Economist examines empirical evidence of file-sharing on box-office revenue

A paper from University of Kansas economist Koleman Strumpf (whose work we've featured here for years) empirically examines the impact of file-sharing on box-office revenues.

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Unions considered helpful (economically)


A paper in Industrial Relations A Journal of Economy and Society performs a meta-analysis of a wide range of studies the impact of trade unions on productivity and finds a complex puzzle.

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Big Data should not be a faith-based initiative

Cory Doctorow summarizes the problem with the idea that sensitive personal information can be removed responsibly from big data: computer scientists are pretty sure that’s impossible.

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Study: People prefer electric shocks to being alone with their thoughts


Matthew writes, "A new paper in Science reports that when people are asked to entertain themselves with their own thoughts for 15 minutes, many resort to giving themselves painful electric shocks they'd previously said they'd pay to avoid."

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Facebook manipulation experiment has connections to DoD "emotional contagion" research


Here's a new wrinkle on the massive emotion-manipulation study that Facebook conducted in concert with researchers from Cornell and UCSF: one of its researchers is funded under a US Department of Defense program to study "emotional contagion" and civil unrest.

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3D weaving produces strong, flexible solids


Oluwaseyi Sosanya, a Nigerian American student at London's Royal College of Art, produced an amazing technique for 3D weaving, computer-controlled weavers to produce stable, three dimensional topologies.

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Facebook's massive psychology experiment likely illegal


Researchers from Facebook, Cornell and UCSF published a paper describing a mass-scale experiment in which Facebook users' pages were manipulated to see if this could induce and spread certain emotional states.

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Online roundtable on the works of Octavia Butler

The Hooded Utilitarian is hosting an online roundtable on the work of Octavia Butler, one of science fiction's greatest writers, and also one of the first women of color to attain widespread recognition in the field. The initial installment, from Qiana Whitted, is a challenging, sharply critical essay about the ways that Butler's work (including Fledgling, a book I very much liked) literally nauseated the writer, and what that says about both Butler and her critics.

Ugliness, Empathy, and Octavia Butler (Thanks, Noah!)

(Image: Leslie Howle)

Copyfraud, uncertainty and doubt: the vanishing online public domain


In Enclosing the public domain: The restriction of public domain books in a digital environment, a paper in First Monday, researchers from the Victoria University of Wellington document the widespread proactice of putting restrictions on scanned copies of public domain books online.

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Best-paid CEOs perform the worst


In Performance for Pay? The Relation Between CEO Incentive Compensation and Future Stock Price Performance , a paper from U of Utah business-school professors, the relationship between executive performance and executive pay is intensively investigated. The authors carefully document that the highest-paid executives in the 1,500 companies with the biggest market cops from 1994-2013 perform the worst, and that the higher a CEO's pay, the more likely it is that he'll perform worse than his low-paid colleagues. The effect was most pronounced in the 150 highest-paid CEOs.

The authors propose that sky-high pay leads CEOs to be overconfident -- after all, if they're getting $37M for a year's work, they must be pretty damned smart, so anyone who disagrees with them is clearly an idiot, after all, look at how little that critic is paid! The longer a CEO is in office, the worse his performance becomes, because he is able to pack the board with friendly cronies who keep hiking his pay and overlooking his underperformance. And CEOs suck at figuring out when to exercise their stock options, generally getting less money than they would by following conventional financial advice.

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Job interviews reward narcissists

Self-presentation style in job interviews: the role of personality and culture, a UBC study presented in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology found that job interviews were optimized for self-aggrandizing narcissists, while people from cultures that value modesty and self-effacement fared poorly (it probably helps that everyone conducting a job interview had to pass a job interview to get that job, making them more likely to have confidence in the process). (via Reddit)

Anti-forensic mobile OS gets your phone to lie for you

In Android Anti-forensics: Modifying CyanogenMod Karl-Johan Karlsson and William Bradley Glisson present a version of the Cyanogenmod alternate operating system for Android devices, modified so that it generates plausible false data to foil forensic analysis by law enforcement. The idea is to create a mobile phone that "lies" for you so that adversaries who coerce you into letting them take a copy of its data can't find out where you've been, who you've been talking to, or what you've been talking about.

I'm interested in this project but wonder about how to make it practical for daily use. Presently, it maintains a hidden set of true data, and a trick set of false data intended to be fetched by forensic tools. Presumably, this only works until the forensic tools are modified to spot the real data. But you can conceptually imagine a phone that maintains a normal address book and SMS history, etc -- all the things that are useful to have in daily use -- but that, on a certain signal (say, when an alternate unlock code is entered, or after a certain number of failed unlock attempts) scrubs all that and replaces it with plausible deniability data.

Obviously, this kind of thing doesn't work against state-level actors who can subpoena (or coerce) your location data and call history from your carrier, but those people don't need to seize your phone in the first place.

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Court finds full-book scanning is fair use


The Hathi Trust has won another important victory in its court battles against the Authors Guild over the right of academic libraries to scan books under the banner of fair use. Hathi creates full-text indexes of books from academic institutional libraries that were scanned by Google, so that academic libraries can access full-text indexes of the books, as well as offering the books in assistive formats used by people with visual disabilities, and providing long-term archives of rare texts that are still under copyright.

The Authors Guild members are overwhelming trade-book authors; the books scanned by the Hathi Trust are overwhelmingly scholarly books written as part of an academic tradition that takes free access and sharing as its foundation. The court remanded a question of standing in the case, asking the Guild to demonstrate that it represented authors of the affected works.

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Academic publisher tried to stop publication of paper on price-gouging in academic publishing

The editorial board of the journal Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation has threatened to resign because the academic journal's corporate owners, Taylor and Francis, have ordered them not to publish a paper critical of the academic publishing industry. The paper, Publisher, be damned! from price gouging to the open road, was written by academics from the University of Leicester's School of Management.

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Clickbait Dissertation: scholarship distilled to upworthyspeak


Clickbait Dissertations builds on the excellent work of Lolomythesis, but this time, rather than distilling their doctoral work to a single line of snark, grad students are asked to compress their scholarship to a ridiculous linkbaity headline ("What happens when you put farmers on the internet? Justice."). Bonus: each one links to the actual thesis, and most include abstracts.

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