Sunday, 11 December 2011

What is Web Science? Journals and Web Sites

Anyone trying to find out exactly what is web science might find themselves on a bit of a quest….

As a definitive source and a breadcrumb trail of developments I would turn to publications hosted on the Web Science Trust web site


More recently there has been an announcement of a new journal - International Journal of Web Science

Not sure about this new publication - the content seems very web technology and the list of editorial board and reviewers does not seem that close to the web science community emerging through the web science trust.

the way they define their content reveals the space between the two communities as much by what it does not say as by what it claims

IJWS is a refereed scientific international journal. IJWS aims to improve the state-of-the-art of worldwide research in the areas of web theories, services, applications and standards by publishing high-quality papers in this area. IIJWS is committed to deepening the understanding of enabling theories and technologies for applying and developing the web as a global information repository



Monday, 24 October 2011

Writing Links and Advice

Writing is a pervasive challenge for anyone in University, no matter is you are an undergrad, masters student, post grad, researcher or full time academic.

Writing is a craft which can be practiced and refined, and for which each individual follows a very personal path.

For that reason the list of links may be relevant and useful to all sorts of different people, at all sorts of levels, for all sorts of purposes.
Introductory - and foundational
Purdue Online Writing Lab
Helpful source of guidance, which covers the whole gamut on academic writing.

Annotated Bibligraphies
Here is a link to writing annotated bibliographies from Purdue. The sub task of creating an annotated bibliography is a key component of the skill used in academic writing - particularly relevant to the related works/literature review section of formal papers

More Advanced Level
Tomorrow's Professor is a website run out of Stanford which is a frequent helpful source of information and advice
Tomorrow's Professor Msg.#1107 Writing an Article in 12 Weeks
IN HER BOOK WRITING YOUR JOURNAL ARTICLE in 12 Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success, Wendy Laura Belcher breaks down the writing process into manageable tasks to help anyone prepare an article for publication in just 12 weeks.

Tomorrow's Professor Msg.#1009 Writing About Your Research: Verb Tense

... gives some great tips on the use of present and past tenses in your writing.  It is from the February 2010 issue of the online publication  Graduate Connections Newsletter [] , pp 16-17, from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and is published by the Office of Graduate Studies. ©2010 Graduate Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  Reprinted with permission.

Tomorrow's Professor Msg.#986 Demystifying Dissertation Writing

...a short piece on the development of a new book, Demystifying Dissertation Writing: A Streamlined Process from Choice of Topic to Final text, by Peg Boyle Single, Ph.D. Published by Stylus Publishing, LLC  22883 Quicksilver Drive, Sterling, Virginia, 20166-2102.  ©2010 Peg Boyle Single.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Suggested readings - web science and repositories - the cat's whiskers*

Seems like a good time to post a selected reading list with links to papers that form a background to the Web Science Curriculum Repository (WSCR - pronounced whisker - think cats ;-)
Madalina who has put in so much hard work on this project, and she is particularly fond of cats, so it seems appropriate
Anyway enough of the cuddly furry lolz stuff and onto the reading list...
Work that we are doing at Southampton on repositories is being led by Les Carr (aka repository man). ePrints is being delivered as a platform which is rich in technology affordances. ePrints is being used as the engine behind a number of educational repositories, hosted at Southampton, and at other universities, for example EdShare, HumBox and Language Box,  teachers on the Web Science programme at Southampton already use EdShare to store a large volume of materials, WSCR is a plan to collect Web Science resources across the community. In particular we intend that the artefacts within the collection will serve as a tool to 'emerge' the Web Science Curriculum. A formal definition of the Web Science Subject Categorization (WSSC) has been produced, but the subject area is constantly evolving and it is neither effective nor appropriate to suggest that the curriculum be defined alone by the more traditional methods of extended committee work.
Directly related to the Southampton perspective and experience
  • Davis, H., L. Carr, J. Hey, Y. Howard, D. Millard, D. Morris and S. White (2010). "Bootstrapping a Culture of Sharing to Facilitate Open Educational Resources." IEEE Transactions on Learning Technologies 3(2): 96-109
  • Millard, D., Y. Howard, P. McSweeney, K. Borthwick, M. Arrebola and J. Watson (2009). The Language Box: Re-Imagining Teaching and Learning Repositories. International Conference on Advanced Learning Technologies. Riga, Latvia.
  • Millard, D. E., Y. Howard, P. McSweeney, M. Arrebola, K. Borthwick and S. Varella (2009). Phantom Tasks and Invisible Rubric: The Challenges of Remixing Learning Objects in the Wild. Proceedings of the 4th European Conference on Technology Enhanced Learning: Learning in the Synergy of Multiple Disciplines. Nice, France, Springer-Verlag: 127-139.
  • White, S., M. Croitoru, S. Bazan, S. Cerri, H. C. Davis, C. Jonquet, G. Prini, F. Scharffe, S. Staab, T. Tiropanis and M. Vafopoulos (2011). Negotiating the Web Science Curriculum Development through Shared Educational Artefacts. ACM WebSci '11. Koblenz, Germany.
Repository background
  • Cassel, L. N., G. Davies, R. LeBlanc, L. Snyder and H. Topi (2008). Using a Computing Ontology as a Foundation for Curriculum Development. SW-EL'08 Sixth International Workshop on Ontologies and Semantic Web for E-Learning in conjunction with ITS 2008, Montreal, Canada.
I am sure there are lots more out there, but I found these particularly useful :-)
Southampton folk are advised that they may have to go via the library link to log into the non eprints journal holdings
*The cat's whiskers - something which is really good, neat etc :-) I'm also missing my cat while we are in France....

    motivating behaviours ....

    Very often learning is a by product of exercises which through familiarity enable the learner to internalise understandings and perhaps reflect and abstract from their exerience.
    according to the hover over text in the last frame of this cartoon (called Oversight)
    "I felt so clever when I found a way to game the Fitocracy system by incorporating a set of easy but high scoring activities into my regular schedule. Took me a bit to realize I'd been tricked into setting up a daily exercise routine"

    Systems that motivate
    I have also been taken in to play the game on a UK running website called FetchEveryone. Fetch (as it is known to its users) allows you to log your runs and provides quite detailed analysis of your performance (all dynamically calculated from your data). It compares your race performance with national standards, and applies known reckoning methods to predict performance in future races.
    Early additions included adding a personal annual challenge and generating league tables against the target. Then, noting that folk tended to set challenges (particularly of the do something every day for a month - in running terms known as streaking, and typcially titled something like AugustAthon, MayAthon (or whatever month you choose) it established a feedback grid called a ThingyThon.
    It also introduced a game called Conquercise, which is a Foursquare or Gowalla for runners, allowing them to 'conquer' areas as a result of being the person who covered a particular grid square the most frequently.
    FetchEveryone Conquercise Southampton

    One of the aspect of learning (which is related to motivation) is time spent on task. All of the examples above reward people for spending more time on task. The reward is personal, but the recognition and status is within the community.

    This reward for persistent behaviour is a factor which runs as a thread in various commentaries on social media - for example Charles Leadbeater's We Think, and Clay Shirky's Cognitive Surplus.

