Democracy and the COVID-19 pandemic: a new role for digital technologies

Democracy is under constant threat and permanent construction. The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is now in the autumn of 2020 dominating how we all live our lives – and how political leaders are making decisions at the local, national and global level. As the pandemic remains a reality, and as upcoming US elections in November challenge the democratic principles, we consider it the right time to analyse the situation and draw lessons.

This tele-debate with high level speakers builds on the Digital Enlightenment Forum (DigEnlight) conference held in Nov 2019 on Democracy and Media.

Please register your participation in the column at the right.

Moderator: Dr Lieve Fransen

Keynote speaker : Martin Wolf (FT): Democracy will fail if we do not think like citizens.


– Tom Gerald Daly (DEM-DEC): Democracy and COVID Worldwide: Digital Threats and Solutions
– Nuria Oliver (DataPop Alliance): Lessons learned about participation, privacy and contact tracing
– Seda F. Gürses (TU Delft): Privacy by design as Infrastructural Power
– Wieslaw Bartkowski (SWPS Univ): Towards healthy digital technology

Click here to find out more and register for the event

WSTNet Web Science Summer School 2021 (WWSSS2021)

UPDATE – This event has been cancelled due to COVID restrictions

Take-off into a new Decade of Web Science
Each year the WSTNet Web Science Summer School (WWSSS) aims to offer participants the opportunity to enhance their knowledge and experience in the core subjects of Web Science. WWSSS is non-profit and participation fees are kept at a minimum to allow students from all over the world and diverse backgrounds to participate. The WSTNet Web Science Summer School is an annual event and is intended for researchers starting out in Web Science, and for professionals who wish to know more about this increasingly important topic. To this end, the summer school puts emphasis on highlighting the relationships between the technical, social, economic and cultural aspects of the Web through an active exchange of researchers from different disciplines.

June 28 – July 2, 2021


University of Caen, Normandy, France

Grant application deadline

April 30, 2021

Further details

BBC Digital Planet Podcast

In a special edition podcast from the BBC’s Digital Planet, four key speakers from the 12th ACM Web Science Conference spoke with programme presenter Gareth Mitchell about Web Science and why it matters.

Featuring Professor Dame Wendy Hall, Vint Cerf, Carly Kind and JP Rangaswami, with expert commentary from Bill Thompson, the show highlights the importance of studying the Web and how it could be made better for humanity.

Listen to the podcast

WebSci’20 Main conference begins today

Making the Web Human-Centric? New Directions in the Web and AI
The 2020 ACM Web Science Conference is finally here! It’s looking a little different than usual…but we have a packed programme lined up for you this week. You can check it out and register your attendance here.

We have recently added a number of social events in the breaks. We’re sure you’ll agree that there’s something here for everyone:

  • Music from The Southampton Ukulele Jam (starring some of the Web Science Institute staff)
  • Hampshire Music Service ensemble members present ‘This Is Me’ from The Greatest Showman
  • Future Worlds talk with Anne Boden of Starling Bank
  • The Web Science Trust “Untangling the Web” Podcast: Susan Halford
  • Jazz is Data: Listen to Tom Irvine’s selection of his favourite jazz tunes
  • Comedy Show: His fringe show may have been cancelled, but Web Science Institute Executive Director, Les Carr, brings his comedy to the conference
  • David De Roure: Jazz music
  • Virtual Student Gallery (we couldn’t arrange a poster session but come and find out what PhD students are researching, at our virtual Bar)
  • Several Virtual Brown Bag and Water Cooler Sessions (join us at the Gather Town beach location, where you can find other delegates and chat over coffee)

Full details of the social events and their timings are listed in the Conference Programme.

Here’s a reminder of what’s happening in between the breaks (!) :

The main conference will be formally opened on Wednesday 8th July by ACM President, Gabriele Kotsis, followed by “In Conversation” with Ruby Wax. Ruby is Chancellor of the University of Southampton and she has had a hugely successful career with BBC television as an interviewer and comedian.

