The Concept of “Web Science” in the Social Realm: Building Bridges between a new Interdisciplinary Field and the Cultural “Wealth of Networks”

  • Michael Dick Ryerson and York Universities
Keywords: ICTs, public sphere, Semantic Web, social production, Web Science, World Wide Web


Discourse in the field of “cyber culture” largely does not take into account the major shift in constituent technology that has begun to advance the Web from one based solely on human-understandable hypertext documents to one based on machine-understandable data. Such innovation includes the refinement of new search engine technology to mine data in Web services applications (the “Deep Web”) coupled with the desire to annotate data with mark-up languages that facilitate greater interactivity and infer meaning within either user-created knowledge representation models (“folksonomies” as a part of “Web 2.0”) or more rigid ontological structures (part of the “Semantic Web” or “Web 3.0”). In this paper, I consider this overall evident and predicted shift from a “Web of documents” to a “Web of data” to be the central element in the creation of the next-generation of the Web, and the recent drive to study it within an integrated framework known as “Web Science”. Central to this shift is the need to reconsider not only the cultural aspects of the medium, but also the interactions between cultural theory and technical texts. I conclude that with the emergence of certain new technology the entire concept of intellectual property, and more specifically where value ultimately lies in terms of the creation of cultural product, is also changing. Within, I thus focus on alternative frameworks (namely the work of Yochai Benkler) to conceptualize knowledge production, in order to re-examine issues of Web-enabled participatory culture. In order to highlight new cultural paradigms, opportunities and challenges, I discuss how the concept of “social production” may foster a “cultural democracy” that transcends traditional hegemonic conditions that encumber publics.

Author Biography

Michael Dick, Ryerson and York Universities

Michael Dick is a student in the Joint Graduate Program in Communication and Culture at Ryerson and York Universities in Toronto, Canada. His research interests include: media history; technological convergence; the political economy of newer media and media industries (especially in Canada); ICT and cultural policy; networks; and cultural nationalism. He has held both an Ontario Graduate Scholarship from the Government of Ontario (2009-10), and a Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (2008-09).