Towards a Science of the Web

Speaker  Nigel Shadbolt

Host  Jennifer Chayes

Affiliation  U of Southampton

Duration  01:17:52

Date recorded  11 November 2009

The World Wide Web has changed almost every aspect of modern life and touches us all. We use it to shop, date, entertain, communicate and research. It's billions of pages, links and other resources comprise the largest information fabric in the history of humanity. It is fundamentally a socio-technical system connecting hundreds of millions of people in networks that are constantly changing and evolving.

How much of this do we understand? From a series of straightforward engineering protocols we see the emergence of large-scale structure. What evolutionary patterns have driven the Web's growth, and will they persist? How are tipping points reached, and can they be predicted or altered? What trends might fragment the Web? What properties create social effects, and how do social norms influence the viral update of Web capabilities?

Answers to any of these questions would enhance our ability to maintain the Web as an accessible information technology to help humankind prosper. This talk will argue the case for a Science of the Web. This new interdisciplinary enterprise will require insights and methods from many disciplines. It demands that we understand the Web as an engineered construct that demands scientific analysis. It requires that we see the Web as a social construct that embodies all our human hopes and fears, interests and appetites.

The talk will review progress to date as we seek to establish Web Science, discuss the major research insights that are emerging and look forward to the challenges ahead.

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