Category Archives: 2011/3-4


The 5th GUIDE conference 2011, E-learning Quality Assurance: A Multidisciplinary Perspective Approach, has taken place on last 18 and 19 November at the Conference room of the Università degli Studi “Guglielmo Marconi” in Rome. The conference was attended by 200 delegates coming from more than 100 universities from 50 different countries.

Giovanni Briganti

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How to taste mathematics

We are facing a real danger as mathematics continues to be driven further outside the realm of modern culture. The danger lies in the fact that mathematical structures reflect all possible patterns of mental activity, which are creative and unlimited. This proves itself especially in mathematical breakthroughs. Mathematics is integral to culture. In fact, mathematics merits as legitimate a place in modern culture as music.
The fundamental sequence of doing mathematics is as follows. In the first phase, the mind formulates some simple or rather involved problem. Soon the problem transforms into a sort of obsession that pushes the mind into a lengthy search for a solution. In the case where a solution is found, the mind is satisfied at least temporarily – until it creates a new problem.
Mathematics is not a pragmatic science in any sense. Hence, there is a rarity of great mathematicians in our epoch. Another reason for a dearth of modern, brilliant mathematicians is that mathematics is, unfortunately, being relegated primarily to the economic sector. Music is moving towards the same fate. No one discipline can attest to having a monopoly on how to appeal to our deepest aesthetic sensibilities – not music or any other of the arts. And, in fact, mathematics has more in common with music than students of either are led to believe.
Unfortunately, the prevailing classical methods of teaching mathematics, are partly responsible for the decline in this great art. We have to modify these methods so as to achieve a deeper understanding of mathematics. Our incomprehension of a thing often leads to our criticism of it as being too involved or complicated, followed by our tendency to thus render it unimportant, and then to our conveniently neglecting it altogether. To experience the beauty and wonder – the exaltation – of mathematics, just like that of music, requires only that we attempt to truly understand it.

Article originally published in “International Journal of mathematical Sciences and Applications”, V. 1 (January 2011), n. 1, as open access article. Reprinted with permission.

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Competing in Several Areas Simultaneously: The Case of Strategic Asset Markets

We characterize the structure of Nash equilibria for a certain class of asset market games. In equilibrium, different assets have different returns, and (risk neutral) investors with different wealth hold portfolios with different structures. In equilibrium, an asset´s return is inversely related to the elasticity of its supply. The larger an investor, the more diversified is his portfolio. Smaller investors do not hold all the assets, but achieve higher percentage returns. More generally, our results can be applied also to other ‘multi-market games’ in which several players compete in several arenas simultaneously, like multi-market Cournot oligopolies, or multiple rent-seeking games.

Article originally published in “Games”, V. 2 (2011), as open access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attributions Licence. Reprinted with permission.

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Diseño de investigación para el àrea emergente del desarrollo abierto

This paper departs from the observation that empirical and conceptual frameworks describing the intersection of new technology and development studies have begun to embrace the idea of open development. Frameworks for research, however, continue to reflect older notions of technology appropriation and empowerment. In order to start a dialogue about research design appropriate to open development, I provide an overview of key ontological, epistemological, and methodological considerations of significance to this field. An open development approach, I argue, should focus on enhancing cognitive justice rather than productivity or empowerment. This can best be carried out through the application of a constructivist and critical realist epistemology, through positional methodology and through networked research processes.

Received: 10 November 2011
Revised: 20 November 2011

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Recherches partenariales: coordination et coopération entre chercheurs d’entreprise et chercheurs universitaires

The partnerships created between researchers of Research and Development (R&D) companies and university researchers offer multiple assets: an addition of expertises mobilized to answer concrete perspectives, or the advantage of knowledge updated by colleagues to lead activities of publications and formalizations. However, the variety of the objectives of the stakeholders as well as the short temporality of execution towards the university criteria make it sometimes difficult to realize all the purposes assigned to these researches, as we shall see by an analysis of partnership researches in the R&D of a company. In this context, the emergence and the realization of the partnership rest on the researchers´ capacity to elaborate an appropriate work organization, procedures of coordination and relations of cooperation which are based on an exchange of ‘gifts’. However, the specific constraints related to research within companies, the ambiguity of the exchange and the problematic evaluation of the research can create problems for partnerships. We shall approach these points by the observation of several research projects which were done in partnership in the R&D department of a company and several interviews conducted with researchers of this company.