    Pervasive monitoring
    For exercise activities various pervasive monitors have emerged which take some of the over the tasks of data collection.
    Fitbug is another example of such a system - a glorified pedometer from which to upload data, ie designed for a specific purpose, this time using a subscription model (perhaps further motivation??) and running a closed system - although it does incorporate league tables (a fantasy footfall league!). Fitbit is more sophisticated measuring activity levels with a 3d motion detecter. It only available in the US but lets you choose between subscription and free use plus it is making its API available for interface with other apps (although data download is only available with the subscription model).
    Systems such as Fetch allow you to submit data collected automatically by specialist devices such as heart monitors and GPS tracking systems. It appears, superficially, that folk who are able to submit such data are more persistent in their updates, and perhaps, more persistent in their commitment to exercise. That is certainly the claim which is made for the Fitbug.

    Games with a purpose
    Games with a purpose have a long history. According to The British Library the first jigsaw puzzles were devised by John Spilsbury to help teach geography (1776) , make a map of the worlds and you kind of get familiar with the different countries, towns and where  they all are.

    Monitoring for learning
    I am particularly interested in the way in which social software is being harnessed to reinforce behaviours. My thinking is that this might be extended to motivating time on task for our undergraduate students. I am not aware of any other systems which are currently operating along these lines.
    My challenge is to work out how to devise a game which would be appropriately motivating, and how create a closed and trusting community which would enable personal data to be aggregated for individual and  group advantage. My thinking is that students themselves are likely to be the best people to design such a system, using their understandings to build something which is appealing and purposeful.
    In many ways a good system would provide data which could be examined to provide guidance for subsequent learners addressing similar tasks.  The Fetch system administrator performs and publishes this type of analysis and distributes the findings in regular newsletters - an example them of citizen science which is gathering data on a larger scale and from larger cohorts than is often available for academic sports scientists.
    Using tracking derived from Educational administration and infrastructure might provide some of the means by which we could allow learners to submit data automatically to an educational version of Fetch.


    Wednesday, 24 August 2011

    Web Science Curriculum: Honourable Mention at ACM WebSci'11

    We were delighted with our honourable mention for our paper on Web Science Curriculum at the 2011 ACM Web Science Conference in Koblenz, Germany.

    Our paper on negotiating a Web Science Curriculum was shortlsted for best paper at ACM WebSci'11, and better than being a runner up, we received an honourable mention:-). You can download the PDF here from eprints, and there is also a video of the presentation. The paper provides an account of work to specify a Web Science Curriculum based on the Web Science Subject Categorization which had previously been led by Michalis Vafopolous from Aristotle University of Thesaloniki, Greece

    Not surprisingly I have carried on thinking about what we have written. The project to create the repository will be getting underway in the autumn, and there are a few folk from other universities outside the original consotrium who are interested in joining in the collaborative effort to collect and collate a range of the resources we use for teaching Web Science and use them as a bottom up source for specifying the curriculum.

    We are also continuting to gather data on how and where web science is cropping up in the curriculum. Undergrad, postgrad, summer schools, electives or just plain intermingled. The survey is still live if you want to make a contribution 

    Reference and Download
    White, S., Croitoru, M., Bazan, S., Cerri, S., Davis, H. C., Folgieri, R., Jonquet, C., Scharffe, F., Staab, S., Tiropanis, T. and Vafopoulos, M. (2011) Negotiating the Web Science Curriculum through Shared Educational Artefacts. In: ACM WebSci '11, 14-17 June 2011, Koblenz, Germany.

    The paper, abstract and video can all be accessed from the same page on the journal pages hosted by the Web Science Trust

    The next conference WebSci'12 is being held at Northwestern University in Evanston Illinois about 20 miles from Chicago. we certainly plan to be there one way or another.

    The debate

     There has been some talk about the impact of the web and web science on computer science in general - all of which is relevant to the discussion about the web science curriculum

    In April 2010 Ed H. Chi from google posted on BLOG@CACM. Hot on the heels of the then UK government announcing that it had funded the Web Science Research Institute at Southampton to the tune of £30m Ed's blog was titled Time to rethink computer science education: The (social) web changes everything.

    Even tho' the subsequent tory government pulled the funding in its headline grabbing 'battle against the deficit' the question of rethinking computer science remains, although it has to be said that the piece did not attract large amounts of comments.

    Previoiusly (2007) Ben Schneiderman had published Web science: a provocative invitation to computer science in CACM (download from the University of Maryland), and in 2008 Jim Hendler et al provided ACM members with an insight into Web Science with Web Science: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Understanding the Web (available from ECS eprints)

    Mark Bernstein attended the Web Science Curriculum workshop which proceeded this year's conference in Koblenz, and spotted some tensions in the interdisciplinary agendas which pursuing web science inevitable uncovers....

    A thread of angst in the Web Science Curriculum workshop, clearly, is multidiscplinarity. The dominant discipline is computer science, to the extent that computer science is a discipline. The fear that sociology and the rest of the social sciences will be read out of meeting is clear, but the desire for multidisciplinarity is equally evident.
    One problem, of course, is that students in most countries enter a discipline in their mid-teens – too young to be expected to do useful research. Worse, new initiates are inclined to be more doctrinaire and less tolerant of deviance than their elders. The old Liberal Arts degree might fit Web Science better than trying to reconcile social science and engineering across disparate faculties
    certainly at Web Science 2010 the paper by Susan Halford et al. clearly laid out some of the additional agenda's and prior experience which Web Science needs to embrace. It is very easy for computer scientists to keep doing the same old same old.

    I am hoping to take some of these ideas to the 2012 SIGCSE conference in the US in March next year. In particular I would like the computer science community and those in the wider family of computing subjects to engage in a discussion which identified a place for web science.  I am also keen to take this discussion further forward with some of our colleagues who work in web science but who come from a distinctly social science perspective.  By then we should have more data on what teaching is taking place, and more information on what is finding its way into the curriculum.

    White, S., Croitoru, M., Bazan, S., Cerri, S., Davis, H. C., Folgieri, R., Jonquet, C., Scharffe, F., Staab, S., Tiropanis, T. and Vafopoulos, M. (2011) Negotiating the Web Science Curriculum through Shared Educational Artefacts. In: ACM WebSci '11, 14-17 June 2011, Koblenz, Germany.

      Web Science Curriculum: next steps - debate with Computer Science

      Following on from our honourable mention for our paper on Web Science Curriculum at the 2011 ACM Web Science Conference in Koblenz, Germany, I have been doing some thinking about the relationship between web science and the various computing curricula.
      As I mentioned previously there has been some talk about the impact of the web and web science on computer science in general - all of which is relevant to the discussion about the web science curriculum

      In April 2010 Ed H. Chi from google posted on BLOG@CACM. Hot on the heels of the then UK government announcing that it had funded the Web Science Research Institute at Southampton to the tune of £30m Ed's blog was titled Time to rethink computer science education: The (social) web changes everything

      Even tho' the subsequent tory government pulled the funding in its headline grabbing 'battle against the deficit' the question of rethinking computer science remains, although it has to be said that the piece did not attract large amounts of comments.

      Previously (2007) Ben Schneiderman had published Web Science: a provocative invitation to computer science in CACM (download from the University of Maryland), and in 2008 Jim Hendler et al provided ACM members with an insight into Web Science with Web Science: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Understanding the Web (available via ECS ePrints)

      What I am doing now is looking at the various curricula in the computing family and seeing how good a fit we can see for Web Science. I am still mindful of Mark Bernstein's observation that perhaps a better place for Web Science could be found in the Liberal Arts tradition ( ), however I also believe that it is possible for subjects to move their debates and methodologies.

