Web Science is the interdisciplinary study of the World Wide Web, drawing on science, social science, law, and the humanities. Today, Web Science is needed more than ever. As the Web evolves, it is clear that we need in-depth and sustained interdisciplinary research to describe, analyze, and intervene in its future. Untangling the Web is a podcast of the Web Science Trust, a charity promoting the understanding of the Web, through education and research in the discipline of Web Science. On this podcast, we bring thought leaders from around the world to explore how the Web is shaping society and how society in turn is shaping the Web. We hope to improve our understanding of the Web, promote the Web’s positive impact on society – and change the Web for the better. The podcast is hosted by the SONIC Research Group.
Brewster Kahle on Rewinding and Archiving the Web
23:09Our guest for this episode is Brewster Kahle, a digital librarian who has spent his career intent on providing universal access to all knowledge. Kahle created the Internet’s first publishing system, Wide Area Information Server (WAIS) and two sites that help catalog the web by collecting data of books, web pages, music, television, and software: Alexa Internet and the Internet Archive. He also implemented the Wayback Machine, a digital archive of the World Wide Web. In this episode, Brewster talks about expanding access to the published works of humankind through creating these systems. He emphasizes the importance of archives and elucidates how his systems work on a technical level. Lastly, Brewster reflects on the evolution of the Internet and his goal to help Internet users gain more control of their privacy and what they have access to online. Click here for this episode’s transcript, and here for this episode’s show notes.
Howard Rheingold on Predicting Technology’s Future
23:17Our guest for this episode is Howard Rheingold, a critic, writer, and teacher who specializes in the cultural, social, and political implications of modern communication media. Howard wrote about the earliest personal computers at Xerox PARC, and he was also one of the early users of the Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link or The WELL, an influential early online community. In 1994, he was hired as the founding executive director of HotWired. He is the author of several books, including The Virtual Community, Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution, and Net Smart: How to Thrive Online. In this conversation, Howard talks about transitioning from typewriters to computers and the potentials of virtual communities – to both serve as think tanks and form personal connections. He talks about recognizing “signals” of what was to come with telephones and computers and the early collective action that the smartphone encouraged. Finally, he describes five media literacies that everyone should master if they want to use social media well. Click here for this episode’s transcript, and here for this episode’s show notes.
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Safiya Noble on Algorithms of Oppression
24:58Our guest for this episode is Safiya Noble, an associate professor of gender studies and African American studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. Safiya is the co-founder and faculty director of the UCLA Center for Critical Internet Inquiry, an interdisciplinary research center focused on the intersection of human rights, social justice, democracy, and technology. She is also the author of the best-selling book Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism. Her nonprofit community work to foster civil and human rights, the expansion of democracy and intersectional racial justice is developing at the Equity Engine. In this conversation, Safiya debunks the idea that social media and search engine algorithms are purely mathematical and neutral, explaining how they’re biased and can be discriminatory toward Black girls and Asian Americans in particular. She speaks about the dangers of tech companies conducting experiments on the public and the concerning lack of regulatory frameworks for technology. Finally, she explains her shift toward seeing herself as an abolitionist – who wants to abolish predictive technologies. Click here for this episode’s transcript, and here for this episode’s show notes.
Vint Cerf on Launching the Internet on Earth – Then in Space
24:53Our guest for this episode is Vint Cerf, who is considered to be one of the fathers of the internet. Vint is the co-designer of the TCP/IP protocols and currently serves as Google’s vice president and Chief Internet Evangelist – we’ll talk in this episode about how that title came to be. Vint has served in executive positions at places like the Internet Society and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and serves in advisory capacities at NIST and NASA. In this conversation, Vint talks about how the TCP/IP protocols (which provide internet-connected devices with a way to communicate with one another) came to be and his dedication to spreading the “internet religion” and making information available to all. He focuses much of the conversation on how we can expand the internet in various ways, by allocating more bit space for networks, improving its accessibility, and developing an interplanetary internet. Click here for this episode’s transcript, and here for this episode’s show notes.
