into another industry, so I needed to reinvent myself. I thought a new degree would give me new contacts and new ideas.”
Tammy hadn’t known exactly what she wanted to do after the DBA program. However, she found that she loved to learn, research and—surprisingly—teach. “I now have a tenure-track position at the York College of Pennsylvania, and I found my new calling in teaching,” she says. “The research keeps me really intellectually engaged and constantly learning. I never would have imagined that I would have become a college professor in my second act.”
Build a Network
In addition to the skills and knowledge that the Fox DBA program teaches, many students find that one of the most valuable aspects of the program is their cohort.
“In my class, we had students from a plethora of industries,” says Sandi Webster, DBA ’18. “I’m coming from financial services and telecom, but someone from healthcare or education might see a topic in a different way.”
These varying viewpoints can provide unique ways of looking at problems that you may not have considered before. Thanks to the Fox DBA program, says Sandi, “I think more broadly now.” The network does not end in the classroom; Fox DBA alumni leverage their relationships in current industries, career changes and life-long learning.
The Fox DBA program may not be for everyone. But for those who are looking to augment their area of expertise, distinguish themselves from the crowd, build a network of motivated individuals, and gain credentials to do more, the Fox School can give you the tools you need to grow yourself and your career.
“I’ve been pushed, I’ve been stretched. I’ve been in my discomfort zone a lot,” says Jim. “But it’s like anything—if you’re not being stretched, you’re not growing.”
To swipe or not to swipe?
Online dating has come a long way since the days of OKCupid in the early aughts. Today, phrases like “Tinder date” have become part of society’s lexicon, and we have stopped buying a stranger a drink in a bar and started double tapping an Instagram photo from home.
What is different today? Instead of logging into a dating site on a computer, romance seekers now have mobile apps at their fingertips.
JaeHwuen Jung, assistant professor of Management Information Systems (MIS) at the Fox School of Business, investigated the changing business behind online dating to learn why companies are spending more money on developing mobile applications instead of web platforms.
With apps like Tinder and Bumble, data scientists have a trove of unbiased data from which they can extract insights. “We are able to trace the actions of both parties,” says Jung. “We are able to see who is meeting who, what type of profiles they have, and [what] sort of messages they are exchanging.” This provides a unique opportunity for researchers to analyze data untainted from other collection processes, like simulated experiments.
Jung says that dating is only one of many examples of how our phones have completely transformed the way in which we behave—and companies have caught on.
In his paper, “Love Unshackled: Identifying the Effect of Mobile App Adoption in Online Dating,” which has been recently accepted for publication at MIS Quarterly, Jung used the online dating world to identify three drivers of why users, and subsequently companies, are moving from web to mobile: ubiquity, impulsiveness, and disinhibition.
- Ubiquity: the capacity of being everywhere, especially at the same time
- Impulsiveness: having the power to be swayed by emotional or involuntary impulses
- Disinhibition: a lack of restraint and disregard to social norms
With the ubiquity of smartphones, users are able to access mobile apps at any given time and location. Features like instant notifications, location sharing, and urgency factors, like Tinder’s daily allowance of five ‘Super Likes,’ have allowed users to stay constantly connected.
“We use our mobiles in the most personal locations, like our beds and bathrooms,” says Jung. For some, their phones may seem surgically attached to their hands.
With phones constantly by their sides, people more readily give in to their impulses, reacting to their moods or thoughts instinctively. Users can respond to such feelings—such as responding to a flirtatious message or liking a post—without a second thought.
“We found that [mobile platforms] change users’ daily lifestyle patterns,” says Jung. “Compared to those who use web platforms, mobile users have the luxury to log on earlier, later, and more frequently.”
When a sense of privacy is assumed, users feel more anonymous on mobile—and are thus less likely to follow social norms. This disinhibition creates higher levels of engagement on mobile devices, Jung found, as users were more likely to engage in actions that they were less likely to do outside of the app.
“We saw that replies and views of [profiles of people with] different races, education levels, and even height, became more apparent through mobile apps,” says Jung. “This has us questioning, can this [disinhibition] change viewpoints in real life?”
Like any business plan, owners try to keep customers coming back for more. These three key features—ubiquity, impulsiveness, and disinhibition—help companies keep users online every time they unlock their phones. With the convenience provided by apps, dating has become more successful for users and has benefited companies as well.