      Computer Science is certainly one which would fall very much between Biglan's 'Hard Pure' and 'Hard Applied' categories. In research and across the range of different degrees that are offered we observe a wide range of approaches and focus from abstract and mathematical to practice based and observational. It is true that in much of what we see published in web science, those topic areas which yield to modelling and simple experimentation - often extensions to current network science perspectives, are more pervasive than studies which require long term data collection and analysis.



      White, S. and Vafapoulos, M. (2011) Web Science: expanding the notion of Computer Science.


      Saturday, 25 June 2011

      Free university and online activism - #glasto11

      Looks like I have myself a schedule, for the daytime at least.

      12.00 Leftfield

      Activism Online - discussion.

      13.30 The Park, HMS Sweet Charity
      free university

      Ben Goldacre Bad Science.

      Cabaret Tent

      15.05 and 16.00 Mark Thomas, then Jeremy Hardy, Four Poofs and a Piano

      - Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

      Friday, 24 June 2011

      Glastonbury finds

      Do a search on twitter for Glastonbury #glasto11 for more

      This year's ingenu find are Enigma vintage fashions on the Avalon Field, find them :-) warm welcome fabulous clothes, wonderful people. A legend already...

      - Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

      Location:Top St,,United Kingdom

      Thursday, 16 June 2011

      Walking, talking and thinking

      If wisdom is the goal, then students must "walk 10,000 miles, read 10,000 books" said the 17th-century Chinese philosopher Gu Yanwu

      stumbled across this quote on a piece in the times higher by Steven Schwartz

      I love running, and one of the things I get out of running is time to think

      I also love walking, and much of the pleasure I derive has some of the same source.  I enjoy being able to see the early morning sun, learn about my new surroundings, see the local flora and fauna, find a sense of space

      And if

      I also stumbled across some funded research which is researching walking in a thinking context working with PhD students

      New Research Trajectories goes for a walk, gives you a sense of this activity

      We used this sort of approach on an AwayDay the other year, and I am quite keen to organise an un-conference which uses walking as a device, I wonder if there would be much interest in the community?

      Negotiating a web science curriculum

      As a single track conference Web Science does things right :-) good too, that the organisers are videoing all the tracks from
      A healthy array of folk have blogged about the conference, giving you the chance to compare views and experiences - a practice at the core of this ultimately interdisciplinary community.

      Dave de Roure in Nature
      Nature e science blog

      Wednesday, 15 June 2011

      Web Science 2011

      Delighted that our paper has been nominated for the best paper award at Web Science 2011
      Negotiating a Web Science Curriculum through shared educational artefacts
      White et al

      - Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

      Tuesday, 14 June 2011

      Getting Ready for ACM Web Science 2011 - the curriculum workshop

      We are really excited about our paper at the ACM web science conference #websci11 this year, and what better prelude than a  Web Science Curriculum Workshop
      Our paper is titled Negotiating the Web Science Curriculum through shared Educational Artefacts, you can download a copy either from the conference programme web site, or from the ECS soton ePrints repository
      We are scheduled to present during the Web Science Tools and Technologies Session on Thursday morning
      These are working notes, which I hope will be of interest to other attendees
      Twitter hashcodes
      • main conference #websci11
      • curriculum workshop #websci11cw
      • Alt Metrics #altmetrics
      structure - who, what
      • who is doing web science
      • what could we (people who teach web science) use from the community
      At the workshop there are representative of three web science masters being taught
      Aristotle University Thesaloniki, Greece,
      • taught masters - strong mathematics and economics perspective
      • Professional masters majority of the materials are online, synchronous online two or three evenigns per week, a number of weekend residentials,
      five module perspectives, comes from an interdisciplinary background.
      • ITWS Web Science undergraduate degree programme 110 across three years
      • IT and Web Science (ITWS) - masters (35) and PhD - a new specialisation
      • One year taught Masters - for most this is a preliminary to a PhD studies
      Other places which have activities  which may not be full programme include (please comment if you want to be added)
      Amsterdam, Linz
      other places which propose to start soon (please comment if you want to be added)
      TU Eindhoven - Bachelors Degree
      Related disciplines
      Digital Humanitites ( point from Faith)
      What we need from the community
      Definitions of web science
      Topical Relevance:
      • topics for web science
      What do students want to learn from a web science curriculum?
      professional relevance
      Where do students go next?
      How do we teach web science?
      specific examples, methods, approaches, pedagogy
      Report on your Web Science Activity
      want to contribute to our survey of web science teaching? go to
      37+ attendees
      Actions which arose ( with my comments/notes  in <>brackets)
      Action List
      1. list of course/programmes/curriculum (wiki) Jim H
      2. mailing list (announcements) - exists- use it (join)
      3. co-ordinating calls, monthly meetings Craig
      4. lecturer/expert list (talks, ideas etc) <this is one naturally for either Craig, or for WSCR profiles)
      5. project ideas hcd
      6. literature hcd
      7. exemplary examples hcd
      8. textbooks (online/discussion)
      9. resources site hcd, stefane
      10. match making service <after the event - enhancement >
      11. datasets steffen S
      12. commentary/discussion resources Su W
      13. index (and connections of ideas to above)
      14. review process (max)
      15. list of people/areas <WSCR profiles>

      Tuesday, 7 June 2011

      Web History Repository - something for the web science Observatory?

      Came across this Web Site for a 'Web History Repository' the other day, it seems its the sort of info which might make itself part of the Web Science Trust's vision of a global Web Science Observatory, and is also relevant to the paper I will be presenting at the web science conference next week.

      Collating data on web usage (which is what this repository is about, rather than being a repository of the Web History) provides information which researchers can analyse and which students and learn to use.

      On that basis I am just noting a link, it should properly be called a web browsing history, which is a rather different matter - another case of lost in translation, although the data which it will collect should be useful and the argument for collecting it is valid.

      Companies like Google, Microsoft and Facebook constantly improve their products, based on the data that they collect from their users. Open-source software developers and researchers normally have no access to this data, which puts them into a disadvantage.

      We aim to create a public repository of web usage data for the profit of these communities - and eventually you will benefit from better browsers, add-ons and other tools.

      Who started the Web History Repository Project?
      We are two researchers from the L3S Research Center in Hannover, Germany. The L3S focuses on fundamental and application-oriented research in all areas of Web Science.

      So why not mosey along to the 'Web History Repository and take a look? Eelco Herder and his PhD student Ricardo Kawase are the creators of this site. I guess we can look forward to some publications


      Monday, 6 June 2011

      Thinking about rich learning environments - almost revisited

      I am working up our paper Rich Learning Environments revisited
      and wanted to use this as a placemarker for a few diagrams and some thoughts.
      My previous post on the cognitive digital apprenticeship is also relevant and tracking back through of my posts on PLEs can help understand how the ideas have been developing.
      so this was one way in which I was trying to explain a rich learning environment

      and this is another

      Tuesday, 31 May 2011

      The Digital Cognitive Apprenticeship - afforded by a rich learning environment

      The idea of talking about a digital cognitive apprenticeship arose around the time Hugh Davis and I made a presentation to the HEA Enhancement Academy team leaders meeting* in May 2011. Although the concept has much deeper routes linking back to the concept of university education providing a 'cognitive apprenticeship' time when I  was working with Microcosm across the university to provide 'a campus wide structure for multimedia learning'.


