When I proposed a workshop for this year’s ACM Web Science conference, I believed I’d deliver it in Southampton, UK. COVID-19, of course, meant things ran rather differently, and I was up rather early today (on the west coast) to kick off this 2pm (UK time) workshop online.

We had a lively discussion, examining the huge topics of personalisation / adaption of technology for individuals, and fostering community online. We enjoyed talks from two invited speakers and two authors, then dived deep across three breakout groups. A summary follows:-


Roushdat Elaheebocus from the Department of Digital Technologies at the University of Mauritius kindly opened the workshop, describing BehaviourCoach. This is a framework being developed to promote physical exercise and improvements to nutritional decisions, including gaming components and social/community aspects.

screencap of Roushdat's talk, a slide introducing BehaviourCoach

Su White, an invited speaker from the University of Southampton, spoke about Exploring the Third Space in Online Community Building. She delved into the third space, the web science manifesto, and Neuromancer — who doesn’t want cyberpunk and liminality first thing in the morning?

screencap of Su's talk, a slide about where we are now after a 'manifesto' workshop in 2018

Jen Golbeck directs the Human-Computer Interaction Lab at the University of Maryland. She shared a video about people seeking to increase their wellbeing with social media, and how we can optimise content recommendation algorithms for wellbeing in that context. (And I forgot to take screencaps from here on…)

Michael Fergusson, the founder and CEO of Ayogo, spoke on the Architecture of Choice: using Psychosocial Variables to Dynamically Tailor Interventions. Michael noted how we make poor (unhealthy) decisions (burgers over salads, anyone?), and described two case studies: supporting clinicians working with vulnerable first-time mothers, and tailoring a Type 2 Diabetes intervention based on individual self-efficacy.

Breakout groups

We split into three breakout groups:

Shared decision making: this is about how to involve patients and clinicians in decision-making processes. Discussion touched on asymmetries of knowledge (clinicians have medical knowledge, patients know their situation and personal values); validated instruments for passively measuring depression or anxiety signals in social media posts; the ethics of gathering patient data; computer vision AI to support medical decision making.

Privacy: discussion topics included the importance of diversity within people building tools, not only in terms of elements such as gender, race, and age, but also disciplinarity; issues of ownership and the impossibility of informed consent; issues of data reuse in different contexts; AI as returning discrete values, not ranges; the impact of the democratisation of data.

Tailoring on local vs global levels: the original idea of the web bringing a global community, and seeing (e.g. on Facebook and Twitch) self-organising smaller communities; echo-chambers in the physical as well as digital world (British vs French news); how local vs global needs are complicated by the environment; the small data paradigm and need to identify unique experiences; how brain imaging EEG can help us understand long-term individual change.

Resources and next steps

There was great energy at this workshop, which returned to two core themes from earlier years in the Web Science conference series: education and healthcare. Several participants expressed interest in co-organising a follow-up event, so watch this space.

In the meantime, you can find slides from the talks, where permission has been given to share:

Finally, if you are interested in these kinds of discussions in the context of digital health, feel free to check out the Healthcare Patient Engagement Group on LinkedIn.