There was a full day with various themed events which could be attended, ranging from the dark web to ethics. There was a PhD symposium also, where students presented on their thesis topics.
The digital sociology event which I attended, titled Understanding the political economy of digital technology, is associated with the British Sociological Association Digital Sociology Study Group. There was an amazingly diverse range of papers during this day-long session, and the papers were really thought-provoking. The talk that stayed with me all day was by Pip Thornton (@Pip_T) from Royal Holloway University of London titled ‘The political economy of a large-scale hypertextual Web search engine: a critique of linguistic capitalism and the side effects of Google’s advertising empire’. Pip spoke about auctioning off of words that are searched online on search engine platforms like Google. She mentioned the ‘So-called dementia tax’ as a case study which was a phrase purchased by the Conservative party during the General election as it because a really hot topic debated. The purchased results are pushed to the top of the search page, and the natural search results are pushed to the bottom of the search page, or the next page, which aren’t as frequently seen. The logic behind it is similar to the way that words are marketed and advertised by the commerce sector: controlling the flow of data. The political market is almost a side effect to the existing structured sale of word, which impacts the conversations being had elsewhere. Pip suggested that Google has allowed money to control its searches, much like Orwell’s neo-liberal thought police. The most fascinating part of the talk was when Pip spoke about the commodity of words. Following this thought, she had entered the poem Daffodils by Wordsworth into Google AdWords and displayed the results in the form of a receipt. The worth of the words had a monetary value, and the people in the room asked why some words were worth so much. Pip had looked into this and some were acronyms, like IT, and were worth more to businesses so are rated as a higher value. Pip had her receipt printer with her and had some receipts to hand out and review.
The rest of the afternoon was a poster session. Some of the posters will remain up until tomorrow, where the best one can be voted on. People met and mingled and discussed the amazing things that they had listened to. A fantastic first day!
Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, and the recipient of the most prestigious honour in computer science, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), the A.M. Turing Award, will deliver his Turing Lecture as a keynote speaker at the WebSci18 Conference on Tuesday 29 May 2018.
His lecture could not come at a more interesting time for Web Scientists, with the potential scrapping of Net Neutrality in the United States. Berners-Lee tweeted on December 12th, 2017 that Net Neutrality had allowed him to invent the Web and that by removing protections would mean an end to creativity and a disaster for the Internet.
The future of the Web depends on people like Berners-Lee, to act as a kind of steward, who can guide us in the right direction. Definitely, a date to save in the diary! Book your place for the conference now:
ACM Web Science 2017 is proud to announce the Tetherless World Constellation at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute as a Diamond Sponsor for the 2017 Web Science Conference to be held in Troy, New York from June 26th to June 28th with tutorials and workshops hosted on June 25th. In addition, the Rensselaer Institute for Data Exploration and Applications (IDEA) is committed as a Platinum sponsor.
The 9th International ACM Web Science Conference 2017 is organised by the Rensselaer Web Science Research Center and the Tetherless World Constellation at RPI. The conference brings together researchers from multiple disciplines, like computer science, sociology, economics, information science, or psychology. Web Science is the emergent study of the people and technologies, applications, processes and practices that shape and are shaped by the World Wide Web. Web Science aims to draw together theories, methods and findings from across academic disciplines, and to collaborate with industry, business, government and civil society, to develop our knowledge and understanding of the Web: the largest socio-technical infrastructure in human history.
“We are delighted to both host and sponsor this year’s ACM Web Science Conference,” said Deborah L. McGuinness, Tetherless World Senior Constellation Chair and Professor of Computer and Cognitive Science. “The conference provides a unique opportunity to associate with a global community of individuals from various disciplines (computer science, sociology, economics, information science, or psychology) interested in exploring and critically examining the socio-technical complexities of the Web.”