“If people leave happy,” Jung says, “they will bring more new customers [to the app.]”
With the surge of app monetization, developers are able to make 55% of their mobile revenue through video ads, display ads, and native ads, according to Business Insider. Mobile apps have become a win-win situation as more people choose to scroll on the go.
Jung’s paper is the first of its kind to examine the causal impact of companies’ mobile channels in addition to their web presence. What can we say? All’s fair in love, war, and big data.
Home-sharing has revolutionized the lodging market. Today, digital platforms such as Airbnb and HomeAway are popular choices over conventional hotel stays. With the industry expanding exponentially over the past decade, home-sharing lodging is expected to reach $107 billion—or 10% of total accommodation bookings in the country—by 2025.
So what makes Airbnbs so popular? Three researchers from the Department of Tourism & Hospitality Management at Temple University’s School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management sought to answer that question.
In a study recently published in Tourism Management, Assistant Professor Yang Yang, PhD student Karen Tan and Professor Xiang (Robert) Li used a dataset from a nationwide household tourism survey to better understand this growing segment of American travelers.
“First, we looked into what segment of consumers choose Airbnbs over conventional hotel stays,” Yang says. The researchers studied five broad categories of user-motivations: tripographics (including the purpose of the trip, nights of stay, expenditure, children companions, and group size), past travel experiences, tech savviness, socio-demographics (such as age and education) and destination characteristics (like home-sharing supply and crime rate).
“Airbnbs are selected by travelers with particular needs,” Yang notes. “Tourists who are younger, more tech-savvy and traveling with a large group size were the leading users.” Some of the other characteristics common across most users included travel for leisure purposes, itineraries planned in advance, interest in local cultural activities and the presence of personal vehicles during the trip.
The rate of crime in the destination was an important determinant in the choice of stay as well. “Travelers are less likely to stay in Airbnbs when there are crime-related security concerns,” Yang says. “Hosts and platforms should consider ways to mitigate tourists’ fear of crime, such as the introduction of home safety features, methods of crime prevention or even by offering insurance coverage.”
Yang highlights that their study challenges the popular stereotype that travelers choose Airbnbs mainly because they are cost-effective. “We did not find any significant effects of household income and price differences between hotels and Airbnbs on tourists’ choices,” Yang says. Based on this insight, he thinks that any price wars between hotels and Airbnbs would not be beneficial for either group.
The researchers also investigated the effect on the guests’ experiences when staying in Airbnbs versus a hotel. “Trip satisfaction did not differ between the two groups,” says Yang, “but the perceived value of the trip was significantly higher in the home-sharing group.”
That additional sense of value experienced by the users reflected the extra benefits that they received in Airbnbs that were not met in a traditional hotel setting. Yang says, “Facilities such as household amenities, extra space, experience authenticity and host-guest interactions were some of the key reasons.”
Karen Tan, a PhD student in the department and a co-author of the paper, believes that Airbnbs do not necessarily jeopardize the business of hotels. “Home-sharing may very well appeal to a segment of the population that previously didn’t travel as much,” she says. “Peer-to-peer accommodation could just be making the lodging pie larger.”
Much of the optimism underlying the projected growth of home-sharing lodging arguably lies in its untapped potential. “As the market for Airbnb grows,” says Yang, “hotels should not compete on lower prices, but rather focus on aspects that deliver greater value to guests.”
Learn more about Fox School Research.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, by 2050 the world’s population will have an estimated 9.1 billion people, and food production will need to expand by 70 percent in order to match the increased rate of consumption. The future of food security is in the hands of consumers and producers and what they can do to create sustainable food systems to account for the predicted growth.
On a smaller scale, agriculture in Pennsylvania and the Northeast region is facing some changes to its operations. Design thinking might not be top of mind for agriculture, but approaching solutions through these practices yields some fresh insights for a healthy food system.
Marilyn Anthony, director of business development for Fox Management Consulting, and the Vice President and Agricultural Lending Manager of Ephrata National Bank William Kitsch teamed up to lead an interactive workshop for the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group’s (NESAWG) annual “It Takes a Region Conference” held in Philadelphia October 26 and October 27th, 2018.
