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  • Cryptocurrencies are a revolutionary monetary system. They are decentralized, essentially unhackable, and represent a novel and disruptive alternative to monetary systems controlled by banks and governments. The value of various cryptocurrencies has waxed and waned, but at the moment one of the more well-known is riding high at a record-breaking valuation. A review in the World Review of Entrepreneurship, Management and Sustainable Development considers the growth, opportunities, and future prospects of cryptocurrencies.

    Shweta Goel of the department of Management Sciences at Jagannath Institute of Management Sciences in New Delhi and Himanshu Mittal of the Department of Computer Science at Jaypee Institute of Information Technology in Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India, suggest that cryptocurrencies can be regarded as the safest mode of transferring money and making payments internationally. Moreover, they represent a system that is beyond the control of governments, banks, and even law enforcement, a fact that has its pros and cons in the wider scheme of commerce, international relations, and crime-fighting. They suggest that the likes of Bitcoin, Ripple, Ethereum, etc have over the last decade or so changed the financial sector in unimaginable ways and have yet revealed their full potential especially as the world responds and evolves in the wake of the global Covid-19 pandemic.

    While many everyday people still perceive folding cash money as the most "real" of currencies, organisations and individuals across a wide range of business sectors have recognised the unfolding of cryptocurrencies. This area of finance, despite some perceived limitations and purported but surmountable authoritarian controls, is likely to grow considerably in the medium to long term. In the short term, there will be a gradual understanding and a shift in perception that will facilitate that long-term recognition and growth.

    Goel, S. and Mittal, H. (2020) 'Economic, legal and financial perspectives on cryptocurrencies: a review on cryptocurrency growth, opportunities and future prospects', World Review of Entrepreneurship, Management and Sustainable Development, Vol. 16, No. 6, pp.611–623
    DOI: 10.1504/WREMSD.2020.111391

  • There are numerous software applications, apps, that can identify birds, trees, flowers, and other living things all with varying degrees of accuracy. New research published in the International Journal of Intelligent Engineering Informatics offers a new approach to flower identification.

    Abdulrahman Alkhonin, Abdulelah Almutairi, Abdulmajeed Alburaidi, and Abdul Khader Jilani Saudagar of the Information Systems Department at the Imam Mohammad Ibn Saud Islamic University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, explain how flowers are a big part of our lives in the aesthetic and recreational, educational, and even medicinal contexts and beyond.

    Deep learning algorithms have been widely used recently in the fields of image processing and computer vision.

    The team's new algorithm has been trained on a variety of photos of four well-known flower types – sunflower, dandelion, rose, and tulip. The resulting application tested with colour photos on the Android mobile operating system could then identify new photos of dandelion flowers with an accuracy of 94.6%, sunflowers at 92.5%, tulips with 95.7%. For roses the recognition rate was a little lower at just under 90%. They explain that increasing the training data set will allow the accuracy of the algorithm to be improved.

    The team adds that in future work they will incorporate an augmented reality feature in the application as extension that would help with flower identification out in the field, as it were.

    Alkhonin, A., Almutairi, A., Alburaidi, A. and Saudagar, A.K.J. (2020) 'Recognition of flowers using convolutional neural networks', Int. J. Intelligent Engineering Informatics, Vol. 8, No. 3, pp.186–197.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJIEI.2020.111246

  • The concept of a powered exoskeleton has been discussed widely in the context of science fiction and in industry where a human operator exploits robotic components that allow them to wield much greater strength in lifting and moving objects than is normally humanly possible. However, a robotic exoskeleton might be just as useful for the infirm who struggle with everyday mobility.

    Writing in the International Journal Advanced Mechatronic Systems a research team from India discusses the design and potential of a lower-limb robotic exoskeleton for otherwise immobile older people. The system could help overcome one of the more common problems – rising from a seated position to standing from a chair.

    Vishnu Vardhan Dadi, P.V.N.S. Sathwik, D. Mahesh, Dala Jaswanth, Karthik Kumar, M.M. Ramya, and D. Dinakaran of the Hindustan Institute of Technology and Science, Chennai, have designed their exoskeleton so that it can be adapted to varying body shapes, height, weight, and waist circumference. Modelling in Ansys workbench predicts the maximum loads, and static characteristics of the design as well as revealing the vibrational properties of the system. The design can bear 350 kilograms, which is well beyond the 100 kg person for which it was initially designed. Follow-up studies will investigate dynamic characteristics and responses of the design.

