Welcome to WSTNet : University of Stuttgart

In this interview we welcome a new lab team and an old friend of Web Science 

Ian: Steffen, thanks for joining us – it seems a little unusual to welcome you as a new Lab Director when you ran one of our other Labs at Koblenz for many years but your team are new so a very warm welcome to both you and your team.

Steffen: Many thanks – I’m really excited about the new Lab and re-joining the WSTNet.

Ian : How does the work at Stuttgart compare to Koblenz?

Steffen: I think the biggest difference is probably scale – there are several thousand researchers here in Stuttgart so the opportunities to engage in bigger projects across a wider area and multiple disciplines is very exciting.

Ian: What are the broad themes for your group and what are working on right now?

Steffen: Our broad theme is AI and Machine Learning within the Cyber Valley initiative of the Universities of Stuttgart and Tübingen and the Max-Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems. Whilst this sounds highly technically focussed we have a strong digital humanities/interdisciplinary (i.e., Web Science) element to our research. I am co-director of the Interchange Forum for Reflecting on Intelligent Systems (IRIS) which considers heterogeneous intelligent systems of people, machines, tools etc and is looking at diverse perspectives such as ethical and societal challenges, the risks and benefits of automated decision-making, bias and the transparency/fairness of automated decisions and responsible human-computer interactions. What makes this type of research possible is that it encompasses researchers across the whole university of Stuttgart and we have more than 30 professors and their teams at Stuttgart engaged in this particular collaboration.

Ian: It sounds like you are pretty convinced by the opportunities that come with inter-organisational and inter-disciplinary collaboration?

Steffen: We saw those opportunities at Koblenz as part of WSTNet: we hosted the 3rd annual Web Science conference in 2011 and also ran and took part in a number of Web Science Summer School events around the world taught by some world-class speakers with students from Singapore, US, Korea, UK and other labs which is a tremendous opportunity for the students. In 2015 I joined Southampton as a Professor in the Web Science Institute and had access to colleagues in Law and the Social Sciences which really transformed the type of research we could do. I later acted as chairman for WSTNet and then joined the WSTNet board.

Ian: Now you are on the board of Trustees for the WST has your perspective changed? Who would you encourage to join the WSTNet?

Steffen: I think the profile of people who are interested in Web Science has changed over the last decade. Traditionally the idea of networks carried a more technical focus on networks of machines but the Web has enabled and highlighted the importance of global interactions between networks of human/machine actors, networks of people/locations, networks of tools/systems, networks of cultures, networks of political and legal system and the list goes on, so the original technical focus has been joined by a vital social science perspective without which it is impossible to understand the complexity of these systems. For example, this week I co-organize a Dagstuhl workshop on “Challenges and Opportunities of Democracy in the Digital Society” with researchers from political science, communication studies, sociology, law and computer science.

There are several ”heavy-hitters” in the current WSTNet network, some who helped define and develop the whole Web Science field and we’ve certainly seen those types of organisation with a solid track record in Web Science and (related approaches) apply and join but as the influence of the Web and the effects of network/machine interaction at scale continues to increase I would also think that groups with strong research credentials in their own (non-technical) disciplines may want to *develop* new digital skills and fold socio-technical, Web Science approaches, into their research arsenal could consider WSTNet a route into Web Science. Its a huge potential resource of technical, cultural and interdisciplinary experience.

As the number of machines and intelligent agents continues to grow (and I think we are only at the very beginning of vast growth) we will see the impact of machines and intelligent agents on every aspect of society and so the need to understand, predict and effectively steward that impact has never been more important. Even for those groups who don’t use the term Web Science we will see the Web Science approach as we have defined and developed it reflected everywhere.

Ian: Steffen – thanks for taking the time to chat with me and once again welcome back to network.


Web Science Trust selects inaugural winner of Test of Time award

The Web Science Trust (WST) announced today that the inaugural Web Science Trust Test of Time Award was presented to the authors of the paper “Social media as a measurement tool of depression in populations”, Munmun De Choudhury (Georgia Tech), Scott Counts (Microsoft Research) and Eric Horvitz (Microsoft Research).  The authors are the first recipients of this newly established annual award.

 The award was presented during the opening ceremony of the 14th ACM Web Science Conference hosted by the ICT department of Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, Spain. 

 The paper was first presented at the 2013 ACM Web Science Conference in Paris, France and will be re-presented during a keynote presentation on Wednesday 29 June during this year’s conference.

 Dame Wendy Hall, Executive Director of the Web Science Trust, who announced the award at the opening ceremony, said: “The Web Science Trust is delighted to announce the winners of our first Test of Time Award.  It was hard choosing between some of the wonderful papers that have been presented over the last decade but the trustees felt that this paper captured an important analysis of nearly 70 thousand user posts to develop a novel social media depression index—helping us to understand more about the society that we shape (and that shapes us) through the Web. The paper has been well-cited and the issue of mental health certainly retains much relevance today.”

The authors commented: “We are very honoured to be the first recipients of this award and would like to thank the Web Science Trust for recognizing our 2013 paper and the direction of research that it represents.”