      Fast forward almost 20 years and the world is a lot more interconnected and a big focus for us is in terms of personal learning environments, where the title of our presentation was 'The personalisation of a learning environment: student-led connections online and offline'. The link will take you to the slides in ECS ePrints at Southampton.

      The presentation in many ways was a chance to reflect upon and discuss our understanding of personal learning environments and the UK digital literacies agenda. We were particularly fortunate in having an audience drawn from colleagues who are actively involved in steering their institutions through change.

      A lot of work has been going on to craft our own rich learning environment here at Southampton since I posted an account of what I mean by Rich Learning Environments late in 2009

      Along the way, the University of Southampton has been among the front line of folk who have been surfing the open data wave - its a wave which is well on its way to becoming a veritable tsunami launched by Tim Berners-Lee's call for 'Raw Data Now' at his TED talk in 2009

      We have been working with colleagues on creating a specification for our learning environment, and have reported on that project via a publication in the International Journal of Virtual and Personal Learning Environments (forthcoming) but a pre-print is available online from ePrints.

      Our ultimate objective is to craft an environment which cultivates and supports situated and authentic learning with a community of scholars in a digital world.

      We are seeking to harness the affordance of Web 2.0 and use linked and open data to integrate internal and external resources and services in a seamless manner.

      We put a special value on enabling our academics to work with their students accessing authentic resources so that learning in their respective disciplines and fields of study can be situated.

      We hold true to the idea that our university is nurturing a continually renewing community of scholars and again believe that we can craft the tools of social and (light) semantic web technologies to provide a platform which is agile to respond to changing and emerging techniques and technologies, a system which is fit for purpose in the 21st century.

      We believe that our approach to situated and authentic learning addresses the agendas which are grouped under the headings of digital literacies, but we prefer to refer to the skills knowledge and understanding of a digital world. Hence our reference to the digital cognitive apprenticeship.

      It is the role of universities to nurture the thought leaders and decision makers of tomorrow. Out students come to use with a mix of sophisticated and naiive understandings of the way in which they can use technology for their learning. If that was not the case, they would not be ready for a university education - we are no longer in an era when we believe knowledge is the prime objective (if that were ever true). Alvin Toffler was remarkably prescient when he observed that

      "The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn",

      our apprentices will, we hope, progress to master all of the essential skills, knowledge and understanding so they can step forward with confidence into whatever future they choose to pursue.


      Casquero, Oskar, Portillo, Javier; Ovelar, Ramón; Benito, Manuel and Romo, Jesús. iPLE Network: an integrated eLearning 2.0 architecture from a university's perspective. (2010) Interactive Learning Environments, Volume 18, Issue 3 September 2010, pages 293 – 308

      Fournier, Helena & Kop, Rita. (2010) Researching the design and development of a Personal Learning Environment, Proceedings of the 2010 PLE Conference, CitiLab: Barcelona

      O'Reilly, T. (2005). What Is Web 2.0 – Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software

      O'Reilly, T. (2007). What is Web 2.0: Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software, Communications & Strategies, 1(1),17-37

      Santos, C. and L. Pedro (2009). Sapo Campus: A Social Media Platform for Higher Education. m-ICTE 2009: Research, Reflections and Innovations in Integrating ICT in Education, Lisbon, Portugal, FORMATEX: Badajoz, Spain.

      White S. (2009) Rich Learning Environments, University of Southampton

      White, Su & Davis, Hugh C. (2011). Making it rich and personal: crafting an institutional personal learning environment, International Journal of Virtual and Personal Learning Environments, In Press.

      White, Su & Davis, Hugh C. (2011) Rich and personal revisited: translating ambitions for an institutional personal learning environment into a reality. In: The Second International PLE Conference: PLE_SOU, July 11-13th 2011, Southampton, UK.

      Southampton’s SLE Project

      *You can find a blog post which talks about the event at The Auricle


      Sunday, 15 May 2011

      Web Science Meetup - Consolidating networks of excellence

      More than 20 folk managed to get to Montpellier for the second Web Science meetup which managed to run the gauntlet of Friday the 13th :-)
      There was a reassuringly wide range of disciplines represented - and accordingly a fairly broad range of topics were up for discussion.  The group was convened by Clement Jonquet and Francois Scharffe using meetup and has arisen from the collaborations which we are establishing between the University of Southampton and LIRMM in Montpellier France. The meeting provided an opportunity to identify some of the common research agendas active in the Web Science community in Montpellier and its networks in France and Europe.
      These notes are designed to help find out more about the presentations - expect further posts on future developments. There are also notes on the meetup page from Clement and on Clare Hooper's blog.
      Slides from the presentation are, where possible going on the WebScience Meetup Wiki at LIRMM
      After an welcome from Clement Jonquet, Stefano Cerri and Hugh Davis, and introductions round the table, the proceedings got underway.
      People and interests - this is notes with links on each of the presentations where possible
      Claudia Rodda (American University of Paris) talked about Human attention in digital environments which is the title of the book which she has recently edited and published.
      Clare Hooper (TU Eindhoven) - talking about mixed methods and triangulation. Issues that some disciplines have pre-formed ideas about what research methodology is 'sound' and what is not.  These arguments are key given the interdisciplinary nature of the web, and smacks of academic tribes and territories to my mind. Clare pointed to the recent CACM blog on the topic of Are we doing stats badly, and I was reminded of the paper by Halford et al in the 2010 web conference A Manifesto for Web Science?
      Francois Scharffe (LIRMM) - talking about the data lift project ( Project which is being funded by the French National Research Agency which is developing tools to enrich raw data through conversion, interlinking and publication into semantically accessible formats. Their previous presentation at SemWebPro in Paris 2011is also interesting
      keynote from Wendy Hall (University of Southampton) @DameWendyDBE - who will also be giving a keynote at adaptive hypertext in Eindhoven.
      Wendy placed particular emphasis on the extent to which the vision and dogged persistence of Tim Berners-Lee and his commitment to open and free standards.
      Her account gave an excellent consolidated overview of the various research agendas which have emerged within web science
      Excellent news is that there will be a web science track at the next web conference WWW2012 to be held in Lyon 16th to the 20th April 2012. It looks like the track will be run on the Friday, Wendy will be chairing the track and the montpellier meetup group will also be convening another meeting (also in Lyon) at the same time now scheduled for April 20th :-)
      Her presentation concluded with a call /ambition for a world wide web science observatory: gathering evidence, sharing: data, tools, methods, and techniques. Questions which such an observatory might collectively address include:
      • is the web changing faster than our ablity to observe it?
      • how to measure or intrument the web?
      • how to identify behaviours and patterns?
      • how to analyse the changing structure of the web?
      • how can we measure the web, and to archive the data - so that it can be analysed today, tomorrow and forever?
      This prompted me to recall the visualisation google search globe -  is just one instance of a small piece of evidence - visualisation of the source of languages used for google searches which might be a part of such an observatory.
      A very interesting session on Philosophy and the web was given by Alexandre Monnin, @aamonnz, @PhiloWeb slideshare philoweb
      This contribution produced some lively discussion (pretty good considering it was after lunch) the discussion of web architecture took us firmly into the space of understandings of what the web is.
      Alexandre is PhD student from Paris, where Harry Halpin currently has a two year fellowship to write about Philosophy and the Web - rich ground indeed. Alexandre gave an impressive persormance for someone who has not yet even got his doctorate, I expect we will hear more from him in the future.
      Vincent Douzal from LIRMM was next up discussing webscience and traceability a natural hazards scenario
      Interesting presentation which raised issues which are very much in the space of persistence of data and raised references to Ted Nelson for the second time in the day - probably a reflection on the fact that there were a good set of Hypertext folk in the room.
      Sankar Punnaivanam and Alain Krief from Namur - talks about EnCOrE (Encyclopédie de Chimie Organique Electronique) - which reminded me of the presentation of automatic semantic enrichment by David Shotton from Oxford which I heard at an ALPSP event in 2010 titled Ready for Web 3.0 where I was presenting on how linked data can benefit higher education.
      I was chairing the final session which brought together some of the work and perspectives on the web science curriculum. It was a tough job to squeeze in all the remaining speakers, since the programme had been a little indulgent in its timing over the afternoon.
      Les Carr presented a stimulating perspective on the state and future direction of Web Science, which he explained as deriving to some extent from what he had learned from teaching the web science master's at Southampton. The roots of this presentation can be traced back to a very stimulating paper Could the Web be A Temporary Glitch which was part of the Web Science 2010 conference proceedings.
      Among the quotable quotes which came from Les...
      "the web is a performance - ICT = Informing and Communicating Technology"
      (it must be good it was retweeted by Tony Hurst @psychmedia; how is that for hubs and authorities in action ;-)
      Les also quoted his twitter definition of web science
      webscience: The study of the technologies & policies that supports the co-construction of a linked online environment by a networked society
      There was plenty of food for thought in this presentation - as ever with Les, not to mention gallons of energy which were a welcome addition towards the end of a long day.
      Madalina Croitoru presenting some details of the Web Science curriculum project which will be topic of a paper to be presented at the 2011 ACM Web Science Conference in Koblenz this year.
      Claudia Rodda raised questions about how to implement interdisciplinary in a curriculum.
      Paul de Bra presenting about the bachelor degree in Eindhoven University of Technology which begins in Autumn 2011
      The final slot from Hugh Davis was rather squeezed but did allow sufficient time to point to the work done by folk at the web science trust on the SKOS web science curriculum. His slides for the slot also include information on the way we are teaching our Web Science masters  in Southampton
      Note, these last few are all very relevant to the debate on Web Science Subject Categorisation.
      Follow up activities:
      Web Science 2011 Koblenz
      next Web Science meetup
      workshop proposals for WWW2012
      Tweet visualisations:

      Croitoru, M., S. Bazan, S. Cerri, H. C. Davis, C. Jonquet, G. Prini, F. Scharffe, S. Staab, M. Vafopoulos and S. White (2011). Wscd: Negotiating the Web Science Curriculum Development through Shared Educational Artefacts. ACM WebSci '11. Koblenz, Germany.
      Carr, L., C. Pope and S. Halford (2010). Could the Web Be a Temporary Glitch?. WebSci10: Extending the Frontiers of Society On-Line, Raleigh, NC: US., Web Science Trust.

      Halford, S., C. Pope and L. Carr (2010). A Manifesto for Web Science? . WebSci10: Extending the Frontiers of Society On-Line, Raleigh, NC: US., Web Science Trust.

      Hooper, C. (2011). Towards Designing Effective Systems by Understanding User Experiences. ECS, University of Southampton. PhD.

      Shotton, D., K. Portwin, G. Klyne and A. Miles (2009). "Adventures in Semantic Publishing: Exemplar Semantic Enhancement of a Research Article. ." PLoS Computational Biology 5(4): e1000361.

      Friday, 13 May 2011

      The two magic's, memes and technology affordances - a case for purposeful appropriation

      Two Magics
      Way back in 2007 Tim Berners-Lee spoke about the two magics - the phenomena associated with the fact that the web - an artificial construct established by a set of microscopic rules has macroscopic outcomes.
      Tim Berner-Lees's Two Magics

      Briefly the concept of the 'two magics' is associated Tim's concept of 'Philosophical Engineering'. The magics are a manifestation of the observation that the web is a socio-technical system in which we observe many different emergent phenomena where there is a cycle of inter-related developments.
      The technology is engineered - a system is designed and implemented and we observe social and technical impacts.
      Depending on your perspective the way in which the social and technological interact can be interpreted different ways (see Halford et al, 2010 'Towards a manifesto for web science', for some insights into this debate)
      Tim states that the term 'magic'  is used as a short hand term to label 'stuff you don't understand' (yet)
      The bit of this idea which I am thinking about now is that, we observe that some of the phenomena associated with the web work and unexpectedly go viral.

      My Perspective - affordances and internet memes - a case for purposeful appropriation
      Generally my approach to understanding and analysing change and the interactions between technology and society takes a 'technology affordances' perspective after Gaver (1991, 1996). But more and more I am developing the idea of promoting 'Purposeful Appropriation'. The idea is similar in some ways to the idea of modelling behaviour - but of course I am not talking about behaviour I am talking about ways that we successfully use the web. With purposeful appropriate you observe some successful phenomena on the web. You analyse the underlying drivers for that success, you purposefully take (appropriate) the same approach, but you apply it in a different field, perhaps with additional insights which are appropriate to the new field.
      Consider the case of Facebook. They observed that google made money by selling advertising as a side activity associated with the purpose for which people were drawn to their site. They also understood that in the advertising world demographics is valuable. Their social network initially constrained the demographic of their population (university grads at successful institutions), subsequently they have but significant effort into gathering data on the demographics (and behaviours) of their users, which they can use to target/personalise the adverts which are presented to their users, and presumable thereby achieve a better hit rate and higher advertising revenues.
      We observe that ideas and behaviours spread in a way that is associated with the internet. Sometimes those are in the area of jokes or fashions like RickRolling or LOL Cats. Susan Blackmore popularised the idea of memes in her book on the topic, and had extended the ideas talking about Internet memes and technology memes (Temes).
      You can find a few links to memes and accounts of their role,, or
      But we also observe that 'Google' has become a verb, and as such it is a a term which encapsulates a set of behaviours and assumptions which has behind it a model and expectation of the way our information world exists both in the physical and virtual. We observe in many different ways that the internet, mobile communications and technology infrastructures - and the need to solve particular problems give rise to varied and interesting solutions. What I want to do is to think about the fundamental technology affordances which are associated with these solutions and see how they can be applied in the area of social and educational innovation away from their original context.
      For this reason I find it useful to follow a fairly mainstream podcast from the BBC where the correspondent Peter Day looks at change and business across the world. The ideas and phenomena which are being reported are not in the research lab, they are being used and apparently they work - which is what makes them interesting - to some extent they have already moved from the micro to the macro. Which means they might be worth appropriating in another context!
      Links and examples:
      Peter Day's podcast  is an easy way of stumbling across interesting snippets, he gets to a whole lot of places....
      Peter Day's Podcasts - interesting series of programmes which often addresses new business models - eg micro payments in indian subcontinent, credit unions and affordable business loans in developing countries
      An example of language translation
      Not sure where I picked up this story originally, but there is some interesting use of mobiles and micropayments for translation services in africa
      The same story was also featured in this blog, which is all about crowdsourcing :-)  the latter article also have various links to related writings.
      GAVER, W. W. (1991) Technology affordances. Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems: Reaching through technology. New Orleans, ACM Press.

