11th International ACM Conference on Web Science 2019

Announcing the 11th International ACM Conference on Web Science will be held on June 30 – July 3, 2019, in Boston, MA, USA.
The WebSci conference brings together researchers from multiple disciplines, like computer science, sociology, economics, information science, anthropology, and psychology. 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 network in human history.
The Call for Papers and Posters will be circulated in September.
Organization Committee
General co-chairs
·         Paolo Boldi (Università degli Studi, Milan)
·         Brooke Foucault Welles (Northeastern University, Boston, US)
·         Katharina Kinder-Kurlanda (GESIS, Cologne)
·         Christo Wilson (Northeastern University, Boston, US) 
Program co-chairs
·         Isabella Peters (ZBW Kiel, Germany)
·         Wagner Meira Jr. (Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil)
Workshop & Tutorial Chairs
·         Stefan Dietze (L3S / GESIS) 
·         Katya Ognyanova (Rutgers) 
Challenge Chairs
·         Oshani W. Seneviratne (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, US)
·         TBC
PhD Symposium Chairs
·         Mark Weal (University of Southampton, UK) 
·         TBC
Poster Co-chairs
·         Ingmar Weber (Qatar Computing Research Institute)
·         TBC
Finance Chair
·         Kathy Fontaine (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy) 

Closing The Loop

In June, Schloss Dagstuhl – Leibniz Center for Informatics held an event celebrating 10 years of Web Science. This event was organised by Susan Halford from the University of Southampton,
James A. Hendler from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute,
Eirini Ntoutsi the Leibniz University Hannover and Steffen Staab from the University of Koblenz-Landau. Participants came to discuss what Web Science is, some concluding that they still did not know, the significant moments in Web Science over the last 10 years, and where Web Science is going. Click here to have a look at the slides participants created for their discussion and here for more information about the event.

Web Science Conference 2018 at a Glance

Written by Robert Thorburn

Packed to the brim with more academic discourse, networking and interesting research than one can shake a stick at, the 2018 Web Science conference also delivered more than its fair share of special moments. Run over four days starting on Sunday the 27th of May, the conference was hosted by the ever impressive Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and presented attendees with papers, panels and posters covering a wide range of topics. As an inherently interdisciplinary field, any Web Science conference was sure to deliver in this respect but what set this conference apart was not only the quality of the work presented but also the profile of those presenting it. As such, conference goers could attend Professor Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s Turing Award Lecture, find out about the variation in online grieving between Weibo and Twitter users, or hear directly from law enforcement on their efforts to police the Darknet, all at the same event.

The conference kicked off with an Events Day on the Sunday followed by the three main conference days. While the Events Day did not have a keynote session, it instead presented attendees with 6 half or full day tracks on a single theme to choose from. Ranging from Ethics and Privacy for Social Machines to The Evolution of the Darknet, the tracks had a mix of papers, panels and presentations from both academics and practitioners. There was also ample time for networking both at lunch and the post-session receptions.

Following from the high bar set by the Events Day, the main conference program started on Monday the 28th with a keynote session devoted to papers under consideration for the “Best of Web Science 2018” award. The rest of the day was split into paper and poster sessions, with lunch, served in between. Though the conference followed this formula on each day it is the keynotes that set the days apart in the most prominent manner. The second keynote was delivered by Professor Sir Tim Berners-Lee in the form of his Turing Award Lecture, while the third keynote session, entitled ‘The Future of Semantics on the Web’, was taken up by Professor John Domingue.

As was to be expected, the Turning Award Lecture drew great interest with the VU Amsterdam’s Aula Hall filled to capacity. Tim Berners-Lee definitely did not disappoint and delivered a truly memorable address, which was recorded in full and will eventually be made available here. Until such time as the video is made available, one can read a write up of the lecture’s key points here, while the reasoning behind the Turing Award is explained by the ACM here.

Web Science 2018 wasn’t just about the work though, it was also about the building of relationships and networking with like-minded academics and practitioners from across the world. In addition to the daily lunch and drinks receptions there was also a PhD student social and a conference banquet. Both these events were definite highlights and offered conference-goers great settings to network. The PhD social was a relaxed gathering on the VU campus, while the banquet was more formal and hosted the conference awards ceremony.

Although four days might seem ample time for a conference, WebSci18 flew by due to both the quality and volume of papers and discussions. This not only speaks to the proficiency of the event organisers but also clearly showcases the vibrant and growing Web Science community. All of which bodes well for the future, including WebSci19, where ever it may be hosted it is sure to be another hit.



WebSci18 Main Conference Day 3

Last night was the WebSci 18 conference dinner, where we went on a boat trip through the canals of Amsterdam. There was a huge rainstorm, with thunder and lightning which relieved the tension in the air and allowed us all to arrive fresh to the conference this morning, for the last day.

