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

DSC09366

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