Anthony’s and Kitsch’s workshop, “Here’s the Data: Let’s Design the Solutions,” used principles of design thinking to encourage participants to create consumer and user-oriented solutions to obstacles facing farmers and producers. “What surprised me was that everyone found a topic that they are passionate about and wanted to work on,” Anthony said. “We asked our workshop audience to think from the perspective of a user, someone who could benefit from or who could participate in Pennsylvania’s strategic recommendations and to think about how they could connect.”
Anthony and Kitsch presented the results of a research study, led by Temple University’s Fox Management Consulting group, a cohort of OMBA students, and the Philadelphia-based economic consulting firm E-consult Solutions, exploring 10 sectors of agriculture in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) and Team Pennsylvania funded the research project, forming the basis for PDA’s strategic recommendations. The resulting six strategic initiatives focused on improving the branding and marketing, infrastructure of processing and manufacturing, business climate, workforce development and educational opportunities, and diversity of products within food systems in order to create more opportunities for Pennsylvania growers and producers.
Kelly Kundratic, the Manager of Agriculture Policy and Programs for Team Pennsylvania, took an active role in the workshop. “Learning the design thinking process and really stepping back, thinking from a place of empathy, looking at these goals, that’s something that I use now as much as I can,” Kundratic explains. “It can be time consuming, but really reframes how I’ll approach helping government and industry move together to act upon these six strategic initiatives. Trying to be empathetic and use the design thinking model will help me be able to do my job more effectively.”
Emphasizing the core take-away from the workshop, Anthony explains, “what was very valuable and useful was getting people to think about who, other than themselves, might be in that space and to begin to generate some ideas for how they could make an impact.”
Workshop participants brought their experience and perspectives from Vermont, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. Many participants actively work to create more accessible and equitable food system as educators, nonprofit advocates, and funders.
Founded in 1992, NESAWG is a network of more than 500 organizations across Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, and Washington D.C. It works with
organizations and individuals involved in every sector of sustainable agriculture from farming and ecology to architecture and social services to garner awareness and support for the creation of just, sustainable food systems.
Are you interested in learning about sustainability topics? Check out “BlockChain Technology for Sustainable Procurement” in the Fox Video Vault.
For the second time in a row, another successful alumnus of the Fox School, Kevin Hong, PhD ’14, won the prestigious 2018 Early Career Award by the Association for Information Systems. This award recognizes individuals in the early stages of their careers who have already made outstanding research, teaching and service contributions to the field of information systems. Last year Gordon Burtch, PhD ’13, was awarded this honor.
Hong is an associate professor of information systems, director of the IS PhD program, and co-director of the digital society initiative at the W. P. Carey School of Business of Arizona State University. “I feel really honored and lucky to have won this award,” Hong says. “I attribute who I am as a researcher today to my experiences and associations at the Fox School.”
We spoke with Hong to learn more about his journey.
Who were your mentors at the Fox School?
A lot of people at Fox have inspired me and taught me not just be a better researcher, but also a better person. Paul Pavlou was my advisor and mentor through the years. I learned so much from him, including how to write and publish papers.
If Dr. Pavlou is my research mentor, I’d say David Schuff is my teaching mentor. I watch all his videos and learn how to engage students while teaching. I also get ideas and examples to share with the students in the analytics class from him.
How did the Fox PhD program support you in achieving your degree?
The rigorous curriculum and training at Fox have helped me a lot. During the time I was a PhD student, Fox had recruited many world-class faculty members who were also high profile researchers from prestigious universities. They had solid training and the required expertise to teach the students state-of-the-art methodologies which I still use today.
What are some of the current research projects you’re working on?
My primary stream of research has been studying how to design and evaluate the efficiency of digital platforms. I also plan on taking a sabbatical next year to explore new technologies like artificial intelligence, and how humans and AI can collaborate better to develop newer streams of research.
What is your advice to current and prospective Fox PhD students?
What’s most important to be successful is to take initiative. Don’t merely do what the advisors ask you to do. Try to start your research early on. Discuss those ideas with your advisors and lead those projects. The environment created for research at Fox is truly amazing and you should take advantage of it, perform and deliver. For a doctoral student, the culture here teaches you to put research before everything and truly nurtures you to succeed in your academic career.
Read more about the previous Fox alumnus to win this award.
Learn more about Fox School Research.