David Lazer on Using the Web to Study the Web
21:54Our guest for this episode is David Lazer, a Professor of Political Science and Computer and Information Science at Northeastern University. David is among the leading scholars in the world on misinformation, and he has also researched how we can use the web as a tool to improve our political system. He co-wrote the book Politics with the People: Building Directly Representative Democracy, which was published in 2018. In this episode, David talks about the potential for members of Congress to meet online with voters. He also discusses an online platform he helped to design called Volunteer Science, which houses a large pool of remote volunteers and lowers the startup costs of running experiments for researchers. Finally, he talks about his research on social media and big tech’s algorithms and misinformation on the web – and a recent grant from the National Science Foundation that will fund some of this work. Read this episode's transcript here: https://sites.northwestern.edu/websciencepodcast/2021/02/05/983/ See this episode's show notes here: https://sites.northwestern.edu/websciencepodcast/2021/11/26/episode-29-show-notes/
Siva Vaidhyanathan on the Operating System of Our Lives
20:49Our guest for this episode is Siva Vaidhyanathan, a media studies professor at the University of Virginia. Siva is a regular columnist for The Guardian as well as the author of Anti-Social Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy (Oxford, 2018) and The Googlization of Everything: (And Why We Should Worry) (University of California Press, 2011), among other books. He focuses on how big tech companies – especially Google and Facebook – are permeating our lives. In this conversation, Siva talks about the creation of Google Books and why he thinks Google was the wrong choice to be a platform that houses the world’s online library. He also talks about how authoritarian rulers have used Facebook to win elections and ties this fact into a discussion of the big tech companies’ race to become “the operating system of our lives” – and to manage everything from our houses to our minds. Read this episode's transcript here: https://webscience.northwestern.edu/2021/02/04/episode-29-transcript/ See this episode's show notes here: https://webscience.northwestern.edu/2021/11/26/episode-29-show-notes/
Children and the Digital Future with Sonia Livingstone
20:29Our guest for this episode is Sonia Livingstone, a professor of social psychology at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Sonia’s research focuses on children and young people’s media literacy and rights in the digital environment. She recently co-authored (with Alicia Blum-Ross) the book Parenting for a Digital Future: How hopes and fears about technology shape children’s lives, published by Oxford U Press. In this episode, Sonia suggests we examine children’s media use in more expansive ways, thinking beyond how much time children spend online and also considering how exactly they’re engaging with screens. She also emphasizes that technology inequalities merit more attention and discusses children’s rights and agency within the digital space. Click here for this episode’s transcript, and here for this episode’s show notes.
Deborah McGuinness on Using Web Science to Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy
22:49Our guest for this episode is Deborah McGuinness, Professor of Computer, Cognitive, and Web Sciences at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). Deborah specializes in creating ontology-enabled research infrastructure for work in interdisciplinary settings. In this episode, Deborah explains how we can use ontologies to create programs that help us make the best decisions, from pairing wine and food to choosing to start a new medication. She shares her excitement about the potential intersections between health science and web science, detailing ways that medical professionals and web scientists can work together to elevate how we provide medical care. Click here for this episode’s transcript, and here for this episode’s show notes.
The Role of Research with Sandra González-Bailón
21:50In this episode, we chat with Sandra González-Bailón, who is on the faculty at the Annenberg School for Communication. Her research lies at the intersection of network science, data mining, computational tools and political communication. She is the author of Decoding the Social World, published by MIT Press in 2017, and was also the keynote speaker of the ACM Web Science Conference in 2019. During this conversation, Sandra discussed some of her research about people’s news exposure — and what it surprisingly revealed. She also explains how the medium of data that gets studied — the web v.s. apps data and desktop v.s. mobile data — can impact results. And she digs into how exactly research can help the world — but also that the world needs to know the right questions to ask. To hear all this and more, take a listen of this episode. Click here for this episode’s transcript and here for this episode’s show notes.
Semantic Web Science with Nigel Shadbolt
24:58In this special 25th episode of Untangling the Web, we talk with one of the founders of web science, Professor Sir Nigel Shadbolt. He's Principal of Jesus college and professorial Research Fellow in Computer Science at the University of Oxford. As information adviser to the United Kingdom government, he encouraged the release of many 1000s of public sector data sets. He was knighted in 2013 for services to science and engineering. During this episode, Nigel recounts some of those founding conversations and intentions surrounding the creation of the web science field, as well as some of his more recent work. Nigel, who was on the forefront of the Semantic Web, also explains exactly what that means -- and what the web might look like today if it had expanded. To hear to this and more, listen to this episode. Click here for this episode’s transcript and here for this episode’s show notes.