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Workshop

Web Science 2013 Workshop: Harnessing the Power of Social Theory for Web Science

****Accepted Papers and Programme now Available****

Overview

 The Web does not just connect machines, it connects people.”

Tim Berners- Lee (Knight Foundation, 14 September 2008).


This workshop seeks to encourage interdisciplinary thinking about the relationship between social theory and Web Science. We aim to explore what social theory offers to Web Science and to examine the theoretical collaborations and innovations that might emerge in this context. In doing so we will consider some of the wider economic, political and sociological questions associated with this endeavour.  

The core questions for the workshop will be:  What kinds of social theories are useful for Web Science? What are the consequences of social theory for the development of Web Science as a discipline?

Background

Observing the Web is only the beginning: what is it that we are observing? The Web is only conceivable as single entity in our imagination. We recruit synecdoches or tropes to represent the whole, however the scale and diversity of the Web means that it can be almost anything to anyone. Social theory is particularly promising as it becomes increasingly apparent that the Web is not one thing but many – constructed at various points of intersection between humans and digital technologies. Because, for Web Science, the Web is the largest and most complex convergence of culture and technology in history it demands an inventive, interdisciplinary mode of inquiry. In response, we aim to harness the power of social theory under the aegis of Web Science.Social theory offers a way to achieve purchase on this complexity: to conceptualise the processes and relationships involved and situate these within a broader understandings of global political, economic and social change.

We also believe social theory has two further potential benefits for Web Science:

Firstly, Web Science is, through its methodological innovations, producing unprecedented sources of data. Social theory can help evaluate and conceptualise these innovations; the sources of the data (including this entity we call the Web), our methods of collecting the data and all its possible interpretations.

We must conceptualise what we see then understand how invisible culture calibrates our lens: understand what we think about the Web influences what we say about the Web. Sometimes there seems to be nothing new in our responses to technological innovation and we are channelling a narrative that has always described new technology as exotic and powerful:

 “And therefore I call this A Semi-omnipotent Engine, and do intend a Model thereof be buried within me.
A Century of Inventions Marquis of Worcester 1663

 From church we went to see Babbage’s calculating machine…..the wonder at its incomprehensible powers grew upon us every moment…..the inventor himself does not profess to know all the powers of the machine.
Journal of George Ticknor 1876

Secondly, social theory, applied to the Web, can offer new interpretations of Web Science data and crucially build better questions for Web Science methods to address that can, to paraphrase Amin & Thrift (2005), reveal aspects of the Web, the effects the Web has on society and the effects society has on the Web that have hitherto been neglected or unimagined.

The core questions for the workshop will be: What kinds of social theories are useful for Web Science? What are the consequences of social theory for the development of Web Science as a discipline? You are invited to explore any themes that may intersect with social theory and the Web.

Topics and Objectives

The aim of this workshop will be to promote lively discussion about social theory and the Web, and to initiate and develop research collaborations based on interesting theoretical ideas. Topics of interest might include, but are not limited to:

  • How does political economy help to describe and understand corporate power online

  • What do concepts such as surveillance and governmentality offer in exploring struggles over political control and censorship of the Web

  • How might  intersections of gender and the Web , its architectures and algorithms, be revealed by feminist theory

  • How might Actor-Network Theory be adopted to explain the development of the Web; how its networks of activity form and develop

  • What theoretical frameworks  might account for the local cultures, particular contexts and alternative behaviours on the Web

  • How do theories of identity and the ‘presentation of self’ help to understand how members of virtual communities present themselves to other users

  • Can theories of globalization, motilities and flow contribute to our understanding of the Web’s development, formation and impact?

These are just some examples of the contribution that social theory might make to extend our knowledge and understanding of the Web.

Workshop Format

The workshop will span a half day, commencing with a panel comprising of three to four views of the role of social theory, and a keynote with an invited guest, and closing with a focused discussion session. During the workshop, we will have the presentation of short peer-reviewed papers, comprising either position papers or primary studies of the application of theoretical perspectives to the Web.

Paper presentations will be given a 15-minute slot of which no more than 10 minutes will be used for presentation, the rest of the time will be available for questions and discussion.

Papers will be up to 4 pages long in ACM format. We are expecting to receive up to 20 paper submissions, and plan to accept up to 8 papers.

Accepted Papers

  1. Sabrine Saad, Saada Kalakesh and Stéphane Bazan (UIR, Saint Joseph University, Beirut, Lebanon):  ‘The Arab Web and the Social Biotope.’

  2. Peter Kraker and Sebastian Dennerlein (Know-Center, Inffeldgasse 13, 8010 Graz, Austria): ‘Towards a Model of Interdisciplinary Teamwork for Web Science: What can Social Theory Contribute?’

  3. Jeff Vass (University of Southampton):  Webscience, ‘social machines’ and principles for re-designing theories of agency: a prolegomenon.’

  4. Marco Fernando Navarro, Dominic Difranzo and Marie Joan Kristine Gloria (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY):  ‘Multiple Truths of the Semantic Web.’

  5. Olivier Philippe and Jennifer Welch (University of Southampton): ‘Conceptual and methodological implications of digital traces for social theory and practice: the example of ‘retweets’ and influence.

  6. Fabian Flöck (Institute AIFB, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology Karlsruhe, Germany): ‘What Web collaboration research can learn from Social Sciences regarding impairments of collective intelligence and influence of social platforms.’

Programme

  • 9:00 - 9:10am – Welcome and Introduction to the workshop: Ramine Tinati, Huw Davies, Lisa Sugiura.

