Category Archives: WSTNet News

Web Science Summer School 2017

Summer School participants with their completion certificates.
Summer School  participants with their completion certificates.

This years’ Web Science Summer School – organised by the Web Science Trust and two Russian universities (HSE and ITMO) – was a great success, and plans are in progress for next years’ event at the L3S Research Center in Germany. The School was held from 1 to 8 Julyat St. Petersburg, and during the week we held keynotes, tutorials and project work. Subjects included: Introduction to Web Science, Multimedia analysis, Digital health and online interventions, Risky content detection online, Online gaming, Cities online and, Online experiments for psychology and wider social science.

Our MD Professor Dame Wendy Hall with Olessia Koltsova, Associate Professor at HSE, St Petersburg
Our MD, Professor Dame Wendy Hall with Olessia Koltsova, Associate Professor in Internet Studies at HSE, St Petersburg


Summer School participants at workAs promotion of interdisciplinary communication and collaboration is a key goal of the school, teams were formed of students from different disciplines. Participants worked on specific tasks linked to the datasets provided, and were mentored by local instructors. All teams presented the results of their work on the last day of the school.

DSC09325Participants also presented posters about their current work.  As well as poster submission, participation in the School was also conditional upon delivering a successful team work presentation.

The School also included cultural and social activities, and a final day keynote lecture from a leading Russian Internet industry speaker.

Next years’ Summer School will be hosted by the L3S Research Center in Hannover, Germany. We hope to see you there!

WWSSS'17 poster session
WWSSS’17 poster session


Web Science Conference 2017

Web Science Conference 2017
Web Science 2017/Charalampos Chelmis ©2017

The International ACM Web Science Conference 2017, was held this week at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York, USA. Organised by the Rensselaer Web Science Research Center & the Tetherless World Constellation, the 4 day conference comprised 3 workshops, 3 tutorials, 8 paper presentation sessions, a hackathon, and a panel session on The Ethics of Doing Web Science Research. Keynotes included Steffen Staab speaking on The Web We Want, and Jen Golbeck on The Psychological Science of Web Harassment.

Jen Golbeck keynote at Web Science Conference 2017
Jen Golbeck keynote/J A Hendler ©2017

To get a taste of the diversity of work shown at the conference, view “Web Science Conference 2017” on Storify.

To find out more about the academic discipline of Web Science, download our brochure, “Celebrating 10 years of Web Science“.

Web Science 2017 Sponsors Announced

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.”

Additional Web Science sponsors include: ACM, SIGWEB, and Innovate518.

Brave Conversations Conference – Day Two

Brave Conversations Conference Diary

Web Science PhD students Rob Blair, Faranak Hardcastle, Chira Tochia and Jack Webster share their experiences, highlights, observations and some of the Brave Conversations they had.

Ngunnawal country smoking ceremony
Ngunnawal country smoking ceremony/Chira Tochia ©2017

We travelled 10,631 miles from Southampton, UK to Canberra, Australia to have the Brave Conversations that needed to be had about the changing relationship between humans & technology. There was a plethora of speakers from academia, government and industry including University of Southampton’s Dame Wendy Hall, Professor Susan Halford, Dr Ramine Tinati and PhD researchers to represent Web Science.

This was a very interactive two-day conference with mini round table conversations, panels, debates and fishbowl discussions taking place. Not everyone necessarily stood up in front of the other attendees and shared a strong opinion though, some used this as an opportunity to observe the dynamics between different stakeholders whilst communicating their alternative perspectives about the Web, the Internet and future of technology.

Day 2

Day two began with a wonderful Aboriginal smoking ceremony. This is a traditional way to welcome newcomers on to the land, in this case of Ngunnawal country. The ceremony was an interesting lesson in Aboriginal culture and a sensitive way to acknowledge the history of the nation.

As the programme was more structured, day two unfolded at a different pace and participants were able to sit back and spend more time contemplating over the ideas being put forward by different industry, government and academic voices. The day’s activities included panel discussions, relatively free-form interactive activities and a participatory roundtable discussion.

The panel discussions provided us with the opportunity to hear from leading experts about some of the issues concerning the future of the Web. The panel discussions addressed issues including the economic value of humans in the digital age, and the surveillance economy and the future of identity. These discussions involved experts from industry and academia, including Prof. Dame Wendy Hall, Tom Scott, Nick Byrne, and Prof. Susan Halford.

A second panel discussion was a debate on whether a machine-based world is a better world. This debate involved Chris Monk, Katina Michael, Tris Lumley, Leanne Fry, Ibrahim Elbadawi and Gavin Smith, who made considered arguments for and against the value of a machine-based world. Whilst the question was fraught from the start, as making the distinction between man and machine is a problematic one, it provided an opportunity to tease out some of the opportunities and challenges presented by technologies such as robotics and AI.