Today there is a series of paper session divided into themes. I went to a few in different sessions, rather than sitting in on one entirely. The first talk that really fascinated me was titled ‘Tweets, Death and Rock ’n’ Roll: Social Media Mourning on Twitter and Sina Weibo’ by Xinyuan Xu, Terhi Nurmikko-Fuller, and Bernardo Pereira Nunes.  Xinyuan or Cynthia as she is known is based at the Australian National University. Cynthia’s talk was really interesting, discussing how we mourn celebrity deaths online. There was a real difference in how people were affected emotionally depending on the online platform that they used. Twitter users were more impacted compared to the Weibo users. Cynthia spoke about how they collected the data, in an 11 day period due to data restriction. There was a real spike in interest about the celebrity on the day of their death, and a few days following when they were discussed and their death analysed online. these conversations were all ascribed hashtags by users, to collectively mourn together. This is not something I had thought about in much detail before, so was really interested in the results and the potential for where this research could go in the future.

Another paper that really grabbed me was titled ‘Everybody thinks online participation is great – for somebody else’ by Gefion Thuermer, Silke Roth, Kieron O’Hara and Steffen Staab from the University of Southampton. Gefion spoke about the digital divide, which already exists and how the Green Party want to involve everyone online, but may be left out. There is a real connection to feminism in the roots of the Green Party, so they are also trying to engage women who are currently not active in online participation. There was an interesting divide in the results where different age groups expect the older or younger generation to inevitably be involved online, but aren’t as much themselves. Really interesting work and I would love to see how this research impacts the ways that the Green Party use online participation.

Later in the day, I attended another keynote session: ‘The Future of Semantics on the Web’, by John Domingue, who is a Professor at and Director of the Knowledge Media Institute at the Open University in Milton Keynes. John spoke about the history of the intelligent machines following on from Alan Turing’s work, asking ‘what does it mean to have an intelligent machine’? John discussed other inspirations and collaborations which thought about the structure of knowledge systems and linking them to the web. John talked about the different data on the Web in specific forms and the microdata of Schema.org which is on them. John believes that there is over-centralisation of the Web, with a few organisations owning and managing the data, with the users not knowing how their data will be used. John spoke about the FAIR principles for data, going forward to have a clearer future for Web data. Semantics provides a mediating layer, it will keep adapting to where the content is.

All in all the WebSci18 conference has been really amazing. It was an opportunity to hear from people all over the world about their research, to meet other people, and to be involved in discussions about the Web, and the study of Web Science. Amsterdam is a beautiful and welcoming city, and I think everyone had a lovely stay here. Thank you to all of the organisers and to VU Amsterdam for hosting us. I don’t know about you, but I have a lot to think about!

WebSci18 Main Conference Day 2 – ACM Turing Award Lecture by Tim Berners-Lee

This morning I entered the VU Amsterdam building to find a huge crowd of people waiting to see Tim Berners-Lee deliver his Turing Award Lecture as part of the Web Science conference. The crowd surged forward into the stunning Aula room and settled down to wait for Tim’s arrival. Hans Akkermans from VU introduced Tim before his lecture, and then Tim took the stage.

Tim introduced the idea of the Web as a cyber-utopia and said that he thinks we are in a difficult place with the Web at the moment. Tim reminisced about the early days of the Web when he wrote a memo originally about the Web, and what he wanted it to be, around the same time that the Berlin Wall was pulled down, and other political moments shook the world. Tim said that his timing was slightly off, not wanted to start talking about the Web when these momentous historical moments were occurring. For Tim, it started as something he wanted to develop and created a drawing of what he thought it would look like. On a good day, Tim says that the Web is simply a layer of documents, an interesting thought.

Of course, Tim moved on to create the first browser, which subsequently created a battle between the browser giants Microsoft and Netscape, we all know how that one played out. Tim has some amazing visuals, showing his first NeXTcube machine, which he ran the Web on at CERN. With stickers all over it asking not to turn it off. He showed a graph that indicated the exponential growth of the Web in the first few years from a few hundred to well over 100,000 hits. Tim says quite humbly that he is always impressed that humanity managed to create something like Wikipedia.

Tim mentioned that for all the time you spend online, some of that must be dedicated to defending your use of it. Defending the ideas behind the Web, what it should stand for, how it should be governed, and that it should remain a free and open space. Of course, people like Tim are now having to defend the Web in governments all over the world that was to introduce net neutrality as a standard.

In 2014, Tim states that many people like him took a step back to look at the Web, and how it was being used, asking how humanity is serving the Web. Tim suggests that we re-decentralize the Web, as a good place to start.

There were hundreds of tweets during the lecture, and it is worth checking some of them out for a live experience of the contents. It was also live-streamed and filmed so no doubt a copy will be made available online. What a thoroughly enjoyable and amazing talk. Tim was funny, and engaging and really made me think about how I see the Web, how I use it and when I defend it.