Book Release: Digital Modernity

In this monograph, O’Hara 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. O’Hara explores the synergies and tensions between these three aspects as well as the opportunities for and dilemmas posed by misinformation. He 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.

Kieron O’Hara is Emeritus Fellow in Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton.

This publication can be found here: It is also available on IEEE Xplore at You can contact the publisher for access options or order a print copy at the $40 discount rate using the code: 226485

Digital Modernity by Kieron O’Hara
Published: 17 November 2022
ISBN: 978-1-63828-104-7

New WST White Paper on Privacy

Law has granted individuals some rights over the use of data about them, but data protection rights have not redressed the balance between the individual and the tech giants. A number of approaches aim to augment personal rights to allow individuals to police their own information space, facilitating informational self-determination. This reports reviews this approach to privacy protection, explaining how controls have generally been conceived either as the use of technology to aid individuals in this policing task, or the creation of further legal instruments to augment their powers. It focuses on two recent attempts to secure or support data protection rights, one using technology and the other the law. The former is called Solid, a decentralised platform for linked data, while the latter is a novel application of trust law to develop data trusts in which individuals’ data is managed by a trustee with the individuals as beneficiaries. The report argues that structural impediments make it hard for thriving, diverse ecosystems of Solid apps or data trusts to achieve critical mass – a problem that has traditionally haunted this empowering approach.

New Book by Phil Howard OII WSTNet Lab Director

Lie Machines: How to Save Democracy from Troll Armies, Deceitful Robots, Junk News Operations, and Political Operatives

Philip N. Howard is director of the Oxford Internet Institute and the author of nine books, including Pax Technica: How the Internet of Things May Set Us Free or Lock Us Up, which was praised in the Financial Times as “timely and important.” He is a frequent commentator on the impact of technology on political life, contributing to the New York Times, Financial Times, and other media outlets.

Publication date:
23 Jun 2020
Yale University Press
240 pages: 216 x 140 x 22mm

Read more at Yale Books

Fractured Internet: A Wired Article by Hall & O’Hara

WST CEO Prof. Dame Wendy Hall (Southampton University) and long-time collaborator Dr. Kieron O’Hara (Southampton University) have published an article in about threats to the vision of a global internet.

Click here to read the article

Kieron O’Hara is an associate professor in electronics and computer science at the University of Southampton. Wendy Hall is regius professor of computer science at the University of Southampton

Wired Article by Hendler(s)

A new article about AI gender stereotypes by Sharone Horowit-Hendler (SUNY Albany) and their father WST trustee Jim Hendler (RPI) has been published in Wired magazine.

Click here to see the article 

Sharone Horowit-Hendler is a PhD student in linguistic anthropology at SUNY Albany with an emphasis on gender studies.  Their forthcoming dissertation, Navigating the Binary, is a study of gender presentation in the nonbinary community.

James Hendler is a professor of computer science, director of the Institute for Data Exploration and Application at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and a fellow of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence. His most recent book, Social Machines: The Coming Collision of Artificial Intelligence, Social Networks and Humanity(Apress, 2017), discusses emerging implications of AI technology.