Phil Howard is the new WSTnet Lab Director for Oxford’s OII (Oxford Internet Institute) and recently gave a distinguished lecture at Southampton’s Web Science Institute (WSI).
Tomorrow’s Leviathan: Intelligent Machines in a Political World
When will an Artificial Intelligence run for elected office? This may seem like a strange provocation– just an invitation to futurism and speculation. Yet AI systems are rolling out across economic, cultural and political life. Professor Philip Howard explores how AI is changing our experience of politics and rewriting democracy’s “terms of service”.
Click here to watch a replay of Phil’s talk
Philip Howard is the Director of the Oxford Internet Institute and a Statutory Professor at Balliol College, Oxford. His research has demonstrated how new information technologies are used in both civic engagement and social control in countries around the world. His research and opinion writing has been featured in the New York Times, Financial Times, and many other international media outlets. Recently, he was awarded the National Democratic Institute’s 2018 “Democracy Prize” and Foreign Policy magazine named him a “Global Thinker” for pioneering the social science of fake news.
A new book “The Theory and Practice of Social Machines” has been published by Springer. This is an exciting new output from the SOCIAM project in which the University of Southampton was a partner, together with the Universities of Oxford and Edinburgh
Professor Dame Wendy Hall, Executive Director of the Web Science Trust and Executive Director of the Web Science Institute, one of the twenty WSTNet Labs, is one of the authors. She commented:
“The concept of Social Machines is a powerful way of looking at the socio-technical systems enabled by the Web, such as Wikipedia. It is essential to think about them in an interdisciplinary way – social interactions and technological processes co-create systems that can be very empowering for communities, enabling them to define their own problems and seek solutions. This is exactly the sort of sociotechnical research issue that Web Science was designed to pursue.”
The term “Social Machines” was introduced by Tim Berners-Lee in 1999. Today we see them as networks of people and devices at scale, their behaviour co-constituted by human participants and technological components. They harness the power of the crowd, with everyone able to contribute – to document situations, cooperate on tasks, exchange information, or simply to play. Existing social processes may be scaled up, and new social processes enabled, to solve problems, augment reality, create new sources of value, or disrupt existing practice.
One of Dame Wendy’s co-authors, Dr Kieron O’Hara, associate professor of electronics and computer science at Southampton, added:
“The spread of social machines has been amazing, and the research programme was quite prescient. When SOCIAM began in 2012, there was relatively little to study. Now they are very common indeed. The book describes in detail examples from citizen science and healthcare to music and mathematics. We even consider the augmented reality game Pokémon Go!
Partnership and interdisciplinarity have been key, and to that end we’ve benefited greatly from our collaboration with SOCIAM partners at the University of Oxford Computer Science Department, the Oxford e-Research Centre, and the University of Edinburgh Informatics Department. In particular, we should emphasise that our book distils the excellent work of dozens of researchers across the project, although there could only be four names on the cover.”
The new book is the fullest and most complete discussion of social machines yet written. It is authored by Professor Sir Nigel Shadbolt (Trustee of the Web Science Trust), Dr Kieron O’Hara, Professor David De Roure and Professor Dame Wendy Hall and is in the Lecture Notes in Social Networks series. It describes the set of tools and techniques developed within SOCIAM for investigating, constructing and facilitating social machines, considers the ethical issues relating to privacy and trust, and speculates on future research trends.
The SOCIAM project, which was directed by Professor Sir Nigel Shadbolt, ran from 2012-18 and was funded by the EPSRC.
For the 2016 US Presidential election, researchers at the University of Southampton with support from the EPSRC funded project SOCIAM, built a real-time data visualization that combined traditional polling data with social media posts. The application was built and designed for the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute EMPAC Campfire, a novel multi-user, collaborative, immersive, computing interface that consist of a desk height panoramic screen and floor projection that users gather around and look into. The application is also a part of the Web Macroscope (a visualization platform developed at the University of Southampton) and uses data from the Southampton Web Observatory.
Data collection for the polling data was taking from the Huffington Post Pollster API
, which collects all the popular polls and their results. The social media data was collected on Twitter, using both their Streaming and Search API. The Streaming API was used to create a stream of data that included 1% of all tweets that had any of the popular and official hashtags and words used by each campaign to show support for their candidate. This hashtag list included tags like ‘TeamTrump’, ‘maga’, ‘TeamTrump’, and ’draintheswamp’ in support for Donald Trump, and ‘LoveTrumpsHate’, ‘ImWithHer’, ‘StrongerTogether’, and ‘WhyIWantHillary’ in support for Hillary Clinton. Any tweets that mixed hashtags and words from both candidates were removed as this was normally done in a way to not show support for a candidate, but to react to supporters on the other side.
Results from the visualizations showed different levels of support on Twitter for each candidates over time. In the days leading to the election on November 8th, tweets in support for Trump were 1.5 times greater than those in support for Clinton. Interestingly, on the day of the election, this ratio switched and levelled off. Around the 2pm EST on November 8th, tweets in support for Clinton were almost equal to the number of tweets supporting Trump. Later in the night of the election, the ratio of support changed again, with tweets in support of Trump being 1.14 times larger than those in support for Clinton.
Another interesting result from the data, was the how many tweets that had geographic information tagged to them were overwhelmingly in support for Clinton throughout the day leading and on the election. Most tweets streamed through the visualization had no GPS lat/long data embedded in them (these tweets often come from mobile phones using the Twitter App, with the optional GSP location data option enabled). As a whole, these geographic tweets are a small minority of the data collected from the Twitter Stream (about 1%). Interestingly, these geographic tweets supported Clinton 15 times more than Trump. Why this is the case is hard to say. It looks like Clinton supporters use mobile apps with location data more than Trump supporters.
