Monday, 29 April 2013

Web Science - Industry Partnerships

The Web Science Doctoral Training Centre has always aimed to have a close relationship with industry, as part of its mission to provide a leadership role in the UK's Digital Economy. With 63 members of our growing Industry Forum meeting regularly to discuss the future of the Web, we offer many opportunities to transfer knowledge and expertise between academia and our partners.

Switch Concepts, a trail-blazing Hampshire-based IT firm that specialises in digital advertising, claims that its partnership with the DTC contributes to its success. For the past year we have been working closely together with Switch to share understanding of the world of online advertising, swapping knowledge of our world-leading digital research. Switch, and our other DTC partners, work with teams of our students on the challenges and opportunities that the Web raises for their businesses.

Business Solent, which unites business leaders to drive economic prosperity, partnered with the DTC to host an exclusive Directors’ Forum Dinner to share the developments in the study of Web Science with business leaders in the region –  going beyond the theory with an overview of the commercial opportunities being created by leading Solent businesses. At the event we shared the outcomes of the most recent set of Industry Forum Research discussions in Big Data, Social Businesses, Cybercrime, E-health and the Open Data Economy.

We look forward to increasing the size and scope of our Industry Forum, and would be delighted to hear from any businesses who would benefit from the latest research insights into the Web and Digital Economy. 

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Everyone is Deeply Intertwingled

We are only a small way though creating the Web - this network of interlinked documents (Web 1.0), interlinked personal activities (Web 2.0) and interlinked facts (Web 3.0) has only just started to impact the way we run our lives. And the way that others run our lives.

The Internet, a runaway academic project designed to create a military communications system that could not be destroyed, became the perfect substructure for the Web, a knowledge sharing system that was developed in an underground nuclear research bunker and escaped through research institutions and the labs of the computer industry to embed itself in commerce, government and every aspect of society.

Both of these endeavours were shaped by the concerns of academia, or rather by the unconcerns of academia - a world in which trade and commerce were largely irrelevant, and where the notion of hi-tech criminality had yet to be invented. And so we now find Web Science grappling with some really fundamental issues (state-sponsored snooping, gossip/defamation, authority, jurisdiction, property, the nature of truth, the extent of human rights) to deal with the limitations of the Web's original design, while Web Technologists continue to innovate their way through the canon of science fiction literature (portable communicators, wrist-watch TVs, wall-sized video screens, voice recognition, computer glasses, autonomous drones and self-driving cars).

In our discussions, we tend to retreat to the fundamentals of the Web / Internet protocols - the Web is just a transfer of documentary information. Like borrowing a library book, we want those transactions to be private, unobserved and unrestricted, while being valuable. But the web was never just about transferring information (something that computers do) - it was from the very start about consuming the the assets of the information rich, and then the services of the business savvy. And after twenry years of hartd work we have created a very complex, highly interwoven network of people and events and activities and knowledge.

We are richly online individuals, with interconnected histories, making complex asynchronous engagements with other individuals, corporations and services. Our online personas are deeply informed by the needs, desires and happenings of our offline lives, so that the online recorded history of our avatars corresponds to the recorded offline history of the transactions, activities and events in which we were engaged.

We are deeply intertwingled, multi-persona individuals and it seems remiss that we haven't reconciled  our Web presence with more than that of an invisible and inscrutable chess-player shuffling pieces (documents/bytes) across a huge board.

Once again, academia is leading in this social change. The requirements for Research Assessment (imposed by governments anxious to demonstrate value) mean that even Internet researchers need to be able to calculate the impact of their every activity, and show the evidence (often virtual) of its origin and effect. The Internet becomes our real history, and the actors whose names we see on the Web must be carefully and uniquely identified. So much for privacy, anonymity or simple abstinence.