  • 9:10 – 9:50 – Keynote speaker : Dominique Boullier (Professeur des Universités en sociologie Coordonnateur scientifique du médialab de Sciences Po http://www.medialab.sciences-po.fr/) (25-30 min presentation  with the opportunity for questions and discussion afterwards)

  • 9:50 – 11:00am - Presentation of  4 papers (10 -15 min presentations with the opportunity for questions afterwards)

1.       Sabrine Saad, Saada Kalakesh and Stéphane Bazan (UIR, Saint Joseph University, Beirut, Lebanon):  ‘The Arab Web and the Social Biotope.’

2.       Peter Kraker and Sebastian Dennerlein (Know-Center, Inffeldgasse 13, 8010 Graz, Austria): ‘Towards a Model of Interdisciplinary Teamwork for Web Science: What can Social Theory Contribute?’

3.       Jeff Vass (University of Southampton):  Webscience, ‘social machines’ and principles for re-designing theories of agency: a prolegomenon.’

4.       Marco Fernando Navarro, Dominic Difranzo and Marie Joan Kristine Gloria (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY):  Multiple Truths of the Semantic Web

  • 11:00 – 11:15am - Morning tea break

  • 11:15 - 12:00pm –Presentation of 2  papers (10 -15 min presentations with the opportunity for questions afterwards)

5.       Olivier Philippe and Jennifer Welch (University of Southampton): ‘Conceptual and methodological implications of digital traces for social theory and practice: the example of ‘retweets’ and influence.’

6.       Fabian Flöck (Institute AIFB, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology Karlsruhe, Germany): ‘What Web collaboration research can learn from Social Sciences regarding impairments of collective intelligence and influence of social platforms.’

  • 12:00-12.30pm – Discussion facilitated by rapporteurs: Stephane Bazan, Susan Halford, Craig Webber , including Skype attendance and contribution from David Beer, Department of Sociology, University of York http://www.york.ac.uk/sociology/our-staff/academic/david-beer/

  • 12:30-1:30pm – Further opportunity for discussions over lunch (possible nearby venues to go are Le Sud, Entrecote, Villa Pergolese).

Organisers

The principal organizers of the workshop are as follows:

  • Huw Davies is a second year PhD student who is combining sociological theory with computer science research methods to represent his Web Science research as a synthesis of both disciplines. From this Web Science perspective Huw is exploring the epistemological and methodological issues manifesting at the intersection of youth, information credibility and the Web. For example, what, for young people, constitutes information, and how do they establish truth and expertise?  Huw’s poster at ACM Web Science 12 questioned the concept of the Digital Native; particularly its assumption all young people possess similar skills and competencies. 

  • Lisa Sugiura is second year PhD student based at the Web Science DTC at the University of Southampton. Her background is in law and criminology and her research interests include the application of social theories to online interactions, the role of the Web in abetting deviant behaviours, and ethical considerations in digital research.  Lisa presented a poster at ACM Web Sci 12.

  • Ramine Tinati is a third year PhD student and is part of the first cohort to join the Web Science DTC at the University of Southampton. His background in computer science and recent studies into the social sciences, specifically sociology, has complimented his current research which sets out to develop a methodological and theoretical perspective to capture the formation and growth of the Web. Ramine has attended and presented at the last two ACM Web Science conferences, and also has been active in promoting his research in a wider collection of international conferences.

  • Stéphane Bazan is Head of Research at UIR Web Science. At USJ since 2000, he has also headed the New Educational Technology Unit at the Faculty of Education. Stéphane is a Lecturer in Web Culture, Web Marketing and Web project design at USJ, his research collides Web Usage and Higher Education. Stéphane presented a paper and a poster at WebSci10, in Raleigh, on the subject of Interdisciplinary research in the context of the Arab Near East. Stéphane is involved in the Web Science Curriculum Development Project; he participated in the workshop at Southampton University in September 2010 and co-organized the “Teaching the Web with Web Science” workshop at ACM Web Science 2012. At ACM WebSci 11 and 12, Stéphane joined the “Cyberwarfare” research group to participate in the poster and the article presented at these two Web Science conferences. His research involves within this group addresses the sharing of innovative teaching experience in higher education on the Web and the Web Science Curriculum Development.

  • Professor Susan Halford. As Professor of Sociology, Susan is a core member of the University of Southampton Web Science DTC team and a founding member of the Work Futures Research Centre at the University of Southampton. Her research combines a range of theoretical perspectives drawn from geography, sociology and gender studies to explore digital innovation in the workplace and, more broadly, the politics of Web data and artefacts.

  • Professor Catherine Pope. As Professor of Medical Sociology, Cathy uses applied theory and research to tackle the ‘wicked problems’ surrounding how best to organize and deliver modern healthcare. Her focus is on health professions and everyday healthcare practice and the impacts of policy and organisational change on these. Cathy is an internationally recognized expert on qualitative research in health care. By working successfully across disciplinary boundaries and linking with clinical practice she is changing the way the health profession thinks about and conducts research.

Participating

Paper submissions will be all short papers either position papers arguing for the application of a theory to Web Science or a demonstration of how theory has been used in an empirical study of the Web. We propose that papers be kept short, limited in length to 4 pages in ACM template. At least one author of each paper is expected to register for the workshop and attend to present the paper.

Papers will be evaluated for originality and relevance to the workshop theme by the workshop organizing committee.  

Key Dates

The deadline for position papers is 22nd March 2013. Notifications will be sent on 29th March 2013.

The workshop will take place on 1 May 2013, at the Le Palais des Congres de Paris

Submitting

We invite short / position papers (2-4 pages). Please produce your paper using the ACM template and submit to WSTW2013 on EasyChair by 22nd March 2013, 00:00 PST.

Contact

For more information, questions or comments, please contact rt506 (at) ecs.soton.ac.uk

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