Conference participants were invited to participate in a roundtable discussion about ‘the good life’, which sought to address questions relating to the ethics and philosophy of the web and the ‘right’ future for people and machines. This roundtable involved Barbara Wilby, Ellie Rennie, Rob Fitzpatrick, Jeffrey Broadfield and moderated by Ethics Centre’s Dr Simon Longstaff. This was an interesting activity two seats were left vacant at the roundtable to allow for people in the audience to join in the discussion at any time. This helped to involve a range of perspectives in the debate. For example, the college students who were invited to the conference has an opportunity to contribute to the debate, which we found inspiring and refreshing.

The day concluded with a panel discussion addressing the important question of ‘so what? – what did we get out of these last two days having brave conversations, and how can we take things forward in a meaningful way? For example, there was concern that the conversations we had weren’t brave enough and there was often a temptation to slip into conjecture. Instead, our brave conversations would have benefitted from being grounded in research and focussed on more specific research and/or policy questions. Consideration was also given to how we might take the conversations we had the conference forward and translate it into some kind of action. The jury is still out on this question, but it was something we all left thinking about and hope we can address in weeks, months or years to come.

You can find out more on the Brave Conversations Conference site, look up comments on Twitter: #BraveConversations / #BraveConvos, and read the Public Purpose and Intersticia blog posts.

Special thanks to the organising committee for allowing us the opportunity to attend and for making this whole conference happen. These Brave Conversations will continue to take place in Washington and the UK soon.

Day One

Brave Conversations Conference – Day One

Brave Conversations Conference Diary

Web Science PhD students Rob Blair, Faranak Hardcastle, Chira Tochia and Jack Webster share their experiences, highlights, observations and some of the Brave Conversations they had

Brave Convos Plenary
Brave Convos Plenary/Anni Rowland-Campbell ©2017

We travelled 10,631 miles from Southampton, UK to Canberra, Australia to have the Brave Conversations that needed to be had about the changing relationship between humans & technology. There was a plethora of speakers from academia, government and industry including University of Southampton’s Dame Wendy Hall, Professor Susan Halford, Dr Ramine Tinati and PhD researchers to represent Web Science.

This was a very interactive two-day conference with mini round table conversations, panels, debates and fishbowl discussions taking place. Not everyone necessarily stood up in front of the other attendees and shared a strong opinion though, some used this as an opportunity to observe the dynamics between different stakeholders whilst communicating their alternative perspectives about the Web, the Internet and future of technology.

Day 1

We started day one by a 5 mins exercise in which we looked up the name of the person next to us and then talked about what we found. Then we moved on to a workshop by Pia Waugh. She asked us to write on a piece of paper three things: uncomfortable, inspiring/interesting and incomprehensible. Then she presented some thoughts and asked us to list some of what we have heard into these categories. She ended by raising some questions: e.g. Who are and aren’t you building for? What does being human mean to you? What is the default in the society? What do we value in the society? The questions of rights and responsibilities, etc.

Despite the fact that Pia’s questions raised valid concerns about the direction of the evolution of the Web and the Internet, in general Pia’s provocation was that she represented a techno-utopian, without any need for state intervention. Whilst this is one of the common views held about the governance of the Web and the Internet, it is not the only view. Some advocate a multilateral, multi stakeholder, or unilateral model of governance for the web and the internet. In this respect, Pia’s presentation expressed views about one side of the spectrum.

Pia asked tables to discuss what had they found uncomfortable about what was said. When tables reported back on this, the answers varied: Some questioned the suggestion that “we” have shifted from an era of belief to rationalism, and found this assumption uncomfortable. Some found the notion of “We” problematic, and the underlying assumption of homogeneity that undermines multiple vested interests and the tension amongst them uncomfortable.

Then Pia asked the tables to discuss and report back on what they had found most inspiring that would have wanted to grow and develop in the future. Again answers from tables varied largely from sustainability and renewable energy to health care and well-being.

She then asked the tables to choose and discuss one of those inspiring things and report on how it could be designed for the future to induce a systematic change. Designing change was understood from different levels. Some came up with mechanisms to nudge individuals to change their behaviours. Some other suggested nudging corporations through rewards/punitive mechanisms and some thought of deliberative changes at the infrastructure level.

The second session of the day “Too many chiefs and not enough Indians” was run by Nicholas Gruen, CEO of Lateral Economics’, explaining his thoughts on why change looks like Groundhog Day. Nick explained how the human world is a nested ecology of public and private goods economics using the metaphor of arteries and capillaries, through a very enjoyable and witty presentation.