WSTNet Lab Directors Meeting, Hannover, 22 May 2016
WSTNet Lab Directors got together at the start of the Web Science Conference this week in Hannover, Germany. Highlights of the meeting include the election of Steffen Staab as Chair and Pete Burnap as Vice-Chair, planning for this years’ Web Science Summer School at University of Koblenz (30 June to 6 July – #wwsss16), and firming up of arrangements for World Wide Web Week – a global event celebrating 10 years of Web Science to be held later this year.
Who’s who in the photo (from left to right): Thanassis Tiropanis (WSI), Manfred Hauswirth (FOKUS), Steffan Staab (Institute WeST), Noshir Contractor (SONIC), Sung-Hyon Myaeng (KAIST), Les Carr (WSI), John Erickson (RPI), Susan Davies (WST), Hans Akkermans (VU Amsterdam), Dave De Roure (Oxford e-Research), Anni Rowland-Campbell (Intersticia), Pete Burnap (Cardiff University), and Wolfgang Nejdl, (L3S).
ACM Web Science 2015
28 June to 1 July 2015
University of Oxford, UK
Call for Papers & Posters
Web Science is the emergent study of the people and technologies,
applications, processes and practices that shape and are shaped
by the World Wide Web. Web Science aims to draw together theories, methods and findings from across academic disciplines, and to collaborate with industry, business, government and civil society,
to develop our knowledge and understanding of the Web: the largest
socio-technical infrastructure in human history.
The Web Science conference welcomes participation from all disciplines including, but not limited to, art, computer and information sciences, communication, economics, humanities, informatics, law, linguistics, philosophy, political science, psychology, and sociology, in pursuit of an understanding of the Web. This conference is unique in bringing these disciplines together in creative and critical dialogue.
We particularly welcome contributions that seek to cross traditional
Following the success of WebSci’09 in Athens, WebSci’10 in Raleigh,
WebSci’11 in Koblenz, WebSci’12 in Evanston, WebSci’13 in Paris,
and WebSci’14 in Bloomington, for the 2015 conference we are seeking papers and posters that describe original research, analysis, and practice in the field of Web Science, as well as work that discusses
novel and thought-provoking ideas and works-in-progress.
Possible topics for submissions include, but are not limited to,
- Theoretical, methodological and ethical approaches for Web Science
- Web practices – individual and/or collective and/or institutional
- Humanities on the Web
- The architecture and philosophy of the Web
- Web Science approaches to Data Science and the Web of Data
- Web Science and the Internet of Things
- Social machines, collective intelligence and collaborative production
- Social Media analytics for Web Science
- Web economics, social entrepreneurship and innovation
- Web Science and Cybersecurity
- Governance, democracy, intellectual property, and the commons
- Personal data, trust, and privacy
- Web access, literacy, and development
- Knowledge, education, and scholarship on and through the Web
- Health and well-being online
- Arts and culture on the Web
- Data curation and stewardship in Web Science
- Web archiving techniques and scholarly uses of Web archives
This call for papers and posters can be found on http://websci15.org
along with a separate call for colocated workshops.
Web Science 2015 is a very selective single track conference with a
rigorous review process. To accommodate the distinct traditions of its many disciplines, we provide three different paper submission formats:
full papers, short papers, and posters.
For all types of submissions, inclusion in the Association for Computing Machinery Digital Library proceedings will be by default, but not mandatory. All accepted research papers (full and short papers) will be presented during the single track conference. There will be a reception for all accepted posters, which will all be displayed in a dedicated space during the conference.
- Full research papers (8-10 pages, ACM double column) Full
research papers should present substantial theoretical, empirical,
methodological, or policy-oriented contributions to research and/or
practice. This should be original work that has not been previously
- Short research papers (up to 5 pages, ACM double column) Short
research papers may present preliminary theoretical, empirical,
methodological, or policy-oriented contributions to research and/or practice. This should be original work that has not been previously published.
- Posters (up to 2 pages, ACM double column, poster reception and
presentation) Extended abstracts for posters may be up to 2 pages.
Other types of creative submissions (flexible format) are also
encouraged, and the exact format and style of presentation are
open. Examples might include artistic performances or installations,
interactive exhibits, demonstrations, or other creative formats. For
these submissions, the proposers should make clear the format and
content and any special requirements they would need to successfully deliver this work (in terms of space, time, technology, etc.)
Full and short paper and poster submissions should be formatted
according to the official ACM SIG proceedings template
If appropriate, please make use of the ACM 1998 classification
scheme (http://www.acm.org/about/class/1998/). Submit papers using EasyChair at
Submissions do not need to be anonymised.
The Web Science Programme Committee covers all areas of Web
Science. Each submission will be refereed by three Programme Committee members and one short meta review written by a Co-Programme Committee chair, to cover both the research background of each submission as well as the necessary interdisciplinary aspects.
All accepted papers and posters will by default appear in the Web
Science 2015 Conference Proceedings and can also be made available
through the ACM Digital Library, in the same length and format of
the submission unless indicated otherwise (those wishing not to be
indexed and archived can ‘opt out’ of the proceedings).
- 20 Mar 2015 Deadline for paper and poster submissions
- 30 Apr 2015 Paper/poster notification
- 15 May 2015 Paper/poster camera-ready
Christine L. Borgman, Professor and Presidential Chair in
Information Studies, UCLA
Pete Burnap, School of Computer Science & Informatics,
Cardiff University, UK
Susan Halford, Professor of Sociology, Web Science Institute
University of Southampton, UK