      GAVER, W. W. (1996) Situating Action ii: Affordances for interaction: The social is material for design. Ecological Psychology, 8111-130.
      BLACKMORE, S. (2010). Dangerous Memes; or, What the Pandorans Let Loose. Cosmos and Culture: Cultural Evolution in a Cosmic Context. S. Dick and M. Lupisella, NASA: 297-318.

      Wednesday, 11 May 2011

      pecha-kucha at PLE_SOU

      Folk may have missed the deadlines for submitting a paper to PLE_SOU but there is still a chance to submit a pecha-kucha (or poster demo) or just register and join in our media-cast contest. I've just uploaded a set of slides for the pecha-kucha call to slideshare (and you can take a look at my previous post on it too).
      The hard work of folk like Ricardo Torres, Graham Atwell, Cristina Costa and Ilona Buchem - plus the unbridled enthusiasm of the conference participants meant that the first conference,  #PLE_BCN established a particularly high standard, for engagement, scholarly contributions and all round good fun!
      So we are looking for a big dose of enthusiasm, imagination and creativity from this year's participants to match and even exceed our previous highs. The conference was also very international drawing experts from across Europe, North America and Australasia. Search YouTube with PLE_BCN to get a sense of the spirit.
      So far the quality of paper proposals has been high and we are very keen to extend the community as far as possible. You can keep up to date with news and progress by following us on Twitter, and the conference promises to have a lively back channel enabling real-time interaction between attendees and those who can't make the event.
      For more info on the media-cast, posters and demos you can go to the PLE_SOU website
      You can also go along to Vimeo and join the PLE 2011 Group at Vimeo ready for the MediaCast
      Come and join our vibrant community Southampton, UK July 11-13 #PLE_SOU. We are looking forward to it.
      PLE_SOU conference details

      Getting to grips with French/Latin - Romanes eunt domus -> Romani ite domum

      Faced with translating the latin inscription on the 18th century Arc de Triomphe in Montpellier raised memories and debate on latin grammar. Along with recollections of innumerate latin masters, behaviourists who tried to modify students' behaviour by the local application of dictionary to head (with heft) we fondly recalled from Monty Python‘s Life of Brian


      Lo and behold, I have just stumbled on a blog from a fellow computer scientist which cites just that scene - so thanks to @handee whose (unrelated) tweet led me there, and to  @tomcrick for citing the relevant source on his blog


      [Brian is writing graffiti on the palace wall. The Centurion catches him in the act]
      Centurion: What’s this, then? “Romanes eunt domus”? People called Romanes, they go, the house?
      Brian: It says, “Romans go home. “
      Centurion: No it doesn’t! What’s the Latin for “Roman”? Come on, come on!
      Brian: Er, “Romanus”!
      Centurion: Vocative plural of “Romanus” is?
      Brian: Er, er, “Romani”!
      Centurion: [Writes "Romani" over Brian's graffiti] “Eunt”? What is “eunt”? Conjugate the verb, “to go”!
      Brian: Er, “Ire”. Er, “eo”, “is”, “it”, “imus”, “itis”, “eunt”.
      Centurion: So, “eunt” is…?
      Brian: Third person plural present indicative, “they go”.
      Centurion: But, “Romans, go home” is an order. So you must use…?
      [He twists Brian's ear]
      Brian: Aaagh! The imperative!
      Centurion: Which is…?
      Brian: Aaaagh! Er, er, “i”!
      Centurion: How many Romans?
      Brian: Aaaaagh! Plural, plural, er, “ite”!
      Centurion: [Writes "ite"] “Domus”? Nominative? “Go home” is motion towards, isn’t it?
      Brian: Dative!
      [the Centurion holds a sword to his throat]
      Brian: Aaagh! Not the dative, not the dative! Er, er, accusative, “Domum”!
      Centurion: But “Domus” takes the locative, which is…?
      Brian: Er, “Domum”!
      Centurion: [Writes "Domum"] Understand? Now, write it out a hundred times.
      Brian: Yes sir. Thank you, sir. Hail Caesar, sir.
      Centurion: Hail Caesar! And if it’s not done by sunrise, I’ll cut your balls off.


      all of which makes my current french homework feel rather more straigthforward - now back to the todo list, and bad girl for being distracted by twitter

      Wednesday, 27 April 2011

      Web Science: History Glitches and a Manifestos - a few references for today

      The role of Paul Otlet in the precursors to the web and the history of information science is not well known. I came across this information some years ago, but was delighted to find it again today while reading a couple of web science papers from last year's conference in Raleigh.
      so today's treasure is...
      van den Heuvel, C. (2008). Architectures of Global Knowledge: The Mundaneum and the World Wide Web. Destination Library , 15, 48-53.

      Francophone Roots for the web? some observations
      You can pitch over to wikipedia for more info on Otlet and the Mundaneum interesting to think that along with Minitel and Reuters this is part of the francophone history of the web.
      interestingly there is a different account of Otlet's life from the french version of wikipedia - which since I am currently looking at plurilingualism and interdisciplinarity is highly relevant.

      Web futurology?
      The paper by van den Heuvel was referenced in 
      Carr, L., Pope, C. and Halford, S. (2010) Could the Web be a Temporary Glitch? In: WebSci10: Extending the Frontiers of Society On-Line, April 26-27th, 2010, Raleigh, NC: US.

      so thanks to Les Carr (aka @LesCarr and Repository Man) for that reminder, and thanks also for an interesting perspective on the web and web science.

      This paper addresses the question of whether the Web that we currently enjoy is a permanent and fundamental phenomenon, or merely a fashionable popular enthusiasm for a novel kind of information sharing. I think in some ways it echoes the arguments which Malcolm Gladwell used in Outliers when he identified how various individuals in history have made achievements which are the combination of a particular set of contexts.  In this paper it is the contexts of academic practice and the open values which academia pursue accompanied by the emergence of open publication as a respected practice which have (in part contributed to the phenomena which we know as the web today).  For a deeper understanding, as ever, best read the actual paper :-)

      Fabulous however, to reflect that this is the stuff which our undergraduate students experience as an everyday part of their degree courses in computer science at Southampton
      And while we are talking about the interplay between research and teaching at Southampton University it there is some good stuff on interdiscpinarity to be found from the same three authors in

      Halford, S., Pope, C. and Carr, L. (2010) A Manifesto for Web Science. In: WebSci10: Extending the Frontiers of Society On-Line, April 26-27th, 2010, Raleigh, NC: US.

      A result no doubt of our Web Science collaborations in Southampton, in no small part due to the hard (interdisciplinary) work that all these folk put into our Doctoral Consortium in Web Science (which has fully funded places available for highly qualified applicants :-).
      This paper takes on the discussion about how we realise the interdesciplinarity of web science and break out from individual discipline based research silos.
      "Our aim is to provoke and stimulate debate and to move beyond superficial popular psychology and sociology (which envisages engineering human behaviour) and to challenge some of the ways in which social science has engaged with technology and technical actors. To facilitate this, and taking our lead from Donna Harroway, the paper sets out a radical manifesto for web science".
      It also has quite a lot to offer when it reminds us of the need to find, use and respect research which come from research traditions and forms of discourse which are different to those with which we are comfortable and familiar.
      Take for example the following quote
      "For whilst we might all agree that Web Science cannot develop without inter-disciplinarity, we should be clear from the beginning that this is no simple matter. We need to be realistic about what we are getting ourselves into. There will be big challenges in making ourselves understood to each other and developing collaborative understandings will require us to leave the comfort of our disciplinary silos. But, the promise of new forms of knowledge and understanding that are bigger than the sum of our parts are gains worth working for".
      For me this has echoes with the ideas of plurilingualism - a policy approach backed by the UN, UNESCO and the EU.