Article originally published in Revue Interventions Économiques / Papers in Political Economy, n. 43(2011). Reprinted with permission

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If You Build It, Will They Come? An Inside Look at a Small Art Market

Discussions of art are often linked to cities such as New York, London, and Paris, though art is also negotiated within small markets. This paper investigates the ways in which gallery owners and artists in a small art market think about the role of art in urban sustainability and social engagement. Through semi-structured interviews, we discovered that many individuals were finding it difficult to maintain an economically feasible business, while also saying that the community supported the arts at various levels. Much of the art that would be considered socially engaged consisted of political caricatures, and typically did not sell very well. We also found that the market functioned as a zero sum game for many of the actors, though there was little evidence that this needed to be the case. Finally, surveys results from two socially engaged art shows are provided to show how patrons for the arts think about the economic importance of the arts at the local level.

Article originally published in “The Open Sociology Journal” V.3 (2010), pp. 1-8, as open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Licence. Reprinted with permission.

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Activity-based costing models for alternative modes of delivering on-line courses

In recent years there has been growth in online distance learning courses. This has been prompted by new technology such as the Internet, mobile learning, video and audio conferencing: the explosion in student numbers in higher education, and the need for outreach to a world-wide market. Web-based distance learning is seen as a solution to problems of outreach and course delivery.
This paper considers module costing models to compare the costs of delivery of:
- a traditionally delivered face-to-face module
- a web-based distance learning module delivered by inhouse academic staff
- a web-based distance learning module delivered by external contracted staff.
The model uses Activity Based Costing (ABC) utilising data from HEFCE and other sources, and with assumptions made from practice at Leeds Metropolitan University from over ten years experience of delivering web-based distance learning courses.
Using the models different scenarios can be run. The paper concludes that there are savings to be achieved by utilising Webbased distance learning. This saving could, in turn, be passed on to students. Furthermore, the student experience, in terms of contact does not have to suffer and may in fact be enhanced by utilising Web-based distance learning.

Article originally published in “European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning – EURODL”, V. (2011), n. 2, as open access article. Reprinted with permission.

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An empirical study of impact of green retailing on customers buying behaviour

Retailing is an age old business. The new retail formats are available now to provide better services and products to customers, this has transformed our traditional, un organised retailing to organized retailing, due to changing demographics, nuclear families, higher disposable income and improved agri-produce realisation have made smaller cities and rural areas the future hotbeds of growth. Green retailing practices adopted by retailers as corporate social responsibility are becoming area of concern. Green retailing practices in the organizations need to follow regulatory compliances and practice conceptual tools such as corporate social responsibility, product stewardship and pollution control practices. Previous studies have paid much attention on product quality, corporate image, customer satisfaction, and customer loyalty, but none have explored them about green innovation or environmental management aspects.
This research intends to identify the impact of customer demographics on buying behaviour of customers for ‘green products’ in the retail outlets.
Data for this study was gathered through a five point Likert´s scale questionnaire administered personally on customers at point of purchase. Respondents for this study were selected randomly. The study reveals that demographic factors have a significant impact on the buying behaviour of the customers. Age, gender, marital status, occupation, income and family size bears upon the customer preferences for the environment friendly products.

Received: 2 August 2011

Revised: 25 October 2011

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MAPISA: a web based framework for structural health monitoring

The paper describes a Multi Plug-In Software Architecture, MAPISA, designed mainly to enable users and researchers involved with sensor network data to manage relevant information, thereby improving process interoperability, composition and heterogeneity. MAPISA can easily be extended to support new types of sensor data sources in such a way that is completely transparent for end users.
MAPISA functional characteristics enable professional users to perform various specific tasks on a given sensor dataset, such as mathematical model uploading to perform simulations on different, dynamically selected datasets and data visualization.
Even non-expert users can utilize applications based on MAPISA, since it stores all significant data collected from monitored sites which can easily be read and visualized in summarizing reports.
The entire framework has been designed by applying the fundamental principles of software engineering; in particular, modularity and interoperability concepts have been given a fundamental role in order to facilitate the implementation of new features into the platform. In particular, MAPISA is ideal as a base framework for web 2.0 applications.
Therefore MAPISA functions as a middleware that enables stored data to be exchanged between potential users and fully deployed sensor networks so that relevant information can easily be accessed. In order to demonstrate the advantages of this framework, this study presents the development of a web application together with a plug-in and also the integration of a mathematical model. The latter application will also show the output graphs resulting from the running of the mathematical model.

