The World Wide Web is one of the most transformative technologies of modern times, changing the way we work, the way we communicate, the way we date, the way we interact with our government and just about every other aspect of modern life. Over 75% of Americans, and nearly 30% of the world’s population use the Web — it has also become a primary engine of innovation and development for our nation, and around the world.
Unfortunately, the Web also has a dark side — our children are exposed to violence and pornography in a way they never have been before; bullies, criminals and terrorists use the Web in new and troubling ways; and we are being forced to rethink privacy and control of personal information in our ever-increasingly networked world.
Given the importance of the Web to the modern world, it is surprising for many people to discover how little we understand it at a deep, scientific, level. Understanding the Web requires knowing it’s math, it’s social impacts, and how to engineer it’s future. I have been involved with a number of my colleagues in creating a new interdisciplinary area called “web science” to help answer these questions. The Web has become a critical piece of international infrastructure, we must learn to understand it to keep it, not only functioning, but free, open, and fun.
Prof James Hendler
Tetherless World Constellation Chair & Asst Dean of IT and Web Science
Computer and Cognitive Science Depts
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy NY 12180