Dr. Aaron M. Ellison, Senior Research Fellow in Ecology at the Harvard Forest, writes about the confluence of culture and the natural world in his recent article “The Suffocating Embrace of Landscape and the Picturesque Conditioning of Ecology.” In this paper, Ellison argues that changes in landscape representation mirror a shift in the way humanity interacts with the environment. In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, visual interpretations of the landscape have moved away from the wonder of the Romantic era. However, this shift is not altogether unwelcome. While numerous scientific studies have debunked the conception that there is an inherent balance in nature, the myth of the harmonious natural landscape, perpetuated by painters such as Albert Bierstadt and Fernand Léger, persists in both the art world and scientific circles. While Modernist and Postmodernist worldviews may offer a more realistic vision of nature, Ellison implores artists and ecologists to recapture some of the sublimity apparent in historical landscape painting. Ellison contends that the time has come to fully rediscover the interconnectedness of life on Earth.
Dr. Ellison researches the evolutionary ecology of carnivorous plants, the response of ants and plants to global climate change, and food web dynamics and community ecology of wetlands and forests. He also studies the application of Bayesian statistical inference to ecological research and environmental decision-making. You can find “The Suffocating Embrace of Landscape and the Picturesque Conditioning of Ecology” and 63 additional works authored by Dr. Ellison in DASH.
Feature by Vero Smith, OSC Open Access Fellow and graduate student at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Photo of Ellison by David Foster, Director of Harvard Forest.
Widespread adoption of renewable energy sources, such as solar energy and wind power, is challenging because they provide intermittent generating capacity. One solution to this challenge is to store electrical energy for later use. Currently, electricity is generated on demand and consumed almost instantly. The only adopted technology used to store excess energy at the scale of the electrical grid consists of pumping water uphill, which requires a special geography—an elevated reservoir—and it may disrupt the surrounding natural environment. In “A metal-free organic-inorganic aqueous flow battery,” a team of Harvard researchers led by Michael Aziz, Gene and Tracy Sykes Professor of Materials and Energy Technologies at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, combined computational methods and organic chemistry to create a battery particularly well suited for cost-effective storage of wind and solar electricity for use over extended periods when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining. You can read more about the team’s innovation in DASH here.
Feature by Theodore Feldman, OSC Open Access Fellow and graduate student at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
Though Iraq and Syria are frequently in the news today for sectarian strife and internal divisions, in the fourth millennium BCE the region birthed the first urban centers as settlements overcame the social strife that led to fissions and prevented population growth. This dramatic development has led to much scholarly debate and is the subject of Prof. Jason Ur’s paper, “Households and the Emergence of Cities in Ancient Mesopotamia.”
Ur challenges the model of urbanism arising from the development of bureaucratic structures such as the temple and the state, representing the elite or society as a whole. As cities were still understood in the pre-urban terms of kinship in texts from centuries later, Ur finds such a revolutionary change in social development to be implausible. He presents an alternative model of urban development that maintains the place of the household as the center of society, even as settlements grew into cities. By expanding their concept of the household beyond the domestic residence, early urbanites were able to create a “dynamic network of nested households” that included the temples, royal households, and the city itself. Ur argues that this household model of the city made all members of the community actors in the development of the urban structure, not passive subjects of an independent elite. With a kinship understanding of society, the growing inequality would not be structured along class divisions, which would tend to lead to conflict and fission, but within patrimonial relationships. Consequently, the household model elucidates the rational interest of all levels of society to participate in the urban system.
Jason Ur, a Professor of Anthropology at Harvard, has directed archaeological projects in Iraq and Syria. He has also made extensive use of declassified photographs from American spy satellites to locate the settlements, irrigation systems, and pastoral landscapes of ancient Mesopotamia. You can find “Households and the Emergence of Cities in Ancient Mesopotamia” and 17 additional works authored by Professor Ur in DASH.
Feature by Mitu Choksi, OSC Open Access Fellow and graduate student at the Harvard Divinity School.
