IST students present research on diverse topics during Grad Exhibition

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- At Penn State’s 29th annual Graduate Exhibition, more than 250 students displayed their research and creative endeavors. The participants included eight students from the College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST), who shared their research on diverse topics such as the design of applications for online education courses, deceptive practices in post-transaction marketing, external validity of statistics in scientific experiments, the effects of subliminal images on decision-making and issues regarding the adoption of information communication technologies (ICTs) by small municipal governments in Pennsylvania.

The free Graduate Exhibition began April 4 with performances in the Playhouse Theatre. The research and visual arts presentations took place April 6 in the HUB-Robeson Center. 

The IST students participating in the Graduate Exhibition were Christopher Dancy (social and behavioral sciences), Sanghack Lee (physical sciences and mathematics), Anna Levy (social and behavioral sciences), Michael Robert Marcinkowski (social and behavioral sciences), Nathan McNeese (social and behavioral sciences), Alan Nochenson (social and behavioral sciences), Kyle Williams (engineering) and Tao Yang (engineering).

The rise of social media and Web 2.0 technologies has provided opportunities for citizens to become more actively engaged in government.

For her dissertation, Anna Levy, a doctoral student at the College of IST, is investigating the potential for local governments to adopt Web 2.0 technologies and identify factors that may help these governments take a transformative step toward encouraging greater e-participation in their backyard communities. She presented “To Integrate or Not to Integrate. That’s the Question: Are Small Municipal Governments in Pennsylvania Ready for Social Media Integration?” during the poster session of the Graduate Exhibition.

“Such research is necessary and novel because discovery of potentially successful attempts to integrate social media interactive tools (including Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, YouTube channels) into the practice municipal governments may lead to more effective ways of service delivery to local residents, encourage greater civic participation and increase trust in government,” Levy wrote in the abstract for the paper.

Levy selected six Pennsylvania college towns for her comparative case study: Bloomsburg, Edinboro, Kutztown, Lewisburg, Shippensburg and State College. As part of her research, she spoke to government officials and university administrators about their attitudes toward social media and e-government. She found that people from most of the towns, besides State College, felt that social media was “out of reach” due to financial and logistical constraints. State College government bodies, on the other hand, are actively pursuing social media integration, including emergency notification, citizen participation and public safety. The question that Levy is seeking to answer, she said, is “What are the factors that affect decisions toward social media collaboration between universities and backyard communities?”

Academic search engines are becoming increasingly popular among students and researchers for finding and accessing articles in journals, repositories, archives or other collections of articles. Kyle Williams, a doctoral candidate at the College of IST who presented at the Graduate Exhibition last year, presented his work in developing SimSeer, a system in which users can submit a document, from which the system would extract information and generate suggestions for similar articles.

“The real motivation is to try to manage this scholarly data,” Williams said. “(The system) kind of addresses the mismatch between people’s needs and what the system thinks.”

Williams, who said the SimSeer system can be useful in detecting plagiarism, has had his research appear at conferences in Florence, Italy, and Valencia, Spain.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have the potential to enable free university-level education on an enormous scale. Looking specifically at the case of the design of large socio-technical systems such as MOOCs, Michael Marcinkowski, a doctoral candidate at the College of IST, is researching how designers and educators use student data in their work. He presented his paper, “Judging Technology, Judging Intent: The Doubling of Need in Design,” which was co-written by Frederico Fonseca, director of the Center for Innovative Online Learning and an associate professor at the College of IST, at the Graduate Exhibition.

“As our world becomes more technological and information technology comes to touch so many areas of our lives, it is important for us to understand how the data that our devices collect about our use can be used to design better systems,” Marcinkowski said. “Online education provides a really interesting case for this kind of research, as education is such a fundamental part of our lives and has for a long time been closely associated with new technologies, from printing technology all the way to current uses of the Internet.”

Alan Nochenson, a doctoral candidate at the College of IST, presented "I Didn't Want That!" An Experimental Study on Deceptive Online Post-transaction Marketing Offers” at the Graduate Exhibition. Post-transaction marketing offers are often designed to mislead consumers into purchasing products that are only tangentially related to their primary purchase. These products presented directly following the completion of legitimate first-party transactions. To sell these offers, marketers use deceptive tactics that include illegally acquiring data from merchants and exploiting cognitive psychology. The experiments that Nochenson conducted are the first experimental studies on deceptive post-transaction marketing.

“Due to the lack of regulations, and the global nature of the Internet, these deceptive practices are far from being extinct,” Nochenson said.

Nochenson’s work presents a scenario, based on actual cases, where a small music shopping site has partnered with a third-party marketer to show post-transaction marketing offers to consumers. After a successful primary transaction in the music store, customers are automatically redirected to a post-transaction offer. 

“The goal of this thesis is to examine the effectiveness of two ways of intervening to mitigate the harm of the deceptive post-transaction offer,” he said. “This problem can be addressed from the perspective of the first-party e-commerce site or the perspective of the third-party marketers.”

Chris Dancy, a doctoral candidate at the College of IST, presented a poster that describes results from a study that explored how decision-making may be affected by subliminal images. Participants completed the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT). As a gambling task, the goal of the IGT is to win as much money as possible. In the IGT, participants can select cards from one of four decks and each card will have a reward and loss associated with it; consistently selecting from some decks ("bad" decks) will cause a person to lose money over time, while selecting from other decks ("good" decks) consistently over time will cause a participant to gain money over time.

“I wanted to see how subliminal images that were not related to the goals of the task may affect decision-making behavior during the task and physiological behavior during the task,” Dancy said. "I also wanted to see if we found any differences in behavior depending on certain personality measures."

For his Graduate Exhibition presentation, Sanghack Lee, a doctoral candidate at the College of IST, addressed a pressing issue in the scientific community --external validity in statistics. He will present “Transportability from Multiple Environments with Limited Experiments,” which was co-authored by Elias Bareinboim, a doctoral candidate in computer science at UCLA, Judea Pearl, a professor of computer science at UCLA, and Vasant Honavar, professor and Edward Frymoyer Chair of Information Sciences and Technology at Penn State.

“Researchers often generalize their findings to other domains, or apply other findings to their problem,” Lee said. For a simple example, experiments on language skills of young people cannot be simply generalized to older people. Experiments in the laboratory environment may not be applicable to the real world when significant difference exists. Our work formalizes when we can guarantee to generalize such findings from different domains to a specific domain when differences exist.”

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Last Updated April 07, 2014