Then we had a lunch break. But before that Martin Stewart-Weeks, Reporter for the conference, reflected with what he perceived to be the highlights of the morning. He suggested that this morning was about 4 things:

  • Self government
  • Identity
  • Equality
  • Risk

Some of these points can be problematised and leave more questions than answers. For example, what does “self-government” mean? Does it refer to the market and those in favour of self-regulation for addressing the issues surrounding it? Or is the expectation of the individuals to be “reflexive” about their actions and their consequences?

After this we were assigned to different tables with pre-assigned themes, questions, and facilitators. This session was interesting from multiple angles. The questions, discussions, and answers, the groups dynamics, and the relationship of the chosen questions in regards with the themes.

The session on day one ended with Martin summarising his own interpretations of the discussions, questions, and interactions in the day. He concluded that “we” need to talk about 4 things if we want to have brave conversations:

  • Power
  • Control
  • Accountability
  • Authority

Then he asked participants to write down one really big question that really bothering them this morning. Participants wrote their questions on sticky notes and put them on a board to be categorised into segments by Martin the following morning.

Day Two

“The Two Magics of Web Science” 10 Years On

Ten years ago this week delegates gathered in Banff, Canada, to hear Tim Berners-Lee present his keynote speech at the World Wide Web Conference. The theme of his talk was the ‘magical’ relationship between the Web’s technical protocols and social conventions – and what the interaction between them meant for newly minted field of Web Science.

The 2 magics of Web Science
Slide from ‘2 Magics’ WWW07 Keynote/ Tim Berners-Lee ©2007

Berners-Lee identified two ‘magics’ (stuff we don’t understand yet) at play in this relationship. The first is when the microscopic interaction between two people on the Web scales to produce a new macroscopic phenomenon. The second is the ‘creative magic’ required to identify new microscopic designs that could have positive macroscopic effects.

Incidentally, the keynote inspired Greg Cypes (then Tech. Lead on AOL’s Instant Messenger) to use a brand new Web app – ‘Twitter’ – to use the term ‘Web Science’ for the first time on the platform.

Greg Cypes on Twitter: Berners-Lee magic = stuff you don't understand Apparently there is a little bit of magic in Web Scien… 2017-04-26 11-02-49

No one liked or retweeted the message, but 10 years on, and several billion microscopic interactions later Web Science continues to improve our understanding of the Web’s impact on society. Members of the Web Science Trust Network carry out ground-breaking work in a wide range of areas, including: developing tools to identify robots on social media, exploring the potential of open data to transform society, and making interaction with computers easier for Web users.

These and many other topics will be discussed next month when experts and researchers gather for WebSci’17,  the 9th International Web Science Conference at the Rensselaer Polytechnic in Troy, New York.

Shenzhen Web Science Summer School 2017

Shenzhen Web Science Summer School 2017
The Shenzhen Web Science Summer School was held between 20 and 24 March at the Tsinghua-Southampton Web Science Laboratory, Shenzhen, China. PhD students from Tsinghua, and the Web Science Institute, University of Southampton, UK, worked together on two Data Challenges in a competitive datathon. The aim was to learn and put into practice new data analytic skills which students’ could apply to their own research. From this collaborative work, innovative visualisations and code were created and shared on the Web Observatory.

The students were split into two groups, and provided with 20 million text files from Chinese newspapers and 5 million text files from UK newspapers. Each group chose a Data Challenge to work on.  Group 1 tackled the Disaster Management Challenge and Group 2 worked on the Shared Bicycle Scheme Challenge.

As well as the data they were provided with, both groups needed to search for and explore any additional, relevant data that could help them give further context to their investigations. This proved difficult, as Web sources that are widely used by UK-based students were not available in China (no Google!!). This, along with some cross-cultural and language misunderstandings, added to the challenge. However, hurdles were overcome and the teams worked together to produce insightful analyses.

Group 1: Disaster Management

Group 1 - Tsinghua Summer School
Group 1

Tsinghua University: Wang Chen, Jinxin Han, Xin He, GengBiao Shen, Kan Wu, Jing Zhang
WSI: Jo Munson and Sami Kanza
Mentor: Eugene Siow
This Challenge explored patterns of flooding in the real world and how it is reported on social media. Aided by their mentors expertise in Statistical Modelling, Behavioural Mining and Sentiment Analysis, students were helped to evaluate the propagation of online discussion on flooding. By applying  a Natural Language Processing algorithm the team developed a prototype dual-language dashboard which mapped social responses to flooding.
Outputs: Main websitePresentation Slides

Group 2: Shared bicycle schemes in China

Ofo and Mobike bicycles at Dongdan/N509FZ ©2017/cc-by-sa-4.0
Ofo and Mobike bicycles at Dongdan/N509FZ ©2017/cc-by-sa-4.0

Tsinghua University: Wei, Haimei, Jiamei, Shuo
WSI: Bart Paszcza and Chira Tochia
Mentor: Xin Wang
In recent years bicycle sharing projects have sprung up around the globe – helping to solve the ‘last mile’ problem, and enabling people to quickly and easily travel to and from major transport hubs. In the US there are more than 120 shared bicycle projects covering millions of miles every month, while in China shared bicycle projects, Mobike, and Ofo  are also attracted a great deal of interest. For the datathon the team developed a number of data visualisations showing use of bike sharing schemes in Shenzhen.
Outputs: HeatmapClustermapBike journeysPresentation Slides

Group one's Flood visualisation
Group one’s Flood visualisation

And the winners were…group one! A very well deserved win for such beautiful and useful visualisations for mapping floods in both Chinese and English.

