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.

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