      I think these the challenges and benefits of working and cross fertilising between linguistic cultures are as great as those promised by interdiscipliarity and web science. Furthermore, the web does not exist in a single language, nor should it be bound by the invisible philosophical and epistemological constraints which come with any one linguistic tradition.
      Plurilingualism argues for the need to continue to recognise and support discourse in more than one language - because of the need to communicate between many different languages, to respect those for whom communicating in only one language is not an option, and to respect and value the different types of discourse which are enabled by different languages and to respect and value the traditions which are an integral part of each different language. (Byram 2006)

      Meanwhile, searching out some reading for a PhD student, here is  something which I am sure is related in some way, I just stumbled across the essay (online) which Papert wrote as an introduction to Mindstorms. In some ways I see it as a bit of a technology affordances perspective and its added into my refs for today

      Papert, S., (1980),The gears of my childhood Forword to Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas (Basic Books)

      The quote (paraphrased) from mindstorms which sticks in my mind is to the effect that - the children in explaining how they are controlling the computer articulate (and thus concetise and formalise)  their understanding of the mathematics which they are trying to model.
      • Byram, M., Plurilingualism in Europe (2006) British Council
      • Carr, L., Pope, C. and Halford, S. (2010) Could the Web be a Temporary Glitch? In: WebSci10: Extending the Frontiers of Society On-Line, April 26-27th, 2010, Raleigh, NC: US.
      • Halford, S., Pope, C. and Carr, L. (2010) A Manifesto for Web Science. In: WebSci10: Extending the Frontiers of Society On-Line, April 26-27th, 2010, Raleigh, NC: US.
      • Papert, S., (1980),The gears of my childhood Forword to Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas (Basic Books)
      • van den Heuvel, C. (2008). Architectures of Global Knowledge: The Mundaneum and the World Wide Web. Destination Library , 15, 48-53.

      Friday, 22 April 2011

      Thinking Web Science

      thinking web science is what I have been doing for the past few days, although its a constant backdrop to the research I do :-)
      As ever, on a friday, I get a little peeved , when people who have hijacked the term web science  when talking about science on the web or using the web for political science - decide to publish their stuff - but hey.
      More interestingly ( I think) is a bit of speculation about a few of the manifestations of web science....
      I find myself fascinated by the way in which new business models have emerged with increasing persistence of the web. I observe that the hard nosed profit oriented organisations are learning from each other, but also small organisations, concerned with rural development and sustainability are also finding out about this stuff, and turning it to their advantage.
      Frequently when I chat to people about the social impact of the web I give examples of how these gains are manifested, but I thought it was time I recorded this information - if only so that I can go back and refer to it myself again in future.  Some of them were not explicitly web science manifestations when they emerged, but are now mediated and accelerated via web-based communities.
      One dimension of these activities is the power of the meme - ways in which ideas catch on, and how human beings are supremely adapted for extending simple ideas
      so, what are the things I am thinking of?
      short list to be elaborated with links and further info
      1 - aggregated translation service in african countries where contributors are paid via micro payments to mobile phones.
      2 - credit union style activites in india
      3 - rural self education networks in india mediated by internet connections
      4 - so calle "WI degree" common foundation, then negotiated curriculum
      5 - dissemination of good practice to agricultural communities

      ... more later, supper now

      Thursday, 21 April 2011

      Web Science Curriculum Development - update

      Our paper WSCD: Negotiating the Web Science Curriculum Development through Shared Educational Artefacts has been accepted for ACM WebSci'11
      Southampton Web Science MSc


      The far-reaching impact of Web on society is widely recognised and acknowledged. The interdisciplinary study of this impact has crystallised in the field of study known as Web Science. However, defining an agreed, shared understanding of what constitutes Web Science requires complex negotiation and translations of understandings across component disciplines, national cultures and educational traditions. Some individual institutions have already established particular curricula, and discussions in the Web Science Curriculum Workshop series have marked the territory to some extent. This paper reports on a process being adopted across a consortium of partners to systematically create a shared understanding of what constitutes Web Science. It records and critiques the processes instantiated to agree a common curriculum, and presents a framework for future discussion and development.

      The need to study the Web in its complexity, development and impact led to the creation of Web Science. Web Science is inherently interdisciplinary. Its goal is to:
      a) understand the Web growth mechanisms;
      b) create approaches that allow new powerful and more beneficial mechanisms to occur.

      Teaching Web Science is a unique experience since the emerging discipline is a combination of two essential features. On one hand, the analysis of microscopic laws extrapolated to the macroscopic realm generates observed behaviour. On the other hand languages and algorithms on the Web are built in order to produce novel desired computer behaviour that should be put in context. Finding a suitable curriculum that is different from the study of language, algorithms, interaction patterns and business processes is thus an important and challenging task for the simple reason that we believe that the future of sociotechnical systems will be in their innovative power (inventing new ways to solve problems), rather than their capacity to optimize current practices.

      ACM WebSci'11 is in Koblenz this year - and we are going to present a paper :-)
      "Web Science is concerned with the full scope of socio-technical relationships that are engaged in the World Wide Web. It is based on the
      notion that understanding the Web involves not only an analysis of its architecture and applications, but also insight into the people, organizations, policies, and economics that are affected by and subsumed within it. As such Web Science, and thus this conference, is inherently interdisciplinary and integrates computer and information sciences, sociology, economics, political science, law, management, language and communication, geography and psychology".
      Following the great news, our extended abstract proposal has been accepted, we are working on the final version of the paper we will present. You can find out abstract in EPrints. Students who are interested in following a PhD in Web Science can do so via our Doctoral Consortium which combines a preparatory Masters Degree with three years of intersdisciplinary study typically  supervised by a small team of academics representing the component fields of study.
      Meanwhile, Michalis Vafopoulis, who is also part of our team, and who has been leading the subject categorisation initiative for the web science trust has made the outcomes of that work available via the Web Science Trust pages which was one of the outcomes of previous Web Science Curiculum workshops at the conference.
      Along with the fact that Jim Hendler is convening Web Science Curriculum workshop at this year's conference, it looks like it is going to be a pretty good year for folk developing and teaching Web Science as an academic discipline.
      Croitoru, M., Bazan, S., Cerri, S., Davis, H. C., Jonquet, C., Prini, G., Scharffe, F., Staab, S., Vafopoulos, M. and White, S. (2011) WSCD: Negotiating the Web Science Curriculum Development through Shared Educational Artefacts. In: ACM WebSci '11, 14-17 June 2011, Koblenz, Germany. (Submitted)

      ready for a mobile world?