The information revolution has fundamentally changed how we understand effective leadership styles in America. In the past, leadership was thought as effective when of commands and controls - a relic of the twentieth century’s hierarchical organizations. However, newly available work from Joseph S. Nye Jr., University Distinguished Service Professor, former Dean of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and recent recipient of Japan’s Order of the Rising Sun, shows how traditional leadership styles are less effective in the twenty-first century. Instead, as the hierarchical structure of organizations disappears and collaboration dominates corporate culture today, new models of leadership are needed. His work, entitled “Leadership” and part of the forthcoming book, American Governance, edited by Stephen L. Schechter, outlines the changing focus of leadership as technology and lifestyle disrupt our traditional views. In one example, Nye highlights research affirming a model for multiple leaders in the context of thriving but complex dotcom startups. The findings, he concludes, demonstrate how effective leadership across our institutions now depends on the participation of multiple leaders to make decisions and achieve goals.
You can find “Leadership” and six additional works authored by Dr. Nye in DASH.
Feature by Bryce Mullins, OSC Open Access Fellow and student at Harvard Extension School.
Recent work by Karen L. King, the Hollis Professor of Divinity at Harvard Divinity School, has made waves in the field of New Testament and Early Christianity studies by focusing on previously unknown, ancient Christian texts that challenge many long-held beliefs, including the question of Jesus’s marital status. Among other works in DASH, Professor King’s “The Place of the Gospel of Philip in the Context of Early Christian Claims about Jesus’s Marital Status” featured in New Testament Studies investigates themes of marriage within the early Christian text the Gospel of Philip. She argues that the Gospel “introduces a rich set of images into the arena of Christian ritual or sacramental theology by referring to Christian initiation as entrance into the bridal chamber… modeled paradigmatically in Jesus’s marriage to Mary Magdalene.” Of interest to historians and ethicists alike, her analysis uncovers rich layers of meaning that encourages the rethinking of norms ascribed to gender and sexuality in Christianity.
A supporter of Open Access at Harvard, Professor King’s work has been downloaded nearly 3,000 times since mid-2012. Find her featured article and more in DASH, including the widely recognized ““Jesus said to them, ‘My wife …’”: A New Coptic Papyrus Fragment“ (2014).
Many people, drawn in by attractive displays and subtle lighting, are swayed to purchase home goods from IKEA, only to become frustrated by the assembly process. But what if the assembly process causes us to value and find greater satisfaction in the final product? This question, and broader questions surrounding the psychology of investment, forms one pillar of scholarship by Michael I. Norton, Associate Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School. In his article “The IKEA Effect: When Labor Leads to Love,” Norton, along with Daniel Mochon and Dan Ariely, discusses how self-created products can lead consumers to greater feelings of competence and value. In one experiment reported in the article, participants were asked to value (in the form of a monetary bid) an origami creature of their own making and one made by an expert. Creators were willing to bid much higher for their own creation over the arguably better product.
Professor Norton’s other work focuses on social norms regarding people’s behaviors and attitudes, an example of which was featured in a recent NYT article. Over 20 articles by Professor Norton are available in DASH.
Dr. Walter Willett, Chairman of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, was recently featured on a NPR segment regarding the effectiveness and health outcomes of low-fat diet fads in the 1990s. Experts at that time recommend diets low in fat to prevent heart disease, which led to people replacing fats with carbohydrates. Dr. Willett’s research countered the health benefits of a low-fat diet; Willett stated during the segment that “the high-carb, low-fat approach might not lead to fewer heart attacks and strokes.” Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, an epidemiologist from the Harvard Medical School, also weighed in during the segment: “The thinking that it’s OK to swap saturated fats for these refined carbs ‘has not been useful advice.’”
DASH contains more than 40 works by Dr. Willett, starting with his 1995 article “Diet, nutrition, and avoidable cancer” and by Dr. Mozaffarian, an example being his 2013 article “Do healthier foods and diet patterns cost more than less healthy options? A systematic review and meta-analysis.”