 The ACM Web Science Conference 2022 will run as a hybrid conference from 26-29 June, where authors will present their work either in-person or remotely to participants gathering at the conference venue in Barcelona, or joining online, and will be co-located with the ACM Hypertext Conference and the ACM UMAP Conference.  The Web Science Conference is an interdisciplinary conference where a multitude of research disciplines converge with the purpose of creating greater insight into a complex global Web which is more impactful than the sum of their individual parts.







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 700 publications that have been downloaded over 200,000 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 is a UK charity promoting the understanding of the Web, through education and research in the discipline of Web Science. It coordinates the Web Science network (WSTNet) of leading Web Science laboratories from around the world.

R.I.P. Internet Explorer

From Today Microsoft will no longer offer support for Internet Explorer (IE) which racked up 11 versions from its debut 22 years ago in 2015.

Microsoft had already flagged that it was retiring Internet Explorer for some time but given Microsoft users famous reticence to give up older versions of its operating systems and apps time will tell if they will all move to Microsoft Edge. There was a mixed reaction on social media ranging from fond nostalgia to some tounge-in-cheek teasing with one user calling it “the top browser for installing other browsers” Today IE joins a growing list of other browsers founded by Netscape Navigator that are just unable to topple Google Chrome from its 65% market share.

Brave Conversations @ WebSci’22

Our next Brave Conversations event is coming up in a month’s time as a part of the 2022 Web Science Conference in Barcelona.

The event will be held both in Barcelona (if you are keen to come along or live in Barcelona) or online via Zoom starting at 3 pm Central European Time.



Web Science 2022:  https://websci22.webscience.org/

As always we will be exploring some of the most challenging and confronting issues issues which now face the ‘post-Covid’ world and which will include:

Identity and the Connected Self
The future of work, play and education
Synthetic biology and what next for Humanity?

It will interactive and emergent and we promise you will definitely learn new things!

Please do come and join us

Registrations at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/brave-conversations-barcelona-tickets-310550674427

We look forward to seeing you!

Anni and the Brave Conversations team

ACM WebSci’22: Call for participation

It is still time to register for this year’s ACM Web Science Conference!

The ACM Web Science Conference will take place in Barcelona on June 26-29, 2022 and will be co-located with UMAP’22 and HT’22 conferences. WebSci’22 is organized as a hybrid conference and will also enable online participation.

Registration fees start at 50,- Euro (online attendance, student rate). Additional options for discounted tickets are available (including a limited number of free admissions for researchers from countries designated as “economically developing”). All details about registration fees can be found online.

Conference Program
You can access the full conference schedule with the keynotes and all the paper sessions, including topics such as “Crowds and Social Movements”, “Health” and “Harmful Content Detection”.

The conference will feature two keynotes and we are excited to announce our invited speakers: m.c. schraefel(University of Southampton) and Leila Zia (Wikimedia Foundation).

We are also happy to announce the accepted workshops and tutorials for this year, which cover a wide range of topics and are open for participation:

  • General Collective Intelligence and Web Science
  • Documenting Web Data for Social Research (#DocuWeb22)
  • 1st Workshop on Blockchain and AI for Community
  • Assessing The Ethical Implications Of Artificial Intelligence In Policing
  • Coornet: detecting problematic online coordinated link-sharing behavior

Also, we encourage you to attend and register to Brave Conversations side event that will also run on Sunday 26th.

PhD Posters
We are considering the option to host posters for phd candidates to present their thesis topics and/or for late breaking research results during the conference as a networking opportunity. In case you would be interested in presenting your phd topic or recent research as a poster onsite in Barcelona, please reach out to us before June 10th.

All the information is available at https://websci22.webscience.org/

The WebSci’22 organizing committee

Clearview fined £7.5m by Data Protection Watchdog

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has issued an enforcement notice ordering Clearview AI to cease collecting and using the personal data of UK residents, and to delete any such data that it may have stored on its systems on the grounds that ‘People were not informed that their images were being collected or used in this way.’

Clearview AI has gathered more than 20 billion images of people’s faces, together with other data from the internet and social media sites. The UK’s information commissioner said Clearview’s methods of image collection enable identification of the people in the photos, as well as monitoring their behaviour were “unacceptable,” It noted in its joint investigation with the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) that Clearview had violated several UK data privacy rules after the OAIC had ordered Clearview to delete data after concluding that Clearview had violated Australian data protection laws back in November.

ICO highlighted:

  • failing to use the personal information of people living in the UK in a manner that is fair and transparent;
  • failing to have a legitimate reason for collecting people’s information;
  • not having a process in place to prevent the data from being kept for an endless period of time;
  • failing to meet the more stringent data protection requirements that are necessary for biometric data;
  • asking for additional personal information, including photographs, from members of the general public who asked whether or not they were included in Clearview’s database.

The ICO has actually reduced the £17m fine it had proposed (we reported this in December 2021) saying that it had reduced the fine after taking into consideration a number of factors, including input from Clearview itself.

Clearview’s AI tool enables customers to run facial recognition searches and identify persons of interest. Customers submit people’s pictures, and the system tries to locate those people in the database, using facial recognition. If successful, it returns details like the individual’s name, social media handles and so on.