Thursday, 23 September 2010

Web Science Curriculum ( and Workshop)

work in progress

Its been a week of web science for me this week, along with a few extra lessons on language learning (the first half of the week was in France at Montpellier 2) and inter-disciplinary discussions.

The structure of this post is about the formal web science curriculum workshop (third in the series) but interspersed with some thinking and ideas related to what is going on in Montpellier ( who plan to host a new Masters in Web Science from academic year 2011-12)

At the end of this post there will be a list of links, a list of those who attended the workshop, and a list of folk from Montpellier who might be involved in the new proposed masters.

Web Science Curriculum Workshop Programme:
As yet only a few of the resources appear to be on the web, but I will link where I can, and expect to re-edit or republish this blog post when things change.

Intro and welcome from Cathy Pope (soton)

Further Welcome and Web Science Trust - Wendy Hall @DameWendyDBE

Round table introductions - all

Web Science subject categorisation - a proposal for discussion Michalis Vafopoulos @vafapoulos and Les Carr @Lescarr

What is Web Science? Nigel Shadbolt @nigel_shadbolt

What is Web Science? group discussion (ok, I won't be giving twitter names for all here!)

Round table presentations of what we are teaching, planning, and what collaborations we would like

Dave de Roure @dder


Rather than being a documentary narrative, this account is a synthesis of the discussion which mixes parts for points raised in various sessions

draft curriculum for discussion - paper developed by Michalis Vafopoulos ( @vafapoulos on twitter ) and Les Carr was presented and discussed.

Web Science Draft Curriculum

The proposal brings forward a taxonomy which provides a structure for the intersecting topic areas across the curriculum

The discussion to some extent turned on what was missing from the list - but any brief account cannot do justice to the issues raised. We had an initial bash at the discussion immediately following Michalis' presentation, returning to it, and refining our ideas as the day progressed.

My assumptions

students + curriculum -> web scientist
curriculum = knowledge + processes
study= cognitive apprenticeship

inter-disciplinarity is about the negotiated understanding of meaning

borrowing from the concept of the barefoot psychotherapist

parallels with language learning

When considering the work/research/focus areas of the list it appears that the web scientist might be an identified by the fact that the reseacher's specialisms did not alone sit in an existing recognised discipline area, essentially web scientists have to be inter-disciplinary. During informal discussions with Mark Weal we agreed that it might also be helpful to portray the information space through some form of associative map. I suspect that different colleagues will find different styles of representation useful, although the taxonomic approach has strength since it mirrors that used in the ACM curricula.

There was a definite thread running through the presentation which Nigel Shadbolt made that learning from existing disciplines/fields of studies which are by nature inter-disciplinary may be of advantage. The discussion time after this presentation was wide ranging, and if possible I will try to link to other accounts which folk make. Pragmatically one way in which the field can be established and create its identity is through attaching itself to other established disciplines, thereby demonstrating its role and value.

One alternative approach to the curriculum mapping which was suggested during the subsequent dicussions was to take an approached based on the IEEE software engineering body of knowledge

Another suggestion was to take a look at the Achievement Standards Network

Probably worth thinking about a few ways in which we portray/understand web science. Our Southampton perspective is one of co-creation - or in social science talk web science is the product of co-constitution. There are a few (some classic) pictures which can help illuminate this understanding.

How we see the web science curriculum at Southampton: We began teaching a web science masters in 2009/10 Les Carr and Mark Weal plus Cathy Pope have been to key players in designing the structure of the course, but there has been extensive input through discussions with a whole host of academics who are contributing to the teaching, some of whom offer single lectures, others who have a more significant role in the classes.

When we think about what is web science, we have various visualisations which capture the extent of the area, some of which address content, other parts of which address process. You can find more details on the course web site, and through resources which we have deposited in EdShare (our educational repository).

We host a Web Science Doctoral Consortium -
We run an MSc in Web Science -
We routinely deposit our learning resources in EdShare

Picture 23.png

But it is may be more useful to consider a process orientated understanding of web science which has been presented by Tim Berners-Lee. Students of web science, like all masters' students will need to develop their critical thinking and analytic skills across the set of processes. The curriculum needs to be more than a mapping of the landscape, since the ways of thinking and analysing data which are special to Web Science are an inextricable part of the field.


By way of observation, we got into discussions where understandings pivoted on linguistic understandings. Many of the discussions were constrained by concepts of existing ways of working.

One of the heated questions was about where web scientists would get jobs, surely Web Science for students is more about a mindset rather than a ticket for a job, I find myself returning to the model of higher education as a cognitive apprenticeship. The issues is that students of web science, and practitioners (academics or in the field) will acquire a set of skills and a model of knowledge and understanding which is mediated by the consideration and exploration of web science phenomena. I look at web science ( like I look at so many different parts of life) from a technology affordances perspective (after gaver). This belies the fact that I additionally come from a social constructivist perspective. for those reasons, I would wish to privilege approaches over content.

