Barry Wellman Distinguished Lecture

This review of the evening has been written by Digichamps Sylvian Jesudoss and Elena Tsarkova

On 31st of October at the University of Southampton, we had a unique chance to attend the distinguished lecture by Professor Barry Wellman, organised by Web Science Institute. Barry Wellman is a Canadian-American sociologist and currently director of NetLab at the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto.

The lecture was livestreamed and the recording is available

Before the presentation started all guests had a chance to meet each other in the hall where researchers from the University of Southampton placed their posters dedicated to web science.

Among the most interesting posters we would like to highlight work dedicated to:

1. MOOC development.

This poster addressed the questions what are MOOCs and who needs them?

One phrase on the poster was “It has enabled me to make things happen” and from my personal experience I can totally concur with this phrase. Not so long ago I finished an online course about digital marketing provided by Future Learn and the University of Southampton and I found this course very thought provoking and useful. Thus, I think the idea of a MOOC is an important milestone in education and digital media nowadays.

2. The Web and Internet piracy.

This poster covered an eternal question about copyright law. Also, it provided information about pirates (often they are young computer-savvy people) and how piracy has influenced business – the current trend is for companies to treat pirates as competitors rather than criminals.

When you look at the room full of researchers and students on the Halloween evening waiting for Barry Wellman, it speaks volumes about his credentials. Barry Wellman is one of the respected sociologists in the study of the Internet and human computer interaction. He has co-authored more than 300 articles, chapters, reports and books. One of the recent studies he is working on is “networked individualism” and he specifically talked about how networked researchers work and the advent of triple revolution in academia.

By triple revolution, he meant the intertwining of Internet, mobile and social networks and he made an argument how the world has moved from pastoralism to networked individualism. According to Barry, networked individualism is like an operating system that describes the different ways of how humans connect, communicate and work together. He showed that work has become more distributed than ever. One of the striking examples he showed was how Boeing 787 is built using different partners across the world.

But the case he made during the lecture was for scholars to become more networked and how technology can foster the networking to improve cooperation and information exchange between researchers around the world. He cited the example of GRAND – Canada’s digital media network of centres of excellence. Launched in 2009, GRAND currently supports 24 Interdisciplinary Research Projects divided into 7 themes. Their network spans 31 universities across Canada with more than 200 industries, government, non-profit partners and 150+ faculties.

GRAND researchers are diversified based on geography, discipline and experience. Each research group is multi-disciplinary and researchers multi-task. More than 44% of the researchers involved with more than 3 projects at the same time. Although initially there were issues inside the network, the trust has grown in the past 3 years. As a result, publications have increased exponentially – number of publications per project has increased from 5 in 2010 to 27 in 2012.

Barry ended with the future agenda for GRAND and expected a larger worldwide network of scholars that can enhance the information exchange and collaborative work. A dream that’s not far-fetched but the possibilities are endless.

Some tweets from the lecture:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *