ECRA co-editors introduction for volume 10, issue 2, March, April 2011

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Journal Article

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In addition to the Special Issue articles in this issue, it also includes five Regular Research papers. A number of topics are covered: (1) operational performance in location-based systems and mobile computing; (2) price flexibility and dispersion related to the sale of DVDs in the online market; (3) decision support system capabilities in support of ubiquitous and mobile computing; (4) methods to control for normative conflicts in electronic contracting; and (5) cross-channel free-riding behavior of consumers on the Internet. These works deserve some in-depth description and discussion of their contributions.The first of the Regular Research articles is entitled “A Hybrid Communication Solution to Distributed Moving Query Monitoring Systems,” by Fuyu Liu, Kien A. Hua and Fei Xie. A “moving object” in a location-based system is a fundamental element in the offering of services in a complex and changing spatial environment. Imagine, for example, that a police officer arrives at the scene of a life-threatening accident. The officer would like to make a query to identify whether it is possible to dispatch a hospital ambulance, which may be in motion already, to the scene. Another possibility involves the individual use of a mobile device to identify gasoline service stations and possible restaurants for lunch that the person is likely to pass after driving on the highway for several hours during the morning. The integration of GPS with hand-held and other mobile devices makes it possible for mobile systems to identify the geo-coordinates of the mobile objects – the cars, ambulances, gas stations and restaurants – and support user queries that provide useful spatial information.The authors point out that query support in mobile systems is hard because the results have to be updated frequently to be of any value to a moving user. In addition, updating the locations of other moving objects in the system is expensive because of their constant movement, and the relevant geographic query region also changes with time. Thus, the authors focus on developing a new solution approach to support mobile queries that aims to control and reduce server loads, manage the cost of communications within the system, and provide desirable lower bounds on the quality of response to queries regarding spatial data. Their proposed solution involves the use of a mix of on-demand data access and periodic broadcasts of mobile location data. The authors comment: “The server sets aside a broadcast channel to repeatedly broadcast query information. The area of interest is mapped into grid cells, and when a mobile client moves from one cell into another cell, it tunes into the broadcast channel to download information on relevant queries instead of contacting the server for the information.”The authors’ key contribution is to develop and test the performance capabilities of two indexing schemes to support the spatial data broadcasts that describe the time-wise location of the moving objects. The first involves the representation of “grid cells” that can be mapped to geo-locations. They can be decomposed further into separate cells that can be mapped to larger blocks in the geo-grid. The second index emphasizes the direction of movement of the moving objects, so that it is possible to anchor, and then interpolate and forecast their locations. The authors provide evidence for 30–60% performance gains in broadcast performance, and provide design concepts for the processing of spatial queries in location-based systems.The second Regular Research article is “Online Pricing Dynamics in Internet Retailing: The Case of the DVD Market,” by Baibing Li and Fang-Fang Tang. Their research is representative of an already large and growing literature in the disciplines of Economics, Marketing and IS which explores price rigidity and price flexibility. The central issues in this literature related to e-commerce focus on how Internet technologies (shopbots, search algorithms, etc.) provide a basis for “frictionless commerce.” Another issue is how the technologies have changed the ability that firms have to effect pricing strategies that reflect synchronization between their physical stores and the Internet. BestBuy, Target and Walmart in the United States are good examples, since they operate both in traditional store locations and on the Internet. The literature has also explored variations in prices at the market, firm, product area and individual product levels on the Internet, based on the wealth of data that are available using automated data collection methods.The authors’ investigation of price dispersion for DVDs involves a year of data from 2004 and 2005, representing almost 7000 prices on 61 best-selling titles at five Internet only and five multi-channel sellers. The authors employ an econometric technique called two-level random coefficient regression, which permits them to look at both price levels and price dispersion over time in a panel data model. They describe the technique in the following way. “In this approach, repeated measurements over time ([for] price levels and price dispersion) are modeled using a regression equation on time, and the time-correlation is captured via an autoregressive error structure. [T]o take cross-sectional heterogeneity into account, the regression coefficients are allowed to vary from one [DVD] title to another, and are assumed to be drawn randomly from the entire population of titles. The title-specific random coefficients thus reflect the heterogeneity in the population of titles.” The authors report that DVD prices tended to be higher for purchases made from multichannel sellers than Internet only sellers throughout their study’s timeline, and that the differences in channel prices are persistent, but also converging. They also indicate that Internet only sellers’ posted prices exhibit greater price dispersion than multichannel seller’s prices do, while the latter’s price dispersion has become more stable.The next Regular Research article is called “MUCS: A Model for Ubiquitous Computing Support,” by Laerte K. Franco, Joao H. Rosa, Jorge L.V. Barbosa, Cristiano A. Costa and Adenauer C. Yamin. The authors approach the technological support for ubiquitous computing based on the need that consumers have to identify opportunities to buy, and the need that sellers have to identify opportunities and customers to whom they can sell their goods and services. They construct their modeling approach around five core concepts: environments, contexts, dealers, desires