ZiF Workshop: Web Epistemics - How the Web shapes what we believe and know, how we learn and what we are, Bielefeld 2012
recorded by: Artificial Intelligence Laboratory
Since its inception at the CERN in 1989 by Tim Berners-Lee, the World Wide Web (WWW) has had a tremendous impact on all aspects of our life. It has catalysed crucial changes in the way we produce, circulate and consume information and knowledge. It has affected dramatically the way we search for and filter information as well as our learning behaviour and strategies. It shapes public discourse and influences public opinion formation processes. It has also deeply impacted the way we establish and maintain personal relationships and the way we communicate with each other. The WWW has also had an effect on democratic processes (see for example of the current revolutions in North Africa where the WWW has played a major role) and bears the potential to strengthen democracy by fostering participation and increasing transparency in public governance. In contrast to standard broadcasting and printed media, the Web is inherently decentralized and cannot be directly controlled. The Web as a decentralized medium fosters the access of information overcoming (national) boundaries and challenges modern forms of censorship. One drawback of this decentralization and lack of control is the fact that there is an increasing amount of ‘noise’ available on the Web, making it difficult to discern high-quality content from background ‘twitter’. Filtering information has in fact become a central task in our modern society and is especially crucial in the context of the Web where information is mainly in a raw and unfiltered state. However, the process of selecting and filtering information is not only important at an individual level. Organizations also require policies on which information they release to the public. Such policies have an important impact on our societies and can be even highly controversial, as shown by the recent example of the highly debated publication of confidential diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks. A glance into the history of knowledge reveals that this phenomenon is by no means without predecessors. Societies have always had to develop strategies to select, organize, disseminate or even systematically eradicate knowledge from collective memories.
The understanding of the epistemics of large distributed systems such as the Web and social networks as well as their impact on different levels (social, individual, economic, etc.) requires a holistic and cross-disciplinary approach. The goal of this workshop is to bring together leading researchers from different disciplines (mathematics, physics, computer science, history, philosophy, sociology of knowledge, linguistics, media theory, psychology…) to identify important research questions, potential methods to approach these and to foster exchange between these different disciplines, bringing us further in the holistic understanding of epistemics in the context of the Web and providing the basis for a cross-disciplinary research agenda.
Detailed information can be found at the Workshop homepage.