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Tuesday, 08 October 2019

On Thursday 5th September 2019, UCT had the honour of holding a research seminar by the esteemed Professor Leyland Pitt, who is the Dennis F. Culver EMBA Alumni Chair of Business (Beedie School of Business, Simon Fraser University, Canada) and Distinguished Fellow in Marketing (Hanken School of Economics, Finland). The prolific marketing professor has over 350 publications in leading peer-reviewed journals.

"80% of all the world’s data are unstructured, including user-generated texts, blogs, photos, videos, social media updates... all highly qualitative formats that do not follow well-defined sets of rules," said Prof Pitt. "Many tools have been developed to enable researchers to make sense of this data. These include dictionary-based software such as LIWC and DICTION, neural network-based graphical interpretation packages such as Leximancer, artificial intelligence suites such as IBM’s Watson, and, bibliographic analysis tools such as VOSViewer." In his research seminar, Prof Pitt introduced these tools and explained how they can be used to analyse unstructured text for research, by referring to recent publications that employ them. 

Hosted by Raeesah Chohan, a Marketing Lecturer in UCT’s School of Management Studies, the research seminar was attended by academics from UCT, the Graduate School of Business, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch Business School, and the University of the Western Cape. Attendees from the private sector were also present, representing Kantar, 2U and NeuralSense. "After the seminar, I received numerous acclaims for Prof Pitt's invaluable seminar," said Raeesah. "Many attendees shared an appreciation for his ability to foster an enjoyment about research... the most common remark was 'I cannot wait to implement these tools in my research project'."   

Practitioner Karina Bean from 2U said that she found it valuable to learn about these tools. "Data is growing at an exponential rate, yet it is becoming increasingly difficult to find and use... researchers ultimately have to resort to unstructured data which, without the proper navigation tools, is like attempting to sail across the ocean without a compass."

UCT Lecturer Claudia Kalil complimented the way Prof Pitt imparted his expertise. "His immersion in his subject and facility and interest with which he speaks about it made the session highly stimulating," she commented. "Professor Pitt hit the sweet spot for me, as someone who has never used any [text analysis] software. Describing the tools and showing them in application brought to life their uses and potential benefits."

Kantar data scientist Kyle Findlay said, "Working in data science, we tend to get hung up on the details of the specific analytical techniques that are popular in the field at the time. Prof Pitt's talk was a wide-ranging review of applied applications in the area of text analysis that also covered many higher-order psychological frameworks. This gave me some good inspiration for future research and reminded me why we analyse text in the first place."

Associate Professor Suki Goodman, Head of Department for the School of Management Studies commented, “It was an honour to host Prof Pitt and we are fortunate for his ongoing input in the academic development of staff in the School.” 

Prof Pitt's research seminar embodied an ambience with a resounding sense of appreciation for his expertise. Through the knowledge he generously imparted, academics and practitioners have a newfound approach to research using unstructured textual data.

Leyland F. Pitt is the Dennis F. Culver EMBA Alumni Chair of Business, in the Beedie School of Business, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada, and also Distinguished Fellow in Marketing at the Hanken School of Economics in Helsinki, Finland. He has also taught on executive and MBA programs at major international business schools such as the Graham School at the University of Chicago, Columbia University, and London Business School. 

The author of over 350 papers in peer-reviewed journals, his work has been accepted for publication in Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Journal of Public Policy and Marketing, Computers in Human Behavior, Journal of Advertising Research, Journal of Advertising, Information Systems Research, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Sloan Management Review, California Management Review,and MIS Quarterly(which he also served as Associate Editor). He currently serves as Associate Editor for both Business Horizons and the Journal of Advertising Research, and is Editor of the Journal of Wine Research. In 2002, Leyland Pitt was awarded the Outstanding Marketing Teacher of the Academy of Marketing Science, and in 2010 he was named the Pearson-Prentice Hall Solomon Marshall Stuart Innovative Marketing Teacher of the Year. He is a Distinguished Fellow of the Academy of Marketing Science, which awarded him the Harold Berkman Award for Service in 2017. 

He has consulted and led senior executive development programs for organizations across the globe including British Airways, Unilever, HSBC, Volkswagen, Armstrong World Industries, the Australian Customs Service and the Royal Metropolitan Police. 

Story By : Raeesah Chohan