UTW Episode 23: Rory Cellan-Jones

Reporting on the Web

In this episode, we talk with journalist Rory Cellan-Jones. He’s reported for BBC for 40 years, and for much of that time primarily focused on business and technology stories. He has covered everything from smartphones to social media and more. He’s just published a new book, which he spoke about at this year’s ACM Web Science conference.

For this episode, Rory talks about some of the biggest and best stories of his career at BBC and beyond.  He was there to see this generation’s “model Ford” moment, when Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone. He was the reporter who’s question triggered Stephen Hawking to say AI could make humans obsolete. Rory reflects on these moments and what he calls the “social smartphone era” in this episode. Take a listen to hear this and more.


UTW Episode 22: Pablo Boczkowski

Cultural Perspectives on the Web

Our guest for this episode is Pablo Boczkowski, who is Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Northwestern University, as well as the founder and director of the Center for Latinx Digital Media. He’s also the cofounder and the co-director of the Center for the Study of Media and Society in Argentina, and has been a senior research fellow at the Weizenbaum Institute for the Networked Society in Berlin, Germany.

In this episode, Pablo discusses his new book “Abundance,” which draws on research in Argentina — and explains why what some people term “information overload” could actually be thought of in less negative terms. He also makes a compelling argument for why studying the global south is a necessity — and why web science should take a more cultural perspective in tandem with technical advancements. To hear his talk about this and more, listen to this episode.


UTW Episode 21: Taha Yasseri

Dating on the Web

For this episode, we talk with Taha Yasseri, an associate professor at the School of Sociology and a Geary Fellow at the Geary Institute for Public Policy at University College Dublin, Ireland. He has been a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Oxford, a Turing Fellow at the Alan Turing Institute for Data Science and AI, and a Research Fellow at Wolfson College at the University of Oxford.  He is interested in the dynamics of social machines on the Web.

During this episode, Taha tells us all about dating on the Web — from who initiates conversations (spoiler alert: there’s a big gender gap) to what traits people value in a partner. Some of these are age-old questions, answered by new web science methods. And he discusses his research outside of that realm, from people and bots that “fight” on Wikipedia to how the web impacts our “collective memory.” To hear to all this and more, listen to this episode.


UTW Episode 20: Richard Rogers

Web Epistemology

In this episode, we talk with Richard Rogers, a professor and chair of New Media and Digital Culture at the University of Amsterdam. An award-winning author, he also is Director of the Digital Methods Initiative (DMI), known for the development of software tools for the study of online data. He’s interested in web epistemology — and more — and was co-chair for one of the very first Web Science conferences.

In this episode, Richard digs into “digital methods” and what that really means, as well as the software his team has built to conduct research under the DMI. He brings us into some of his newest work, like the book he’s working on called Mainstreaming the Fringe: How Misinformation Propagates in Social Media, but he also goes back to what started his path in web science. And he discusses a number of critical projects that has helped shed light on topics including issue drift and issue celebrities. To understand those terms and more, listen to this episode.


UTW Episode 19: Sinan Aral

The Hype Machine

In this episode, we talk with Sinan Aral, an award-winning researcher, entrepreneur and venture capitalist. He is the David Austin professor of Management, Marketing IT and Data Science at MIT, where he also directs MIT’s initiative on the Digital Economy. And in 2020, he published his first book: The Hype Machine

During this conversation, Sinan gives us a “tour” of the book. He talks about how — and why — social media is built to hype us up, as well as how making social platforms interoperabile might just be the key to creating a better hype machine. And he walks us through why fake news travels so fast on social media — faster than real news, and faster than it ever could even a decade ago. To hear about this and more, give a listen to this episode.


UTW Episode 18: Matt Weber

Web Archiving

In this episode (22 minutes long), we talk with Matt Weber, a faculty member in the Department of Communication at the School of Communication and Information at Rutgers University. With more than a decade of experience researching information ecosystems, organizations and communities, Matt focuses on the use of large scale web data to study processes of change. In addition, Matt has been an active member of the web science community. He’s the program co-chair for the ACM 2021 Web Science Conference, and delivered a keynote at this year’s conference. 

In this episode, Matt explains the process of web archiving, along with some of the questions it enables us to explore. He touches on how his own research, some of which centers on news media production, fits into all this. And he discusses some of the challenges and issues that surround web archiving, as well as pathways to solutions. To hear these insights and more, listen to this episode.