of a consumer, and an offer of a product or service by the seller. The architecture of their proposed system also includes eight key components. The first three are a location system for the GPS coordinates of the user, a profiling system with data on the users, and a category tree that keeps track of the goods and services on offer. In addition, there is a reference system with user reputation information, a service management module that supports the exchange of messages within the system, and an opportunity manager that extracts business opportunities for consumers and works like an analysis engine. Finally, there are two interface components for the user, a personal assistant and a Web site.The authors conducted two experiments on the application of their model for ubiquitous computing support. One explored two different illustrative scenarios, including the start of a business at an exposition fair, and ordering food from a restaurant. The second experiment focused on user acceptance in an experimental setting. It involved the processes of registering stores, identifying opportunities for consumers to do business with dealers and stores, and having the experiment’s subjects create offers and desires, while moving around the target environment. The generation of opportunities for a deal led to negotiations within the system for the terms of payment, and for the exchange of transaction-related messages. The performance evaluation involved a questionnaire based on the technology acceptance model. The authors reported that users found the system helpful in identifying opportunities for purchase and sale with less effort than the typical kinds of searches might require. Overall, this research is a useful effort to explore the implications of mobility in a location-based decision support system.The next article is by Georgios K. Giannikis and Aspassia Daskalopulu, and is entitled “Normative Conflicts in Electronic Contracts.” Negotiation of electronic contracts via the Internet represents a well-known issue area in computer science and electronic commerce research. In this research, the authors examine the problem of normative conflicts in e-contracting and agent-based decision-making. Normative conflicts arise, according to the authors, “when an agent finds itself subject to multiple conflicting norms, and has to decide what the best thing to do is.” When one norm permits or requires the agent’s behavior and another norm forbids it, it may be straightforward to determine what the agent should do. But this is not always quite so clear, especially when there are hidden dependencies between behaviors, hard-to-recognize conflicts, complex application of deontic logic, and contextual differences that impact decision-making.The authors present a new set of primitive classificatory patterns that they use to make sense of the variety of normative conflicts that can arise in agent-based reasoning for electronic contracting. They also identify patterns that have not been characterized previously in the literature, and suggest how to represent contract norms as default rules so it is possible to identify instances of conflicting contract terms and how to resolve them in support of effective contract design. This research offers an interesting blend of formal modeling for normative conflict analysis and consideration of the managerial implications in support of electronic contracting.The main results of this article are rendered through the development of a default logic representation of electronic contract conflict patterns. Default logic has been proposed as a means to represent the norms of a contractual agreement as default rules, which assemble three key elements: prerequisites, justifications, and the derived consequent. This permits the creation of a default theory in which a set of formulas and a set of defaults holds. Such rules are useful in the construction of extensions of the default theory. In the authors’ approach, software agents reason with respect to an electronic contract on the basis of the default theory. The authors study six patterns of norm conflicts that can be represented and detected using default logic methods. They also illustrate their method for resolving conflicts in electronic contract-related agent decision-making through the application of default logic.The final Regular Research article of this issue is “The Challenge for Multichannel Services: Cross-Channel Free-Riding Behavior,” by Hung-Chang Chiu, Yi-Ching Hsieh, Jinshyang Roan, Kuan-Jen Tseng and Jung-Kuei Hsieh. Cross-channel free-riding used to occur at the end of the 1990s with the “look to book” behavior of consumers who sought to book air travel at the lowest prices. They often began with a search with a popular online travel agency or digital search intermediary on the Internet, such as Expedia or Travelocity. Then they would finish their booking and pay a commission to a traditional travel agent, whom they trusted to check to see if the ticket prices they acquired for their planned travel could be beat. This cross-channel search and purchase behavior was possible because there were few to any costs of switching from one channel to another. The authors adopted push–pull–mooring theory to study consumer channel switching behavior. They characterize these as follows: the push effect involves factors that motivate people to switch from their original position; the pull effect is represented by factors that create an attraction to switch to another position; and the mooring effectcharacterizes the influence of factors that might block switching from occurring at all. To obtain their results, the authors conducted a field survey of consumers who had cross-channel free-riding experiences in the purchase of consumer electronics, personal computer equipment and software. The authors find that the push and pull effects enhance consumers’ intentions to free-ride, while the mooring effect diminishes their intentions to do this.We would like to acknowledge the special issue guest editors, Claudia Loebbecke, Roumen Vragov and Chuck Wood, for contributing their second special issue on electronic auctions, an important research theme for the journal. We also would like to acknowledge the area editors and anonymous reviewers, whose patient and insightful contributions are evident in the quality of the articles that we publish in the journal. We heartily thank them.


Computer Sciences

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Information Systems and Management


Electronic Commerce Research and Applications





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Elsevier B.V.

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