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)

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