Professor Jodi Cranston, a Research Fellow of the Institute and a Professor in the Department of History of Art & Architecture, was awarded a Digital Art History Grant from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation. This prestigious grant will support the development of the “Mapping Titian” web portal and platform, which will serve as an archive and as an interpretative research and teaching tool by documenting and mapping one of the most fundamental concerns of the discipline of Art History: the interrelationship between an artwork and its changing historical context.
Focusing on the paintings executed by the Venetian Renaissance artist, Titian (ca. 1488-1576), the portal will include a searchable provenance index of his attributed pictures (totaling over 500 paintings) and will use geographic and non-geographic maps to interpret a historical network of artists, collectors, art dealers, travelers, and patrons through the geographic movement of these objects. Users — scholars and students alike — will be able to customize their experience by specifying the parameters of their search interests and by having the opportunity to create their own maps, as well as export user-selected bibliographies, related documents, and provenance entries. The “Mapping Titian” portal will effectively be a tool from which new research, discoveries, and experiences can be inspired, guided, and shared.
A secondary and important goal of the project will be the development of a mapping platform that could be leveraged by future users, including art institutions that could visualize the provenance of any artwork or group of artworks. Most museum websites currently share only minimal, if any, information regarding the provenance of an object. With the platform in place, museums could incorporate mapping functions to teach users about the “life” of a specific artwork. Additionally, museums could contribute to the platform by crowd-sourcing information about individual artworks. A provenance map would also be a powerful demonstration of the ways in which artworks become casualties and shapers of history, such as Napoleon’s seizure and relocation of objects in the 19th century and the Nazi theft of objects and allied efforts to save and return artworks in World War II.
BU Today interviews Institute Junior Fellow and Assistant Professor or Marketing in SMG, George Zervas, about his most recent work on the effect of competition on online reviews, in which George and his co-authors concluded that at least 16 percent of the reviews are fake. The researchers found that the worst offenders are restaurants seeking to offset negative write-ups, that chain restaurants are the least likely to commit review fraud, and that restaurants sometimes take the low ground by posting fraudulent negative reviews for establishments competing for the same customer base.
Smart news organizations will move from a “tracking” mentality that simply lists what audiences are doing to focus on what any such insight could mean for both journalism and the business of journalism. Newsrooms need to embrace the kind of number-crunching more common to marketers.
The Wall Street Journal has repeatedly spotlighted the research of Georgios Zervas, Boston University School of Management assistant professor of marketing, on the consequences of fake online reviews. Both the Journal’s Corporate Intelligence blog and its “Morning Risk Report,” which provides insights and news on governance, risk, and compliance, featured recent posts on the writing and solicitation of fake online reviews.
One post, “Fake Reviews Raise Reputation Stakes,” was prompted by New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman’s targeting fraudulent online reviewers this week under his new initiative “Operation Clean Turf,” a yearlong undercover investigation into the reputation management industry, the manipulation of consumer-review websites, and the practice of astroturfing.
Zervas, who recently co-wrote the paper “Fake it Till You Make it” about online review fraud, told the post’s author, Samuel Rubenfeld, that the consequences for writing and soliciting fake reviews are very low and that, for anyone with a computer, crafting a fake review is simple.
He is quoted saying:
“The New York attorney general is trying to increase the cost of being uncovered as a fraudster. I think it’s a small first step in the right direction.”
Zervas, who completed his PhD in 2011 in computer science at Boston University, noted that the problem of fake reviews extends beyond New York’s borders. His paper “Fake it Till You Make it” was co-authored with Harvard Business School assistant professor Michael Luca.
A $300,000 gift by Paul Maritz, Chief Executive Officer of Pivotal (an EMC-backed startup), is providing the critical resources needed to launch BU’s Cloud Computing Initiative (CCI), which is incubated at the Hariri Institute for Computing, and which is spearheaded by CS Research Professor and Institute Fellow, Orran Krieger.
Recently named as one of the 50 Most Powerful People in Enterprise Technology, Paul Maritz formed Pivotal in 2013. At its core, Pivotal builds big data infrastructures, which are able to handle next-generation workloads, and which can be adopted broadly through development and use of application-friendly platforms. Before being tapped by EMC Corporation to lead Pivotal, Maritz served as Chief Strategist of EMC, and as CEO of VMware Inc., where he remains a member of its board of directors. During his tenure at VMware, Maritz led the transformation of the company from a technology leader in virtualization to a category leader in cloud computing.
On July 10, 2013, The Council on Competitiveness, in conjunction with the U.S. House of Representatives Science and National Labs Caucus, held a briefing titled Extreme Computing: Why United States Industry, National Labs, and Academia Need Advanced Computing. More
A blog in the New York Times argues that the advent of new research methodologies and the pursuit of new opportunities for exciting interdisciplinary collaboration suggest that social science disciplines are due for an overhaul that resembles the face-lift of many natural science disciplines, which were transformed at least in part by computing. More
Massachusetts lawmakers are debating a proposal that would mandate computer science classes in all Massachusetts public schools. The plan would integrate computer skills into the state’s public school curriculum and standardized tests starting as early as the eighth grade. As part of the coverage of this story, Institute Director, Azer Bestavros, was asked by a local online news outlet to provide his thoughts and comments… Here are the questions and answers. More
Just as today’s engineers design integrated circuits based on the known physical properties of materials and use them to create electronic devices with amazing capabilities, tomorrow’s synthetic biologists are poised to design and build biological systems that are custom-tailored to make a better world. Engineered life could lead to improved human health, a safer food supply, and a cleaner, more abundant supply of energy. Unlike many other areas of engineering, biology is incredibly non-linear. That poses a challenge: Unleashing its potential will require a broad and sustained effort, drawing on great minds from multiple disciplines. But the payoff could be huge, as synthetic biology is poised to make the kind of leaps in the 21st century that computer technology made in the 20th.