      The redoubtable Brian Kelly twittered the outcomes of a quick survey he had done of the Russell Group University's front page
      "Are Russell Group Unis ready for the Mobile Web? Findings from the #MobileOK tool:"
      So when I cam across this (now old) xcd cartoon, i thought it was appropriate to put the two together

      Xcd server attention span

      "Yesterday I attended Nominet’s launch event for the W3C UK and Ireland Office (and note that tweets containing the #w3cuki hashtag are available on TwapperKeeper). A number of talks covered the Mobile Web including “Mobile web: where diversity is opportunity” by Dr. Rotan Hanrahan, the Chief Innovations Architect of MobileAware.  Dr. Hahrahan informed the audience about that many assumptions about Web sites are based on desktop browser experiences and many of the assumptions are wrong in a mobile context.
      This made me wonder whether the assumptions we have regarding the design and structure of institutional Web sites will be valid for mobile access.  The W3C have developed mobileOk which isa free service by W3C that helps check the level of mobile-friendliness of Web documents, and in particular assert whether a Web document is mobileOK“.
      Are the home pages of Russell Group Universities ‘mobileOK’, I wondered, or have they been designed and tested for desktop access only? Yesterday I used the mobileOK checker service to check the home page of the 20 Russell group Universities".
      The results are given on Brian's web page.

      Wednesday, 13 April 2011

      from tragedy to joy - the real story of the commons

      some thoughts and thanks to Alan Dix - as is so often the case there seems to be synchronicity in the atmosphere :-)
      I'm doing some background work for a paper we have on the stocks just now and was doing a bit of tidying and reference chasing and context setting.
      Southampton Common Frosty Morning: Su White

      Sunrise - a frosty morning on Southampton Common
      in the process I came across a short but compelling post from Alan Dix on "the *real* tragedy of the commons"
      I’ve just been reviewing a paper that mentions the “tragedy of the commons”1 and whenever I read or hear the phrase I feel the hackles on the back of my neck rise.
      Of course the real tragedy of the commons was not free-riding and depletion by common use, but the rape of the land under mass eviction or enclosure movements when they ceased to be commons.  The real tragedy of “the tragedy of the commons” as a catch phrase is that it is often used to promote the very same practices of centralisation.  Where common land has survived today, just as in the time before enclosures and clearances, it is still managed in a collaborative way both for the people now and the for the sake of future generations.  Indeed on Tiree, where I live, there are large tracts of common grazing land managed in just such a way.
      It is good to see that the Wikipedia article of “Tragedy of the Commons” does give a rounded view on the topic including reference to an historical and political critique by “Ian Angus”2
      The paper I was reading was not alone in uncritically using the phrase.  Indeed in “A Framework for Web Science”3 we read:
      In a decentralised and growing Web, where there are no “owners” as such, can we be sure that decisions that make sense for an individual do not damage the interests of users as a whole? Such a situation, known as the ‘tragedy of the commons’, happens in many social systems that eschew property rights and centralised institutions once the number of users becomes too large to coordinate using peer pressure and moral principles.
      In fact I do have some sympathy with this as the web involves a vast number of physically dispersed users who are perhaps “too large to coordinate using peer pressure and moral principles”.  However, what is strange is that the web has raised so many modern counter examples to the tragedy of the commons, not least Wikipedia itself.  In many open source projects people work as effectively a form of gift economy, where, if there is any reward, it is in the form of community or individual respect.
      Clearly, there are examples in the world today where many individual decisions (often for short term gain) lead to larger scale collective loss.  This is most clearly evident in the environment, but also the recent banking crisis, which was fuelled by the desire for large mortgages and general debt-led lives.  However, these are exactly the opposite of the values surrounding traditional common goods.
      It may be that the problem is not so much that large numbers of people dilute social and moral pressure, but that the impact of our actions becomes too diffuse to be able to appreciate when we make our individual life choices.  The counter-culture of many parts of the web may reflect, in part, the way in which aspects of the web can make the impact of small individual actions more clear to the individual and more accountable to others.
      1. Garrett Hardin, “The Tragedy of the Commons”Science, Vol. 162, No. 3859 (December 13, 1968), pp. 1243-1248. … and here is the danger of citation counting as a quality metric, I am citing it because I disagree with it! [back]
      2. Ian Angus. The Myth of the Tragedy of the Commons. Socialist Voice, August 24, 2008 [back]
      3. Berners-Lee, T., Hall, W., Hendler, J. A., O’Hara, K., Shadbolt, N. and Weitzner, D. J. (2006) A Framework for Web Science. Foundations and Trends in Web Science, 1 (1). pp. 1-130. [back]

      There are some dimensions to this argument which I am in the process of clarifying in my head, so I thought it timely - another synchronicity, Alan Dix had just been the external examiner to one of our star EngD/PhD students Clare Hooper (supervised by another worthy blogster and academic Dave Millard)

      Like Alan, I have some personal experience of commons.

      My own common at home, when I am not on sabbatical in Montpellier is a fine local open space, site of scientific interest and well used place for thought and play. We are fortunate in Southampton of having many parks and open spaces, and I probably do some of my best thinking there.
      As an academic in the University of Southampton, based in ECS we live breathe and eat the commons. We share our academic publications through eprints, our learning resources through EdShare, and are among those at the bleeding edge of open and linked data through activities such as

      Our research in Web Science is concerned in its interdisciplinary manner in not only the Technology, Engineering and Analytics of the Web but also to the web as a 'social machine'. This latter aspect is to my mind most interesting (and thus most important)  in the interactions between the social and the technological, the affordances which emerge and the artefacts associated with those affordances.
      Understanding the power of the social, and having the skills, knowledge and understanding to engineer the tools of the web had enabled Southampton to realise small contributions such as the open data projects and its predecessors such as  eprints and edshare. It has enabled us to make our own contributions to the commons; we have put our wealth into the common ground, and we have turned our thoughts to why this should be done, and what beneftis accrue. We are lucky to attract scholars (who are also practitioners) like Professor Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Professor Stevan Harnad who make their own forceful contributions and who engage those in power with discussion on the way forward for the common good.

      Here in Montpellier, there are open spaces and a socialist local government who are consciously endeavouring to engineer the city for the greater good. We see public transport subsidised and well used, large scale social programmes and experience the vibrancy of a young city which at its heart hums to the sound of human discussion rather than choking in car fumes.  Trying to understand this social entrerprise (and using the engines we have on the web) enabled me to find a fine wiki - wikisara which seems to have a collection of GPS routes of public transport networks from across France, and a resource which is far more useful than the static map, conscientiously produced by the good burgers of this fine town. it is a general observation that public mapping is one interesting social manifestation of the web, and projects like open street map and open cycle map are testimony to the fact these are not merely french phenomena (far from it)

      At the same time as I appreciate the social use of wikis in france, I also experience the hegemony of the french publishing industry - observing the differences in online publishing models between france and the UK - and the extent to which you have to pay for stuff in france! I also note that the french take on web sites (reflected in much of southern europe) is far less concerned with form and function, but more often a frustrating content free showcase which seeks to limit the visitor's experience rather than offering them open information to explore and use.

      I want to find out more about these differences in manifestations and web artefacts, and I want to begin to understand what causes some of these differences.

      Here, the points made by Alan Dix citing Ian Angus have real strength. A simple shorthand - history is about power, and if we have commons as a part of our history, we also have the heritage of the forces of power and hegemony.
      Some thoughts about the common land
      • Common Land when cleared was more useful to a single powerful person than to many less powerful individuals.
      • The powerful individuals changed the commons for their own specialised use
      • There was a finite supply of land which could be usefully converted from common land to personal use
      Alan gives wikipedia as an example of commons emerging, and I have a PhD student doing some very interesting work looking at trust and the growth of wikis in different cultures.
      hmmm... there is more to do and say, and I will be doing some more thinking about this one - thanks Alan, very useful :-)