Web Science Meet-up Montpellier: 13 May ’11

I headed to Montpellier last week to attend a Web Science meet-up entitled ‘Consolidating Networks of Excellence’: the idea of the day was to provide a forum for people to meet and get to know one another, and to discuss WebSci. Topics on the cards included WebSci education, WebSci research and the upcoming conference in Koblenz.

Being a one-day event, the schedule was pretty packed. A potted summary:

Wendy Hall gives a remote keynote
  • Morning session: a welcome and introduction, some short talks on people’s current research, and a great, reflective keynote from Wendy Hall.
  • After lunch: some more specific talks, concerning philosophy; traceability; chemistry
  • Closing session: various, including Les Carr discussing lessons learned from several year of interdisciplinary work at Southampton and Paul de Bra about the WebSci bachelor degree about to begin at the TU/e in Eindhoven.

I gave a morning presentation on methods and methodology in Web Science: I’ll make a separate post about this area in the near future.

Reflection in WebSci
Wendy used her keynote to discuss the ongoing emergence of Web Science and the importance of linked data. Her comments about how we frame the discipline reminded me of a self-reflective discussion that I facilitated at Web Art and Science camp in November, where we discussed such questions as “What is Web Science?”, but also “When is a discipline mature? (When) did we stop asking what is HCI, for example? Is self-reflection an ongoing process whatever, or should it be?”

Les Carr on the web as an action not a thing

How we understand the Web
I thoroughly enjoyed the closing session. Firstly, Les Carr (who is a computer scientist) gave a wonderfully vibrant and enthusiastic talk about lessons learned from conducting Web Science for several years, in particular while working with a sociologist. He talked about how the Web is not a thing, but an action, and about its co-construction with society, framing Web Science as the study of the technologies and policies that support the co-construction of that online environment.

Web Sci education
The final two talks were by Paul de Bra and Hugh Davis: Paul spoke about the structure and plans for the TU/e’s soon-to-be-launched Web Science bachelors course, and Hugh described experiences teaching Southampton’s Web Science masters course, and work in the Doctoral Training Centre.

The TU/e initiative is (to the best of my knowledge) the first instance of a bachelors degree in WebSci, and Paul and Hugh began to enter into an interesting dialogue about how to teach Web Science at these two different levels: what is essential to a masters course in WebSci? What changes if the masters student has already got a bachelors degree in this topic? This is a really important conversation to have, and I hope we can continue it in Koblenz.

A few closing links

Hugh pointed us to Edshare, a lovely tool that makes available some of Southampton’s educational resources on Web Science.

The events’s wiki page shows the originally planned schedule; slides and documents are on Slideshare.

Su White has also written the day up, if you’d like another perspective 🙂

The meetup event page.


One response to this post.

  1. […] Last week I promised a post about the talk I gave at the Montpellier Web Science meet-up. This is that post! […]


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