Received: 11 October 2011

Revised: 27 October 2011

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For a love of false consciousness: Adam Smith on the social origin of scarcity

For Americans, there can be few better lines in the history of philosophy than Locke´s cavalier assertion that ‘in the beginning all the world was America’ (Locke, 1992, p. 753). Taken out of context, it affirms our infamous ‘exceptionalism’ by effectively transforming our country into The Garden that we have always known it to be. Taken in context, it affirms our equally infamous anarcho-capitalism, for herein lies an intricate claim that, whenever not hemmed in by government, our country houses an eternal abundance. Government thwarts our easy access to bliss, casting us out of our Garden and into a world of artificial scarcity that demands endless toil. Thus, embedded within Locke´s logic lies the revolutionary possibility that social equality could be conjured forth in an instant, were we to simply wake up to the true abundance offered by the natural world. Scarcity, according to him, has been produced by mankind and was simply not present in antediluvian America. The foundational ideas of modern economics – supply and demand – turn tail in the face of a world wherein all necessities can be effortlessly plucked from the nearest tree. Given a garden of natural abundance, the equilibrium price of all goods drops to zero. Adam Smith, I will argue, picks up on this Lockean strand in The theory of moral sentiments, but morphs it in significant ways. In so doing, Smith clearly believes that society itself is co-constitutive with the creation of scarcity. For him, there is virtually no ‘natural’ scarcity, save for the market in one keystone good, with which I will conclude. Instead, scarcity is created by mankind in order to achieve very particular and cohesive social goals. Reopening the laissez-faire lineage of the social production of scarcity might not only help us to work through some foundational concepts in the dismal science, which, at least since Malthus, has famously and adamantly insisted that the world is constituted by natural scarcity; it might also allow us to move beyond certain prototypical impasses between the proverbial left and right, by showing that both sides of the political spectrum have a deep grasp of the social origins of inequality.

Article originally published in “Economic Sociology” V. 12 (2011), n. 3. Reprinted with permission.

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The inexact and separate philosophy of Economics: an interview with Daniel Hausmann

Daniel M. Hausman (Chicago, 1947) is currently Herbert A. Simon professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He attended Harvard College, where in 1969 he received a BA in English history and literature. After completing an MA in teaching at New York University while teaching intermediate school, he spent two years studying philosophy at Gonville and Caius College at Cambridge University (UK) before earning his PhD in philosophy in 1978 at Columbia University. Professor Hausman has taught at the University of Maryland at College Park, Carnegie Mellon University, and since 1988 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Most of his research has focused on methodological, metaphysical, and ethical issues at the boundaries between economics and philosophy, and he has been prominent in the development of philosophy of economics as a separate discipline. In collaboration with Michael McPherson, he founded the journal Economics and Philosophy and edited it for its first ten years. He also edited The philosophy of economics: an anthology (3rd edition, 2008). His most important books are Capital, profits, and prices: an essay in the philosophy of economics (1981), The inexact and separate science of economics (1992), Causal asymmetries (1998), and Economic analysis, moral philosophy, and public policy (co-authored with Michael McPherson, 2006). His latest book, Preference, value, choice, and welfare will be published in 2011 by Cambridge University Press. He is currently working on a book on the measurement of health. In this interview, Professor Hausman offers some reflections on his approach to the philosophy of economics, and on various topics central to recent methodological discussions, such as the role of abstraction, idealizations, scientific representation, and causality in economics.

Interview originally published in “Erasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics”, V. 4 (Spring 2011), n. 1, pp. 67-82. Reprinted with permission.

This interview was conducted by Luis Mireles-Flores, PhD candidate at the Erasmus Institute for Philosophy and Economics (EIPE), Erasmus University Rotterdam, and co-editor of EJPE.

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Human capacity building through the development of a structured university communication strategy in Algeria

Capacity building is the main objective of the Strategicom project (2010-2013), an EU-funded project under the TEMPUS programme, which, specifically, aims at enhancing the university officials´ competences, so as to enhance the quality of a structured university communication strategy in Algeria. After analysing successful communication models in 12 leading European universities, the identified best practices will be adapted and transferred to Algerian Universities. The project will culminate in a policy recommendation paper to be presented to the Algerian Ministry of Higher Education for its approval, that will become a tool for the reform of the Algerian higher education structure.
The transfer of European Best Practices to Algerian Universities relies on a proposal of highly qualified on-line and in-country courses. This is intended to increase the technical skills and knowledge, in the area of communication strategy and ICT, of the staff selected to be part of the newly formed communication department in Algerian universities.
The Project, led by Università degli Studi Guglielmo Marconi, benefits from the support and involvement of the Algerian Ministry of Higher Education and of the Research Center in Applied Economics and Development (CREAD), and relies on the international cooperation of five European and six Algerian higher education institutions.

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GUIDE International Conference 2011: E-learning innovative models for the integration of education, technology and research

Rome, 18 – 19 November 2011

Arturo Lavalle, Università degli Studi “Guglielmo Marconi”, Rome, Italy

A brief overview

The shift from a traditional teaching model to an innovative way of providing education implies the modernization of the organizational structures within institutions and the development of ICT-mediated training processes able to efficiently merge pedagogy, technology and research.

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