The University of Southampton

Conference to call for more research into the World Wide Web

Published: 23 February 2009

The World Wide Web and its future development will be the focus of the first European conference on Web Science to be held in Athens from 18-20 March.

The theme of Web Science 09 is ‘Society on the Web’ and it is the first conference to bring computer scientists, many of whom are from the University of Southampton’s School of Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) together with social scientists so that they can explore together the human behaviour and technological design that shape the Web and its use.

The conference, which is organized by the Web Science Research Initiative and the Foundation for the Hellenic World (FHW), will also include distinguished keynote speakers such as Noshir Contractor, Joseph Sifakis, Tim Berners-Lee and Nigel Shadbolt.

Web Science acknowledges that the World Wide Web does not exist without the participation of people and organizations; indeed significant proportions of people’s lives are now spent on-line in many countries. The conference will therefore address major issues of people’s behaviour and motivation on-line, their ability to trust websites or agents, their security and privacy. Crucially: how can the design of the Web of the future ensure that a system on which - as Tim Berners-Lee put it – ‘democracy and commerce depends remains stable and pro-human’?

In a keynote address, Professor Nigel Shadbolt, who is Professor of Artificial Intelligence at ECS and also Research Director of the Web Science Research Initiative (WSRI), will assert that the Web is a huge powerful machine which is in need of further understanding – crucially as it moves towards a greater fulfilment of Web 2.0 technologies and the development of the Semantic Web. 'The Web connects humanity and can perform lots of initiatives that individuals alone couldn't do, from developing cures for cancer to decoding ancient manuscripts,' said Professor Shadbolt. 'Equally, it is powerful enough to crash an economic system.

‘The Semantic Web will move us into regions as yet unimagined – for example all the information that exists about me will be potentially accessible in just one 'Nigel Shadbolt' search.’

The Semantic Web – or Linked Data Web – will enable information to be gathered from distributed sources, in many different formats, and processed by machines.

‘The sheer abundance of information on the Web means that we will see the emergence of real serendipitous reuse of information – often in new and unexpected contexts,’ said Professor Shadbolt.

Web Science 09 will be held at The Theatron at the Hellenic Cosmos of the Foundation of the Hellenic World.

A press briefing about Web Science ’09 at which Professor Shadbolt and other key conference speakers will be present, will be held in London on Thursday 12 March.

For further information contact Joyce Lewis; tel.023 8059 5453

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