Web Science: An Integrative Perspective on Technology Trends
As of January 2021 there were 4.66 billion active internet users worldwide – 59.5 percent of the global population. How do we shape the Web and how does the web shape us?
“The Web has evolved to be many things: a network, a service, a means of social interaction, a marketplace, a source of news, a repository of knowledge, a database of multimedia content, and an integral part of human activity” (Bauckhage & Kersting 2016).
Web Science studies the interconnection of people, services and systems (i.e., technical, economical, social, cultural). Web Science deals with phenomena in and of the World Wide Web and utilizes knowledge, concepts and methods from corresponding disciplines and perspectives (informatics, economy, business administration, law, design, social sciences, etc.). Web Scientists are capable of embracing a holistic, out of the box perspective on web projects and can come to viable, sound decisions.
As Berners-Lee et al. (2006a) stated: ‘neither the Web nor the world is static’: The Internet is evolving alongside society. Social and technical innovation drive each other. Described as a ‘deliberately ambiguous phrase’ (Berners-Lee et al. 2006b), the field of web science combines perspectives across scientific disciplines to foster our understanding of ‘how the Web changes society just as much as society changes the Web’ (Web Science Trust).
During the past semester I had the great privilege to teach a group of international students in a Master program on Web Science at TH Köln – University of Applied Sciences. As part of their course work, each student researched an innovative technology trend that they felt would impact our individual and collective behavior online and offline. The topics included:
- Internet of Things: Historical perspective and future directions
- Social Media and Mental Health
- Smart Supermarkets and RFID
- Crypto & Bitcoin
- Social Media & OSINT
In this course and together with the students I learned to embrace the field of web science as a lens that adds clarity to many technology questions.
If you want to learn more: The non-profit organization Web Science Trust, the open access Journal of Web Science and the annual ACM WebSci conference are the pillars of the Web Science community.
Bauckhage, C., & Kersting, K. (2016). Collective attention on the Web. Foundations and Trends in Web Science, 5(1-2), 1-136.
Berners-Lee, T., Hall, W., Hendler, J., Shadbolt, N., & Weitzner, D. J. (2006a). Creating a Science of the Web. Science, 313 (5788), 769-771.
Berners-Lee, T., Hall, W., & Hendler, J. A., O’Hara, K., Shadbolt, N. & Weitzner, D.J. (2006b). A framework for web science. Now Publishers Inc.
Zhu Scott, J. (2021). Global Digital Infrastructure in a Post-Pandemic World. In 13th ACM Web Science Conference 2021 (WebSci ’21). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA. https://dl.acm.org/doi/10.1145/3447535.3466176
Hall, W. (2021, June). The Future of Web and Society. In 13th ACM Web Science Conference 2021 (WebSci ’21). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA. https://dl.acm.org/doi/10.1145/3447535.3468459