However when we return to the issue of where students will work when they have graduated from the course, the problem is created when we seek to gain accreditation, or agreement from our institution to support and instantiate a subject as a formal programme. At that time we are asked to explain or anticipate (for a commodified model of education) Where will our students work, Where will they gain their work experience, What are the topics which they can study? Who are the academics who will teach them.

The discussion about what is web science, and where to web scientists work is of particular importance to those who expect to incorporate a period of internship, work-placement - or french 'stage'. I favour an approach in the curriculum which enables the learners to gain self knowledge and confidence. In terms of placements and internships I see opportunities for students to take placements in orgnaisations where they are able to pursue activities where they practice web science in context (for enterprises such as tourist boards or regional development agencies, for small businesses, or as interns for research groups at Universities)

sound points made by colleague from Amsterdam (Hans Ackermanns)

what people want
sharing of resources
beruit - french or arabic text on web science
highland and islands - working in health related areas - seeking to share video resources
discussions of possible text book - maybe an electronic version would be more apposite!
remote teaching by agreement with other institutions/institutes - real time with video conferencing
DERI are prepared to participate and exchange

I would like to make a strong argument for remote learning - I see web science as requiring a participative curriculum, where the students play a strong role in creating their curriculum and helping take forward our understanding of web science. We are talking about learning at masters level, but I think this might also be applicable at undergraduate level. It seems to me that the very inter-disciplinary nature of the web science necessitates an active role for the students in creating their own understandings, and personally experiencing their own understanding of interdiscipinarity , not withstanding the fact that we are trying to establish web science as a discipline in its own right.

If we believe we are seeking to educate the thought leaders of the next generation, then we would be doing them a disservice if we construct a web science curriculum which is predominantly didactic.
proposals - koblenz - text book on web science
web science book already translated into greek and chinese
approaches - stand alone masters, specialist modules, seeking to develop computer science 'flavoured' with web science
scarcity of people who can deliver - seeking to find people across the country, contribute remotely

- links incorporated where I have been able to find that the institution has a specific web science initiative/programme

Jack Kopeski - OU Milton Keynes

Joanna Luciano - Rensselaer -

Chris Baker - University of New Brunswick

Michalis Vafopoulos - Thosaloniki

Hugh Glaser - Linked Data consultant

Nick Gibbons - University of Southampton

Hans Akkermanns - The Network Institute NV Amsterdam

Elizabeth Brooks - UHI - head of computing network

Connor Hayes - DERI - NUI Gallway Ireland

Stéphane Bezane - UIR web science at USJ Beirut looking for ways of setting up exchanges for students and sharing materials (lebanon - on interest to Montpellier)

Birgit Proell - Johannes Keppler University , interested in sharing materials

Su White - Southampton/Montepellier 2

Marco Antonio Cassanova - Brazilian Web Science Institute

Geraldo Xexéo - Brazilian Web Science Institute

Sergej Sizoc - Koblenz

Lei Zhang - Tsinghua University (name means the water is clear and the trees are growing)

Hugh Davis - Southampton/Montepellier 2

Bernie Hogan - Oxford Internet Institute

Mark Weal - University of Southampton

Wendy Hall - University of Southampton

Nigel Shadbolt - University of Southampton

Claudia Roda - American University of Paris, Interested in sharing materials

interactions - and questions to continually ask....

what are you proposing?

what are you arguing?

so what did you mean by that?

Issues in a web science masters

montpellier folks

Stefano Cerri

Madalina Croitoru

Clement Jonquet

LIRMM montpellier

University Montpellier 2



1. Towards a Science of the Web: the Power of Networks. Wendy Hall.,com_mediadb/task,view/idstr,CU-Personnel-2007-WISETI/Itemid,99999999

2. Introduction to Web Science. Video of a lecture by Nigel Shadbolt.

3. Web Science Lectures at Georgia Tech.

4. ESWC2008 Panel Does the Semantic Web Need Web Science. Wendy Hall moderator.

5. Web Science Research Initiative Curriculum Workshop Report.

6. What is the Future of the Web? A presentation by Tim Berners-Lee followed by a panel discussion with Berners-Lee, Hall, Shadbolt, Spivak, moderated by Hender and McGuinness. Links to ReadWriteWeb coverage.

7. Building a Pragmatic Semantic Web Alani, H., Hall, W., O'Hara, K., Shadbolt, N., Chandler, P. and Szomszor, M. (2008) Building a Pragmatic Semantic Web. IEEE Intelligent Systems, 23 (3). pp. 61-68.

8. Web Science: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Understanding the Web Hendler, J., Shadbolt, N., Hall, W., Berners-Lee, T. and Weitzner, D. (2008) Web Science: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Understanding the Web. Communications of the ACM, 51 (7). pp. 60-69. ISSN 0001-0782

9. Why Study the Web? vide of lecture by Nigel Shadbolt

10. Upcoming Web Science Events

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