Call for WWSSS 2018

On the beach at WWSSS 2016/ Steffen Staab ©2016
On the beach at WWSSS16/ Steffen Staab ©2016

The Steering Committee of the WSTNet Web Science Summer School (WWSSS) invites interested parties from commercial, academic or public domain to submit bids to host WWSSS in 2018. The call consists of two stages: first an expression of interest and second a full proposal.

Important dates

  • 15 June 2017: Deadline for expressions of interest
  • 15 July 2017: Notification and call for full proposals
  • 30 September 2017: Deadline for full proposals
  • 31 October 2017: Notification of acceptance Support and further information

For more details see visit the WWSSS18 Call page.

World Wide Web Conference 2017

Dame Wendy Hall announcing The Web Conference 2018
Professor Dame Wendy Hall announces The Web Conference 2018/TheWebConf ©2016

The 26th IW3C2 World Wide Web Conference concluded in Perth, Australia today, after 5 full days of presentations, workshops, demos, and in-depth debate on the current and possible future of the Web. There were keynotes from radio astronomer Melanie Johnston-Hollitt, Yoelle Maarek, Vice President of Research at Yahoo, and pioneer of 3D on the web, Mark Pesce.

In addition to chairing the Web Observatory Workshop, our Managing Director, Professor Dame Wendy Hall, presented the 2017 Seoul Test of Time Award to the authors of the 2000 paper “Graph Structure in the Web”.  Closing the conference Dame Wendy  announced the re-branding of the conference as ‘The Web Conference’ – the first to be held in Lyon, France between 23 and 27 April, 2018. To take advantage of early-bird registration, visit:

WST Co-Founder Receives ACM A.M. Turing Award

Inventor of World Wide Web and Web Science Trust co-founder, Sir Tim Berners-Lee has been awarded the ACM A.M. Turing Award.

Timbls message @WebSci10
Timbls message @WebSci10/©2016 WST

As Web researchers gather at the annual World Wide Web Conference in Perth, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) has named Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the recipient of the 2016 ACM A.M. Turing Award. Berners-Lee, a Professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Honorary Professor at the University of Southampton, was cited for inventing the World Wide Web, the first web browser, and the fundamental protocols and algorithms allowing the Web to scale.

In 1989 Berners-Lee proposed a global hypertext project, to be known as the World Wide Web. Based on the earlier “Enquire” work, it was designed to allow people to work together by combining their knowledge in a web of hypertext documents. He wrote the first World Wide Web server, “httpd“, and the first client, “WorldWideWeb” a what-you-see-is-what-you-get hypertext browser/editor which ran in the NeXTStep environment. This work was started in October 1990, the program “WorldWideWeb” first made available within CERN in December, and on the Internet at large on 6 August 1991 – when the world’s first website, was launched.

In 2004, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his pioneering work. Named in Time magazine’s list of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th century, Berners-Lee was honoured as the “Inventor of the World Wide Web” during the 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony, in which he appeared in person, working with a vintage NeXT Computer at the London Olympic Stadium. He tweeted “This is for everyone”, which was spelled out in  lights around the stadium.

Central to the universal adoption of the World Wide Web was Berners-Lee’s decision to develop it as open and royalty-free software. Berners-Lee released his libwww software package in the early 1990s, granting the rights to anyone to study, change, or distribute the software in any way they chose. He has continued to guide the project and work with developers around the world to develop web-server code. The popularity of the open source software led to the evolution of early web browsers that are credited with propagating the Web beyond academic and government research settings and making it a global phenomenon.

With the founding of the Web Science Research Initiative (later Web Science Trust) in 2006, Berners-Lee was instrumental in the establishment of Web Science as a multi-disciplinary academic field, and the institution of the annual International ACM Web Science Conference. To mark the 10th anniversary of Web Science he sent a message to via our TV Channel, focussing on the importance and urgency of the research in the field.

The ACM Turing Award, often referred to as the “Nobel Prize of Computing,” is named for Alan M. Turing, the British mathematician who articulated the mathematical foundation and limits of computing. The award will be presented the ACM Awards Banquet on June 24 in San Francisco, California.