UTW Episode 29: Siva Vaidhyanathan

The Operating System of Our Lives

Our guest for this episode is Siva Vaidhyanathan, a media studies professor at the University of Virginia. Siva is a regular columnist for The Guardian as well as the author of Anti-Social Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy (Oxford, 2018) and The Googlization of Everything: (And Why We Should Worry) (University of California Press, 2011), among other books. He focuses on how big tech companies – especially Google and Facebook – are permeating our lives.

In this conversation, Siva talks about the creation of Google Books and why he thinks Google was the wrong choice to be a platform that houses the world’s online library. He also talks about how authoritarian rulers have used Facebook to win elections and ties this fact into a discussion of the big tech companies’ race to become “the operating system of our lives” – and to manage everything from our houses to our minds. 


Insurers cut cover amid growth of Ransomware incidents

Computing reports Insurance firms are worried about profits as ransomware gangs become more sophisticated.

Whilst previousy insurance companies  typically cooperated with  customers (and with Cybercriminls) to cover losses, cyber attacks have risen in number and sophistication which is forcing insurance companies to cut the amount of cover they provide to customers. Insurers have increased premiums, cut policy coverage and may even adopt an adversarial vs a co-operative response to ransomware claims.

“Insurers are changing their appetites, limits, coverage and pricing,” Caspar Stops, head of cyber at insurance firm Optio, told Reuters … Limits [the upper amount paid in a claim] have halved – where people were offering £10 million ($13.5 million), nearly everyone has reduced to five.”

  • American cyber insurance firm CNA Financial allegedly paid hackers $40 million (£30 million) to decrypt its data and restore systems, following a ransomware attack in March.
  • In June, meat processing giant JBS confirmed it paid $11 million (£8.2 million) to the REvil ransomware gang, which locked its systems at the end of May.
  • Insurers say some attackers may specifically check whether potential victims have policies that would make them more likely to pay a ransom.

One industry insider said a tech firm that previously paid £250,000 for £130 million of professional indemnity and cyber cover  is now paying £500,000 for a cover of £55 million.

The main advice from the FBI in the US is not to pay, and instead report the incident as early as possible. The agency also warned that paying ransoms only funds criminals’ efforts.


WebSci21 – Video Vault No 1 – Matt Weber


As a place for organizing and the emergence of new organizations, the Web is a platform that has been evolving for more than 25 years. Digital data from the Web provides a rich platform for observing a wide range of social science phenomena – especially patterns of organizational activity. Simultaneously, Web Science has emphasized the intersection of disciplines as a way to understand the science of the Web, but it is equally important to theorize how we connect levels of activity on the Web (from individuals to organizations to ecosystems and governments). Building off a foundation grounded in institutional theory and the emergence of institutions, this talk outlines a multilevel perspective of institutions on the Web as a means of understanding the various processes by which organizational activity occurs. New approaches to data collection and analysis are discussed in order to enable a multilevel and longitudinal analysis of Web-based activity.


In this talk Matthew Weber discusses how the theory and practice of institutional (organizational) behaviour has been modified by the growth of the Web and the corresponding opportunity and need to collect data from the Web to model and understand this evolving activity.

About the Video Vault Series

In partnership with the ACM we are pleased to be able to release a series of videos from the most recent Web Science Conference (ACM WebSci’21) that were previously only available to attendees of the conference.

The series will be released fortnightly and will include a selection of Keynote talks and Spotlight panel discussions.

Copyright / Links

This video is (c) 2021 provided under license from the ACM.


UTW Episode 28: Sonia Livingstone

Children and the Digital Future

Our guest for this episode is Sonia Livingstone, a professor of social psychology at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Sonia’s research focuses on children and young people’s media literacy and rights in the digital environment. She recently co-authored (with Alicia Blum-Ross) the book Parenting for a Digital Future: How hopes and fears about technology shape children’s lives, published by Oxford U Press.

In this episode, Sonia suggests we examine children’s media use in more expansive ways, thinking beyond how much time children spend online and also considering how exactly they’re engaging with screens. She also emphasizes that technology inequalities merit more attention and discusses children’s rights and agency within the digital space. 


WebSci’22 Call for Papers

The Old vs. the New Normal

Web-based technologies have proven to be playing a vital role in enabling us to cope with the global pandemic. Having experienced two years of “crisis,” many new norms have been forming, both socially and technologically. While some people long to return to how things were before the pandemic, others are questioning whether that is a state worth returning to. The main theme of this year’s conference, therefore, is the old vs. the new normal. Even though the conference accepts a wide range of topics (see below), papers discussing this overall issue would be particularly welcomed. 


Click here for the full call for papers

Key dates

Submission – Feb 10th, 2022

Notification – Mar 31st, 2022

Camera-ready – May 12th, 2022