The first Keynote Presentation will be delivered by Gina Neff from the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, followed by the Founders Panel which is titled “Web Science – now more than ever”. This event is not to be missed! It will be chaired by Rennie Fritchie who will be joined by the pioneers of Web Science Wendy Hall, James HendlerNigel Shadbolt, Daniel Weitzner, Noshir Contractor and Tim Berners-Lee. Discussions will focus on the key role played by Web Science in addressing the challenges we face in society today.

In the evening we have the first “Meet the Author” session, in conversation with Sasha Costanza-Chock, author of “Design Justice: Community-Led Practices to Build the Worlds We Need”.

One of the highlights on Thursday 8th July is the Spotlight Panel on Policy and Practices. It will be chaired by Anni Rowland-Campbell who is the Director of Intersticia – a global charity and social enterprise which focuses on helping to develop emerging leaders for the 21st Century.

After lunch our second Keynote Speaker James Hendler will be discussing the future of the web. This session will be followed by a Spotlight Panel chaired by Steffen Staab, which will focus on the Research Roadmap for Web Science.

On Thursday evening we can look forward to another “Meet the Author” event. It features Philip Howard, author of “Lie Machines: How to Save Democracy from Troll Armies, Deceitful Robots, Junk News Operations, and Political Operatives”.

Friday 10th July features a talk by JP Rangaswami, who will discuss the role of Web Science in the age of Covid-19. This session will be followed by the final Spotlight Panel chaired by Bill Thompson where participants will debate the future of Web Science.

We hope to see you taking part in both the formal and social events over the next few days!
Pauline Leonard & Emilio Ferrara (Program Chairs)
Wendy Hall (General Chair)

WebSci’20 Program and Registration

Making the Web Human-Centric? New Directions in the Web and AI
The 2020 ACM Web Science Conference takes place online from 6 -10 July and is organised by the University of Southampton. Presenters and participants will have multiple opportunities to engage over a full week of talks, panel sessions and informal discussions. Registration is open! This message gives you a taster of what to expect from the event.

On Monday we begin with Brave Conversations which brings Web Science to mainstream conversations that occur in everyday life. We will demystify the world of emerging technologies and explore their interaction with everyday life – ourselves, our communities, our societies and our planet. The event has always sought to ask difficult questions, challenge mindsets, and empower those who attend to think more inquisitively about their digitally-mediated lives. This year we will explore what the Covid-19 crisis means for all of us as our ‘human centric’ perspective is challenged on many levels.

The first day also includes our PhD Symposium. This will continue the tradition of facilitating a lively discussion with five exciting PhD student presentations and a Mentor Panel. The aim is to maximise the exchange of early-stage ideas, and to provoke interdisciplinary discussion on emerging areas of research.

On Tuesday we have a number of workshops that you can sign up for. The wide range of topics includes social inclusion, digital (in)-equalities, personalisation and community, using AI for good, and the secret life of immortal data.

The main conference will then take place over the remainder of the week. It will be opened by Ruby Wax, Chancellor of the University of Southampton. There will be keynote presentations from Professor Gina Neff from the Oxford Internet Institute whose research focuses on the future of work, and Professor James Hendler from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute who will discuss the future of the Web.

Panel sessions will feature some of the world’s leading technology companies and policy makers. They will join the “movers and shakers” of Web Science to focus on topics that are of increasing global significance as our engagement with the Web prompts radical shifts in how we live, learn and work. There will also be a number of academic paper sessions and two “meet the author” opportunities. You can access the provisional programme here.

More details of the presenters and their sessions will be shared over the next couple of weeks. Keep an eye on our tweets, the #WebSci20 hashtag and our website for further updates.

We look forward to welcoming you to the first wholly online Web Science conference in July!

Pauline Leonard & Emilio Ferrara (Program Chairs)
Wendy Hall (General Chair)