Among the topics our expert panel discussed:
- Near-term applications of synthetic biology for creating new drugs, chemicals, and fuels.
- The social and economic implications of synthetic biology.
- Ethical and environmental challenges of synthetic biology.
- Training tomorrow’s innovators in synthetic biology.
- Future possibilities—a look ahead at what might be possible 20 years from now.
BU has joined edX, the Harvard-and-MIT-led online learning platform that shares the University’s commitment to using technology’s benefits for students on campus as well as off. The partnership will give BU professors more flexibility in designing their courses and discerning which educational methods work best with students.
Membership obligates BU to offer five MOOCs (massive open online courses) via edX, says Jean Morrison, University provost. MOOCs typically enable people around the world to take a university class for free, sans credit. But BU and edX also espouse blended, or hybrid, courses: for-credit classes that mingle face-to-face instruction with online work, says Elizabeth Loizeaux, associate provost for undergraduate affairs and cochair of the University’s Council on Educational Technology and Learning Innovation (CETLI).
Dan O’Connell, edX spokesperson, says hybrid courses allow professors to shift time normally spent on lectures to one-on-one or small-group teaching, to field trips, or to additional lectures delving more deeply into topics. O’Connell says early results from a pilot project edX is running in California show decreased failure rates in a hybrid course, compared to the traditional classroom version.
“The hybrid model provides the best of both worlds,” says Loizeaux, a College of Arts & Sciences professor of English. “It promotes the face-to-face nature of…classroom interactions,” both students-to-teacher and between students. It simultaneously offers students “the flexibility to access content online at their own pace,” she says, while allowing faculty to use technology for “presenting information and assessing learning outcomes in ways that are not possible in a traditional classroom setting.”
BU President Robert A. Brown says he is delighted that the University is joining the edX consortium. “I am pleased to help pioneer the development of digital learning environments,” says Brown. “And I’m excited about the opportunity to use these enhanced learning tools for our residential students, and to invent new hybrid educational platforms as the next step in our ongoing significant commitment to online learning, especially for our students in graduate professional programs.”
EdX will also extend BU’s significant global reach, both by making BU professors and courses accessible to a global audience, and by increasing global connections for BU students. For example, study abroad might be enhanced by online minicourses before, during, and after the main course; online modules or courses could connect BU students with other students around the world; and online courses might even enable students whose schedules currently keep them at home to study abroad.
EdX’s ability to help professors evaluate how well students are learning course material was a big factor in BU’s choosing it over other platforms, Loizeaux says. The edX platform is designed to capture data on how students learn, she says, a capability that put it head and shoulders above other platforms BU considered, because it will aid professors in understanding which pedagogical approaches best advance student learning.
What kind of data? “We are talking about ‘big data’ from hundreds of thousands of learners,” O’Connell says. (According to edX, 700,000 students currently use its platform.) “EdX collects every click, and also, along with collaborating universities, conducts surveys throughout each course.”
The data dig deep into the digital weeds, he says. For example, says Azer Bestavros, CETLI cochair and a CAS professor of computer science, “Course evaluators can see how often a student rewinds to review parts of lectures—possibly indicating that clarifications are necessary—and also factors affecting students’ completion of courses. Such data goes beyond that available from courses offered by BU and taken by BU students.” Bestavros notes that for any hybrid courses the University develops on edX, “we will have full control regarding what we measure and how we analyze it, and…that data will not be shared with other institutions.” Only aggregated data from all edX members is shared, he says.
As a nonprofit in a field filled with for-profit competitors, edX “aligns with CETLI’s sense of values and what we believe to be BU’s best interest,” says Bestavros, who is also director of the Hariri Institute for Computing and Computational Science & Engineering.
The first hybrid courses on edX likely will be available “within the next couple of years,” Loizeaux says, while the MOOCs will be available in one year. EdX will complement, not replace, BU’s Blackboard e-learning system.
With more than 200 universities worldwide hoping for admission to edX—and with several elite institutions already in—“we are extraordinarily excited to be joining edX,” Morrison says. “It gives us the opportunity to collaborate with the consortium members on using their experience to better understand online learning.…We can learn from each other and develop best practices around higher education.”
Along with BU, edX welcomes several other institutions, including Cornell University, Davidson College, Berklee College of Music, Université catholique de Louvain (Belgium), Munich’s Technical University, the University of Washington, China’s Tsinghua University, Peking University, Japan’s Kyoto University, the University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong University of Science & Technology, Seoul National University, Karolinska Institutet (Sweden), and the University of Queensland (Australia).
They join the founders plus the University of California, Berkeley, Rice University, the University of Texas, Wellesley College, Georgetown University, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (Switzerland), Australian National University, Delft University of Technology (the Netherlands), and Canada’s McGill University and the University of Toronto.
“EdX is thrilled to welcome Boston University,” O’Connell says. Calling the University “a world-class institution with top faculty and courses,” he says the partnership will benefit both: edX will help BU “incorporate sophisticated online course work into its on-campus curriculum,” while BU “will help us extend our range” of courses reflecting “the diversity of the people on our platform.”
President Robert A. Brown created CETLI to examine developments in online education and recommend a plan for extending BU’s current technology use to enhance instruction for tuition-paying residential students. It also is to recommend ways to reach new audiences off campus who wanted to sample the University’s offerings. As part of its work, CETLI sponsored a symposium and forums this spring to discuss the issues it was considering. Through the CETLI Seed Grant program, it will also make grants to faculty to develop innovative approaches over the next year.