Wednesday, 24 August 2011

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.


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