UTW Episode 35: Tim Berners-Lee

Inventing - and transforming - the World Wide Web

In this season finale, our guest is Sir Tim Berners-Lee, a computer scientist best known as the inventor of the World Wide Web. Tim is a professorial fellow of computer science at the University of Oxford and a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He directs the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which oversees the continued development of the web. He also co-founded the World Wide Web Foundation and founded the Open Data Institute and the Web Science Trust. In 2004, Sir Tim Berners-Lee was knighted by Queen Elizabeth for services to the global development of the Internet. 

In this episode, Tim talks about the interdisciplinary nature of web science and the future of the web. He discusses misuse of the web, including the production of fake news and violent discourse, and hypothesizes ways to encourage more collaborative and democratic processes on the web and to hold social networks accountable. Finally, Tim discusses his efforts to decentralize the web – again – and his role in helping to create an ecosystem of institutions that nurture the growth of the web. 


UTW Episode 34: Brewster Kahle

Rewinding and Archiving the Web

Our guest for this episode is Brewster Kahle, a digital librarian who has spent his career intent on providing universal access to all knowledge. Kahle created the Internet’s first publishing system, Wide Area Information Server (WAIS) and two sites that help catalog the web by collecting data of books, web pages, music, television, and software: Alexa Internet and the Internet Archive. He also implemented the Wayback Machine, a digital archive of the World Wide Web.  

In this episode, Brewster talks about expanding access to the published works of humankind through creating these systems. He emphasizes the importance of archives and elucidates how his systems work on a technical level. Lastly, Brewster reflects on the evolution of the Internet and his goal to help Internet users gain more control of their privacy and what they have access to online. 


UTW Episode 33: Howard Rheingold

Predicting Technology's Future

Our guest for this episode is Howard Rheingold, a critic, writer, and teacher who specializes in the cultural, social, and political implications of modern communication media. Howard wrote about the earliest personal computers at Xerox PARC, and he was also one of the early users of the Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link or The WELL, an influential early online community. In 1994, he was hired as the founding executive director of HotWired. He is the author of several books, including The Virtual Community, Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution, and Net Smart: How to Thrive Online. 

In this conversation, Howard talks about transitioning from typewriters to computers and the potentials of virtual communities – to both serve as think tanks and form personal connections. He talks about recognizing “signals” of what was to come with telephones and computers and the early collective action that the smartphone encouraged. Finally, he describes five media literacies that everyone should master if they want to use social media well. 


UTW Episode 32: Safiya Noble

Algorithms of Oppression

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. 


UTW Episode 31: Vint Cerf

Launching the Internet on earth and then in Space

Our guest for this episode is Vint Cerf, who is considered to be one of the fathers of the internet. Vint is the co-designer of the TCP/IP protocols and currently serves as Google’s vice president and Chief Internet Evangelist – we’ll talk in this episode about how that title came to be. Vint has served in executive positions at places like the Internet Society and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and serves in advisory capacities at NIST and NASA. 

In this conversation, Vint talks about how the TCP/IP protocols (which provide internet-connected devices with a way to communicate with one another) came to be and his dedication to spreading the “internet religion” and making information available to all. He focuses much of the conversation on how we can expand the internet in various ways, by allocating more bit space for networks, improving its accessibility, and developing an interplanetary internet. 


UTW Episode 30: David Lazer

Using the Web to Study the Web

Our guest for this episode is David Lazer, a Professor of Political Science and Computer and Information Science at Northeastern University. David is among the leading scholars in the world on misinformation, and he has also researched how we can use the web as a tool to improve our political system. He co-wrote the book Politics with the People: Building Directly Representative Democracy, which was published in 2018 by Cambridge University Press. 

In this episode, David talks about the potential for members of Congress to meet online with voters. He also discusses an online platform he helped to design called Volunteer Science, which houses a large pool of remote volunteers and lowers the startup costs of running experiments for researchers. Finally, he talks about his research on social media and big tech’s algorithms and misinformation on the web – and a recent grant from the National Science Foundation that will fund some of this work.