Digital Modernity

Digital Modernity


“Modernity” is a social, cultural, or historical descriptor for a certain type of society or set of social arrangements. It is a contentious and disputed term, often understood implicitly. It is a way of describing and classifying highly complex, dynamic, and emergent aggregate social phenomena, and so dramatically simplifies such contexts. However, the language of modernity remains attractive to commentators, academics, and policymakers.

In this monograph, the author reviews the literature that characterises what is called digital modernity. Digital modernity narratives focus on the possibilities of the data gathered by an ambient data infrastructure, enabled by ubiquitous devices such as the smartphone, and activities such as social networking and e-commerce. It is characterised by (1) a subjunctive outlook where people’s choices can be anticipated and improved upon, (2) the valorisation of disruptive innovation on demand, and (3) control provided by data analysis within a virtual realm that can be extended and applied to the physical world. The author explored the synergies and tensions between these three aspects as well as the opportunities for and dilemmas posed by misinformation. The author identifies five principles that emerge from the study of relevant texts and business models and concludes by contrasting digital modernity with other theories of the 21st century information society.

Narratives of digital modernity are useful because they help explain the development of technology. It matters because many influential people accept, and often generate, the digital modernity narrative. Given digital modernity’s strong association with the Web, it is a central topic for Web Science as the interdisciplinary study of the World Wide Web from the technological, social, and individual points of view.

Publication Date: 17 Nov 2022

© 2022 K. O’Hara


Wendy Hall on BBC News 24

Following the resignation of Geoffrey Hinton from Google and associated comments regarding his concerns around the direction of AI research WST CEO Dame Wendy Hall spoke to the BBC. 

Interview footage provided courtesy of BBC News.

Prof. Dame Wendy Hall of the University of Southampton and CEO of the Web Science Trust (WST)

Web Science Trust selects 2023 winner of Test of Time award

The annual Web Science Trust (WST) Test of Time Award has been awarded to Nam P. Nguyen (Towson University), Guanhua Yan (Binghamton University), My T. Thai (University of Florida) and Stephan Eidenbenz (Los Alamos National Laboratory) for their work titled “Containment of Misinformation Spread in Online Social Networks”. The authors are the second group of researchers being awarded the WST Test of Time Award.

The award was announced during the awards ceremony of the 15th ACM Web Science Conference, adding a ceremonial highlight to a successful conference in Austin, Texas.

The paper was first presented at the 2012 ACM Web Science Conference in Evanston, Illinois and selected by a WST Test of Time Award Committee. The Committee selected the work on a method for containing the spread of misinformation in social networks for its continued high impact and relevance and timeliness in today’s world. The Committee said the following on its choice: “Our rationale was that the paper tackles an important problem via theoretical (mathematical) ground work, simulation, and data analysis and most importantly it finishes with some pragmatic solutions.”

The recipients of this year’s award follow in the steps of Munmun De Choudhury (Georgia Tech), Scott Counts (Microsoft Research) and Eric Horvitz (Microsoft Research) who were presented with last year’s inaugural award.

Dame Wendy Hall, Executive Director of the Web Science Trust, who announced the winners of the award during the awards ceremony, said: “The Web Science Trust is delighted to announce the winners of this year’s Test of Time Award.  The paper has been well-cited and is still timely and relevant”.

Dr. Ágnes Horvát, Northwestern University, who chaired the ToT Award Committee, said: “The paper was ahead of its time, alerting the WebSci community to the problem of misinformation when people were mostly celebrating participatory aspects of social media. Misinformation feeds on inequalities and proliferates during times of crisis, aligning the paper with this year’s conference theme.”

The authors commented: “We are very honored to receive this award. We would like to thank the Web Science Trust for recognizing our work on this still very pressing problem in our modern time, when social media has become an integral part of our lives”. 


Their acceptance speech is shown below.  


About the Web Science Trust Test of Time Award

The Web Science Trust Test of Time Award was inaugurated in 2022 and will be awarded annually to the author or authors of a paper presented at a previous Web Science Conference that has stood the test of time through continued relevance and impact. The recipients of the award will receive a monetary prize, and an engraved award.

About the ACM Web Science Conference

The Web Science Conference has been held every year since 2009 and has been an ACM conference since 2011. It is a vibrant, interdisciplinary gathering engaging not only with Web Science researchers but with related and complementary disciplines.  The series has produced nearly 800 publications that have been downloaded more than 250,000 times. The conference is organized each year by a local team of volunteers in different parts of the world in collaboration with the Web Science Trust. 

About the Web Science Trust

The Web Science Trust (WST) is a charity promoting the understanding of the World Wide Web through education and research in the discipline of Web Science. We engage in both academic and public outreach, and coordinate the Web Science Trust Network (WSTNet) of laboratories from around the world.