    Dadi, V.V., Sathwik, P.V.N.S., Mahesh, D., Jaswanth, D., Kumar, S.K., Ramya, M.M. and Dinakaran, D. (2020) 'Structural design and analysis of a lower limb exoskeleton for elderly', Int. J. Advanced Mechatronic Systems, Vol. 8, Nos. 2/3, pp.65–74.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJAMECHS.2020.111302

  • The received wisdom is that the advent of social media has changed our lives significantly, it affects many aspects of business, entertainment, sport, and day to day living. But, according to researchers in the USA writing in the International Journal of Business Forecasting and Marketing Intelligence little research has been done to investigate its role on behavioural and political change. They hope to remedy that situation in the context of the impact of social media on the citizens of Sudan in their seeking civil government and the ensuing uprising.

    The Sudanese Revolution led to the overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir after thirty years in power in April 2019 following widespread street protests in December 2018 and months of sustained civil disobedience. Ashraf Attia, Merve Yanar Gürce, Rana Fakhr, and Barry Friedman of the State University of New York at Oswego, USA, explain how social media is used by billions of people and that its platforms, most famously Facebook and Twitter have influenced our lives and perhaps even the results of elections and referenda. These tools provide an immediacy in political events from France to the USA, India to Iran, and Nigeria to Malaysia, and many other places besides.

    The team suggests that platforms allow people to encourage others to participate in mass demonstrations through the creation of an organic group solidarity. Protestors can mobilize themselves with the help of social media platforms and build a voice that is louder and heard that might ultimately change a government stance or even change the whole government.

    In the years before the Sudanese Revolution and coup d'état, economic conditions worsened, food prices escalated, and unemployment among the young increased enormously. Thus a thirst for freedom, democracy, and social justice arose. Social media facilitated the spread of the revolutionary urge and the information that brought together otherwise independent professional unions, rebel groups, and civil opponents with members from diverse race, religious, and ethnic groups. Importantly, it is well known that most of the protestors (80%) were young and 70% of those young people were women.

    Attia, A.M., Gürce, M.Y., Fakhr, R.A. and Friedman, B. (2020) 'The impact of social media on Sudan's uprising behaviour', Int. J. Business Forecasting and Marketing Intelligence, Vol. 6, No. 3, pp.186–203.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJBFMI.2020.111374

  • Science, philosophy, and religion all attempt to distill the essence of reality, the essence of being – albeit from very different points of departure. Writing in the International Journal of Foresight and Innovation Policy, Austrian scientist Franz Moser presents a foresight paper that looks at humanity's path from ignorance to knowledge and how ego structures have evolved into truth. Moser points out how our history is littered with war, misery, and suffering, yet none of our philosophical meanderings of whatever kinds have reconciled us. None has yet pulled us out of the paradigm that leads to that state of being to give us a new holistic paradigm.

    "The present world view, the Newtonian paradigm, confronts us with a divided world of contradictions, antagonism, and egotism," writes Moser. This arises from the basic human delusion of dualism wherein we imagine mind and matter to be separate rather than our minds, our consciousness, emerging from the electrochemistry of our brains. "Ego illusions prevail and dominate man's behaviour towards his fellow man and towards himself," adds Moser.

    Our modern scientific understanding and our spiritual lives also thus exist in a dualistic place. The next evolutionary steps in the wellbeing of humanity must find a holistic approach that allows what one might have thought of as the heart and mind to become one and to guide us forward to a better world where misery, suffering, and war are greatly reduced if not entirely precluded from the human condition. The current philosophical paradigms cannot correct this dualistic world view at any level.

    Ultimately, once we cast off the dualism, humanity can move from a place of ignorance, scarcity, and fear to knowledge and truth.

    Moser, F. (2020) "Mankind's path from ignorance to knowledge – from ego structures to truth: a foresight", Int. J. Foresight and Innovation Policy, Vol. 14, Nos. 2/3/4, pp.264-274.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJFIP.2020.111241

  • The way in which strawberry plants propagate has been modelled mathematically and used to develop an algorithm that can help solve complicated problems. Writing in the International Journal of Innovative Computing and Applications, a team from Algeria has shown how such a plant propagation algorithm can be used to decide on an efficient nursing roster in a hospital.

