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CACM Reports: Using Computation to Study Cultural Development and Change

July Issue Reports on the Rise of Predatory Scholarly Publishing, Behavioral Programming, and Google's Hybrid Approach to Research

The Association for Computing Machinery
Advancing Computing as a Science & Profession

Contact: Virginia Gold

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NEW YORK – June 27, 2012 – Computational methods enable researchers to "see the forest" even as they probe deeply into details of cultural contours of groups and societies.  In the July cover story of Communications of the ACM (CACM), researchers from Rutgers University and the University of California, Los Angeles propose computational approaches to the study of folklore to accommodate the digitized archives and web-based social media sites that collect and circulate information critical to folklorists.  By augmenting traditional methods of scholarship with digitization of existing and new resources in machine-readable format; development of extensive data structures for description and storage; novel classification methods that capture linguistic texts; domain-sensitive search and discovery methods; and algorithms that include visually rich approaches and combinatorial graphs, researchers are able to study folklore in a holistic fashion.
Also in this issue, Communications Editor-in-Chief Moshe Y. Vardi examines the delicate balance between publishers, libraries, authors, and editors.  He affirms that it has been upset by the increasing legitimacy of digital publishing as well as the growing popularity of open-access publishing that shifts costs to the author.  The result, he notes, is "predatory" publishing, whose main goal is to generate profits rather than promote scholarship, and he predicts that the future of scholarly publishing belongs to association publishing.

Communications, the flagship publication of ACM, offers readers access to this generation's most significant leaders and innovators in computing and information technology, and is available online in digital format.

Other stories include:

  • Researchers from the Weizmann Institute of Science and Ben Gurion University address the challenges of behavioral programming—a novel language-independent paradigm for programming reactive systems—which respond to external events.  Their approach uses scenario-coding techniques and design approaches for constructing reactive systems incrementally from their expected behavior.   
  • To enable Google's research goal of bringing significant, practical benefits to users in a timely manner, researchers have developed a "Hybrid Research Model" that blurs the line between research and engineering activities.  This approach helps eliminate most risk to technology transfer from research to engineering and results in valuable new capabilities for the company.  The authors, Alfred Spector, Peter Norvig, and Slav Petrov, hypothesize that it may also serve as an interesting model for other technology companies. 
  • While writing the Varnish HTTP accelerator, Poul-Henning Kamp recounts his design decision to sort letters alphabetically.  Describing it as one of his best decisions, he opted for this change to address coding problems full of "horrors." The inspiration behind, Kamp goes on to legitimize this approach with an example of a surprisingly difficult programming problem.  Until programming languages catch up, he says, he will continue to try to make his compiler understand him. 
  • Technology writer Gary Anthes proclaims the hype surrounding the fifth version of HTML justified.  He says the difficulty in accepting the hype lies in the definition of HTML, because this version of HTML is both a single specification and a whole set of technologies.  It is also at the heart of the World Wide Web Consortium’s Open Web Platform, which is being driven by the proliferation of diverse devices and the Web's embrace of the social networking model. 
  • University of Oxford professor Mari Sako investigates how business models are necessary for strategy and innovation.  She explains why they are essential for converting new technologies into commercial value; defining the overall business logic of a company at the strategic level; and functioning as a subject of innovation by pursuing novel forms of value creation and by capturing mechanisms. 
  • The condition known as bufferbloat—the persistently full buffer problem—is increasingly critical due to a "more is better" mentality that results in more links, and path delays from dynamically varying path characteristics. Authors Kathleen Nichols and Van Jacobson provide part of the bufferbloat solution, proposing an innovative approach to active queue management (AQM).  Called Controlled Delay (CoDel), it adapts to changing link rates and is suitable for deployment and experimentation in Linux-based routers as well as silicon. 
  • Blog@CACM blogger Mark Guzdial writes about why computer science should permeate the culture, including as an equal player among the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) disciplines.  Judy Robertson discusses the educational benefits of using console games in the classroom because of the way they incorporate technology into educational practice. 

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About ACM
ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery, is the world's largest educational and scientific computing society, uniting computing educators, researchers and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources and address the field’s challenges. ACM strengthens the computing profession's collective voice through strong leadership, promotion of the highest standards, and recognition of technical excellence. ACM supports the professional growth of its members by providing opportunities for life-long learning, career development, and professional networking. 

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