May 10, 2017

Faculty Awarded Fletcher Jones Foundation Research Grants

Photo of a satellite
Professors Andrew Marx and Melissa Rogers will be using satellite images to determine how economic opportunities and barriers have changed in Arizona and New Mexico over the past 25 years. (Photo courtesy of US Air Force/Flickr)

Will the technology that powers driverless cars make us safer—or usher in a host of cyber threats? What role does attention play in the quality of human life? How have economic barriers—and opportunities—changed in the rural Southwest over the past quarter-century?

Six Claremont Graduate University professors have been named recipients of prestigious grants that will support research seeking answers to such pressing questions. The grants will also benefit two CGU students, who will serve as research assistants for one of the projects.

The grants were provided through the Fletcher Jones Foundation, which provided CGU with an endowment fund in 1987 to support faculty research grants of $2,000 to $8,000. Nearly 200 grants have been awarded to date, with four to six grants currently awarded annually.

The grants, alone or combined with other resources, are critical, said Dean Gerstein, vice provost, director of research, and research professor.

“They have helped new faculty establish their scholarly footing,” he said. “They have enabled more established faculty, working with graduate research assistants, to open new lines of research. And they have allowed faculty and students at all levels to develop preliminary findings necessary to strengthen the external grant proposals that support extensive research projects.”

The grant recipients and project descriptions are:

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Jeanne Nakamura
Division of Behavioral & Organizational Sciences
Attention and the Quality of Human Life 

Despite the long‐recognized importance of attentional structures, we still lack an integrated understanding of them. We are still learning, for instance, how children develop attentional structures; how attentional structures, once established, influence a growing child’s behavior and future goals; how the allocation of attention determines the young adult’s choices of a job, a partner, and a way of life; and how structures of attention change in adulthood and in old age. We have yet to fully understand how structures of attention contribute to optimal functioning or undermine it; or how they impact the structures and institutions of society. In the proposed project, we intend to spend time integrating existing knowledge on the topic of attention, broadly understood—its development, its neurophysiology, its pathologies, and its optimal deployment. With emerging understandings across disciplines, we hope to provide a solid conceptual base for a compelling transdisciplinary approach to the study and to the understanding of how attention shapes human lives directly, and indirectly through its material products, technological as well as symbolic. We will identify and summarize the literature bearing on the topic, collect qualitative and quantitative survey data to ascertain basic demographic differences in the formation of attentional structures, investigate how attentional structures relate to optimal human functioning, and model how attentional structures change or are maintained over the life span. Ultimately, we plan to prepare a monograph that synthesizes this conceptual and empirical work on attention and the quality of human life.

Andrew Marx, Center for Information Systems & Technology
Melissa Rogers, Division of Politics & Economics
The Changing Role of Place in Rural Economic Mobility: Economic Opportunity and Barriers to Opportunity in the Southwest Over the Last 25 Years 

The rural economic opportunity gap remains a significant economic, social, and political concern in the United States. High quality jobs and other economic resources continue to agglomerate in cities despite technologies that enable communication and collaboration across space. Our research seeks to understand the role of place in American economic mobility over the past 25 years. Specifically, we combine underutilized nightlight satellite imagery from the Defense Satellite Meteorological Program from 1992 to the present with an integrated dataset of economic opportunity to describe at a 2.7-square-kilometer spatial resolution how zones of economic opportunity and barriers to opportunity have changed, or not changed, in Arizona and New Mexico. In addition to a peer-reviewed article validating our analytic approach, our findings will be presented in an online spatiotemporal web map of economic production and mobility in the Southwest.

Hovig Tchalian, Drucker School of Management, with Vern Glaser, University of Alberta, and Jeffrey Green, graduate student, University of Maryland.
Movers and Shapers: Placement, Mediation, and Influence in the Electric Vehicle Industry 

The proposed project will complete the second in a three-paper series on how new ideas and innovations gain recognition and social acceptance. We address two related questions critical to organizational and institutional theory: How do organizations overcome the significant cognitive barriers that chronically emergent categories pose? Can we tease out and trace the specific impacts of organizations’ promotion efforts from the organic evolution of the categories themselves, no matter how gradual? Our empirical setting is the modern Electric Vehicle (EV). We look at two very different automobile companies and launch strategies: General Motors (GM) and Tesla. Both faced similar, seemingly insurmountable adoption challenges. GM’s stable, solidly innovative EV1 failed to meet expectations and was dropped, while Tesla’s brash, wildly risky Roadster survived and eventually exceeded expectations, hailing a broader revival of the EV category. Why? We have built a unique dataset of more than 110,000 news reports, trade magazine articles, and press releases pertaining to the EV category, GM, and Tesla spanning the 30 years from 1985 to 2014. We rely on long-standing Natural Language Processing tools designed for analyzing linguistic and associational patterns in texts, which we supplement with newly developed stochastic tools for analyzing latent themes, known as “topic modeling.” We use this approach to model category creation, stability, and change. Our approach allows us to trace the discursive “signatures” associated with each organization, pinpoint the introduction and development of specific associational patterns, and develop three critical aspects of our analysis: (1) topic similarity, which helps compare GM’s strategy against Tesla’s; (2) topic coherence, a powerful method for tracking the movement from category emergence to stability; and (3) extent of vertical category orientation, which helps chart the movement from hierarchical to more faceted categorization, which is central to our analysis and theoretical model.

Tamir Bechor with Hengwei Zhang, doctoral candidate, and Leonard Cruz, master’s candidate, Center for Information Systems & Technology
Navigating Risks in the Era of Driverless Cars

Society is entering an automotive epoch that will be defined by the emergence of self-driving vehicles. This paradigm shift brings both incredible capability and risk as the worlds of the internet and automobiles collide. Former United States Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx estimated that driverless technology could have saved 25,000 deaths in 2015; but this technology could host a different set of threats. This research will use design research methodology to synthesize data on governance, risk management, and compliance (GRC) frameworks and apply it to standards, laws, regulations, compliance, and research surrounding the cyber security of autonomous vehicles. We have the following objectives: (a) map trends and commonalities of current research and regulations for autonomous cars; (b) provide an in-depth analysis of regulations associated with autonomous cars in the United States and the European Union; (c) develop and validate a flexible GRC framework to guide decision making to mitigate possible cyber security risks.