Untangling the Web is the brainchild of WST Trustee Noshir Contractor and seeks to lay out and examine some of the key issues in Web Science through an informal discussion series in which he invites colleagues to talk about their work and the challenges they face. Ian Brown from WST speaks to Noshir about the series.
IB: What was the driver behind starting a new podcast around Web Science?
Noshir: We are trying to make Web Science more accessible for listeners by approaching real-world challenges and problems, and talking about them from the perspective of people and technology interacting at a huge (often global) scale. You don’t need to know any formal Web Science to listen to this series and to learn something about key challenges and opportunities that emerge from so much digital data mixed with so many people.
IB: How is something like Web Science different from some of the approaches that listeners may be more familiar with like Data Science or Information Science?
Noshir: Actually, defining Web Science in formal terms can be tough, and yet we so often see opportunities and problems that Web Science is uniquely placed to analyse and help us to understand.
The secret sauce is that Web Scientists come from a multitude of disciplines – they are trained lawyers, mathematicians, medics, musicians, teachers, technologists, philosophers and everything in between. Bringing this type of expertise together with an understanding of the structure and interactions of networks at large scale creates a unique perspective.
No other discipline that I know, not only allows interdisciplinary thinking in this way but actually demands it. Unless we bring the complexity of people/society in all its forms into an understanding of the Web we cannot hope to scratch the surface of the ways in which the people and technologies impact and influence each other.