    Salim Haddadi of LabSTIC at the 8 Mai 1945 University in Guelma, explains that the nurse rostering problem is a combinatorial optimisation problem that has to be solved in every healthcare institution. It is a computationally hard problem with huge numbers of possible solutions and so requires a sophisticated approach that can find the optimal solutions from that huge number. There are many additional constraints on the solutions that might be tenable in a healthcare environment because nurses with different skills are needed at different times. There are also many regulations that must be complied with in the healthcare setting. Such constraints make solving the problem even tougher than a roster for shop assistants would be, for instance.

    Plants have evolved many different propagation strategies. The most obvious is sexual reproduction which produces seeds that are dispersed by various mechanisms and grow into new plants. However, some plants, such as the strawberry plant can produce runners that branch from the main plant and generate new plants asexually with roots implanted from those new buds along the branches. The way in which strawberry plants project these runners and the positions of the new asexual offspring along the runners is determined by the plant's sensing of sunlight, moisture levels, and nutrient concentrations. If conditions are inadequate when shorter runners are sent out, the parent plant will allow the runners to grow longer before a new plant bud forms to set roots. The algorithm models this process as a proxy for positioning nursing staff in the roster.

    Haddadi, S. (2020) 'Plant propagation algorithm for nurse rostering', Int. J. Innovative Computing and Applications, Vol. 11, No. 4, pp.204–215.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJICA.2020.111229

  • Fake news is another level of media manipulation beyond propaganda and it is becoming increasingly commonplace thanks to social networking and ubiquitous connectivity. Researchers in India, writing in the International Journal of Advanced Media and Communication suggest that India needs an evolution in policy to stem the flow of fake news.

    Raj Kishore Patra of the Department of Mass Communication and Media Technology at Khallikote University, in Berhampur, Odisha, and Arpita Saha of the Xavier School of Communications at Xavier University, in Bhubaneswar, suggest that the spirit and ethics of journalism are compromised by fake news and the public perception of the place of ethical journalism within the modern information sphere. The social media giants seem not to have the strength of policy to cope with fake news and the regulatory authorities too are apparently somehow debilitated by the scale of the issue. The team adds that frail and inadequate public policies cannot monitor nor counteract this progressive dysfunction within the media.

    The team has examined the origins of fake news, its gradual emergence and how the advent of social media which gave everyone a place to voice their opinions in public has pushed it to such a level that even those in power not only utilize it without impunity but endlessly accuse their opponents of exploiting it to their detriment.

    Fake news can confuse and dupe adults, it can lead to culture jamming, polarization of opinion, obstruction of reality, and harassment of conventional mainstream media who become perceived not only as purveyors of fake news but also being biased against those who believe the fakery and peddling lies those who believe they are beyond that confusion. The presence and spread of fake news on social media and elsewhere represent a setback to what we might otherwise perceive as human progress. In many circles, there is little desire to impose legal constraints, which might be seen as restrictions on free speech. We must hope that journalistic integrity and professional ethics will prevail and ultimately quash the voices of those peddling and echoing fake news.

    Patra, R.K. and Saha, A. (2019) 'Fake news circulation on social media and the need for a policy evolution in India', Int. J. Advanced Media and Communication, Vol. 7, No. 4, pp.282–308.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJAMC.2019.111172

  • For people predisposed to take part in non-sexual nude activities body image, self-esteem, and life-satisfaction are improved by such participation. Now, research published in the International Journal of Happiness and Development suggests that for people who may not be predisposed to such activities, a nudity-based intervention may nevertheless lead to positive improvements in body image.

    Negative body image is a mental health problem that is widespread. Surveys of thousands of people across many different countries suggest that dissatisfaction with one's own body is common across many diverse body types. This dissatisfaction can lead to deeper, problems, such as depression, substance abuse, self-harm, risky sexual behaviour, eating disorders, and suicide.

    Conversely, those with a positive body appreciation, enjoy better psychological well-being in this context are often proactive in coping with personal crises and other problems, have greater optimism, and take part in safer sexual behaviour. Overall, "Body image is an important aspect of one's self-concept, and has a profound influence on both self-esteem," writes researcher Keon West of the Department of Psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London, UK.

    West emphasizes how a person's body image can profoundly affect their self-esteem and life-satisfaction and if of a negative nature can be a predictor for the onset of eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. West has undertaken a small-scale study to test the hypothesis and found that participants reported a positive effect of the intervention that persisted for at least a month after the four-day trial period.

