The growing field of internet science
The internet is not only being increasingly used by a broader mass of people but it is also increasingly being studied. There is a growing number of research institutions dedicated to studying the internet. The field of internet science is getting denser. For instance there is the International Journal of Internet Science, the recently published Oxford Handbook of Internet Studies or the 1st International Conference on Internet Science which took place on April 10th & 11th in Brussels. This blog post summarises impressions from the mentioned conference.
The interdisciplinary DNA of internet science
The conference was organised by the EU funded Network of Excellence in Internet Science (EINS). Internet science was explored from various viewpoints. Social, economic, political and legal perspectives were strongly represented. The technological aspects of internet science were also discussed, with a special focus on the possibilities which computer science offers for studying internet science. As Urs Gasser (Executive Director, Berkman Center for Internet & Society) stressed in his keynote, internet science is interdisciplinary in its DNA. Challenges that come with interdisciplinarity include a shared vocabulary as well as a shared space and time. Furthermore, interoperability between the various disciplines is needed.
Snapshots from the keynotes
The numerous keynotes reflected the multidisciplinarity of internet science. Interdisciplinarity, however, was not always expressed; many presentations remained discipline specific, which contributed to a very interesting and wide range of topics. Ziga Turk (former Minister of Science, Slovenia and Professor at University of Ljubljana) pointed out that even though the internet is driven by technology, it is not technical in its essence. Rather, the internet forms an information and communication infrastructure for society. Martin Hynes (Chief Executive, European Science Foundation) stressed that research is unpredictable and that a balance between top-down and bottom-up research needs to be maintained. Jon Crowcroft (Professor of Communication Systems, University of Cambridge) illustrated the power of open source and argued that patents stifle innovation. Andrea Matwyshyn (Assistant Professor, Department of Legal Studies & Business Ethics, Wharton School) described the legal and moral power of code and delineated areas that law does not (yet) engage with.
The HIIG @EINS
The Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society was also represented at the conference with two contributions. Benedikt Fecher talked about research findings from his literature review on open science based on the paper “Open Science: One Term, Five Schools of Thought“. Together with her co-authors Ben Wagner and Andrea Calderaro from the European University Institute, Kirsten Gollatz presented the paper “Common Narrative Divergent Agendas: The Internet and Human Rights in Foreign Policy“, which won the Best Student Paper Award 2013.