    "Results suggest that nudity-based interventions can meaningfully and enduringly improve body image and related outcomes, even among non-nudists," West reports. West adds that this area of research is still in its infancy and much is to be studied and understood. However, he points out that as society becomes more diverse and tolerant of different types of activity once perceived as taboo, we might find new approaches to confronting old and widespread problems, such as those that arise from negative body image.

    West, K. (2020) 'A nudity-based intervention to improve body image, self-esteem, and life satisfaction', Int. J. Happiness and Development, Vol. 6, No. 2, pp.162–172.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJHD.2020.111202

  • With the emergence of the pandemic coronavirus and the spread of Covid-19 throughout 2020, many people who work in the service sector have been forced to work from home rather than commuting to offices. The social and economic impact of such measures, put in place to help restrict the spread of this disease, are yet to be fully understood.

    Writing in the International Journal of Social and Humanistic Computing, a team from India describes the impact on the education "industry" of the work-from-home rules that have been put in place in many parts of the world. Rajwinder Kaur and Gagandeep Kaur of the University School of Business at Chandigarh University in Ghruan, Mohali, Punjab, suggest that there have been pros as well as cons for higher education in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

    The researchers suggest at among the benefits are a reduction in office distractions and office politics for those in the education industry. There are also the benefits of essentially zero commuting time and the ability to schedule work more efficiently. Of course, such benefits have been well-known for many years among those who previously worked from home. Conversely, the delivery of lectures, tutorials, and assessment via online tools while also having benefits means that students are missing out on direct contact and conversation with their educators. There are many barriers to having students take examinations throughout and at the end of a course because of physical (also known as social) distancing measures.

    This is the first time that educators have been forced to handle their students in this way and they are only now beginning to face the challenges and recognise some of the benefits. Whether or not we see an end to the Covid-19 pandemic is a moot point, but the "new-normal" must take education into account to ensure a positive future for learners.

    Kaur, R. and Kaur, G. (2020) 'A study on work from home in education industry due to COVID-19', Int. J. Social and Humanistic Computing, Vol. 3, Nos. 3/4, pp.339–358.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJSHC.2020.111196

  • Researchers have demonstrated that there is very little, if any, servitisation in the UK and Ireland publishing industry. They present their results in the International Journal of Business Environment.

    Alexander Kharlamov and Glenn Parry of the Faculty of Business and Law at the University of the West of England (UEW) Frenchay Campus, in Bristol, UK, explain how "servitisation is a strategic transition of firms towards the creation of additional value through services." They have used a data-driven approach to investigate the activities of publishing companies as revealed by the descriptions those companies use to represent themselves. "If there is a trend of traditional publishing firms adopting servitisation strategies, this should emerge from textual analysis of company descriptors," the team suggests.

    Despite the apparent servitisation of other commercial endeavours, it seems that there is no significant evidence of strategic diversity in publishing, the team found. An alternative explanation might be that the publicly available dataset is not representative of corporate strategy in the publishing industry but one might assume that for an industry the stock in trade of which is sharing information that this explanation is unlikely.

    A critical point that emerges from the research independent of the subject or its research conclusions is that it demonstrates how unsupervised clustering can be used to detect naturally occurring groups in large datasets without the need for prescribing categories of companies. This allows an analysis to be undertaking without introducing bias that would result from anticipating the conclusions that might emerge from said analysis.

    Kharlamov, A.A. and Parry, G. (2020) 'Limited evidence for servitisation in UK publishing: an empirical analysis', Int. J. Business Environment, Vol. 11, No. 3, pp.336–346.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJBE.2020.110896

News

New Editor for International Journal of Built Environment and Asset Management

Dr. Jian Sun from Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the USA has been appointed to take over editorship of the International Journal of Built Environment and Asset Management.

New Editor for International Journal of Mining and Mineral Engineering

Prof. S.J. Jung from the University of Idaho in the USA has been appointed to take over editorship of the International Journal of Mining and Mineral Engineering.

New Editor for International Journal of Migration and Border Studies

Associate Prof. Sasha Baglay from the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in Canada has been appointed to take over editorship of the International Journal of Migration and Border Studies.

New Editor for International Journal of Nuclear Knowledge Management

Dr. John W. Roberts from the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna has been appointed to take over editorship of the International Journal of Nuclear Knowledge Management.

New Editor for International Journal of Behavioural Accounting and Finance

Dr. Matteo Rossi from the University of Sannio in Italy has been appointed to take over editorship of the International Journal of Behavioural Accounting and Finance.