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Sociology, Social Policy and CriminologyPart of Economic, Social and Political Science

New Web Science Institute to explore how the Web will shape our future

Published: 11 November 2013

The University of Southampton is launching the new Web Science Institute today (11 November) to investigate how the World Wide Web is changing the world and the world is changing the Web.

Researchers from Social Sciences are contributing their expertise in areas such as sociology, criminology, politics and economics. Susan Halford, Professor of Sociology who is also a Director of the Institute, says: “If we are to address the challenges and opportunities, risks and demands of an increasingly web-centric world, we must harness the expertise and energy of disciplines from across the academy. I am delighted Southampton in the forefront of addressing these issues.”

The Web is the largest information system ever constructed and a social and technical phenomenon that has transformed the world and continues to do so in innovative and unexpected ways that will shape our future. We can’t predict how the Web will change our society, but Southampton has taken a lead in developing new forms of economic, social, political, technological and cultural resources based on a deep understanding of the Web's technologies and social construction.

The Web Science Institute (WSI) will act as a focal point, co-ordinating and putting into practice education, research and enterprise initiatives on web-related developments at the University of Southampton. Its aim is to secure a sustainable future for multi-disciplinary research across the University that has Web Science at its core by:

  • focusing on interdisciplinary collaborations and partnerships;
  • demonstrating clear ambition, adaptability and innovation;
  • leveraging the visionary leadership and outstanding staff and student expertise across the University;
  • providing a platform for significant investment by Government and external partners;
  • showcasing unique and creative education programmes that set new standards internationally.


The Institute will be directed by a multi-disciplinary team drawn from across the University and led by Web Science pioneers Professor Dame Wendy Hall and Professor Sir Nigel Shadbolt, and co-directed by Susan Halford with Leslie Carr from Electronics and Computer Science, Dr Graeme Earl from Humanities; and Dr Lisa Harris from Business and Law.

Within Social Sciences, its members include Dr Craig Webber, Professor Pauline Leonard, Dr Gethin Rees, Professor David Owen and Dr Jeff Vass who are taking part in cutting edge research, supervising postgraduate research students and teaching on a new BSc programme in Web Sciences (Social Sciences).

Web Science is the subject of the University’s first ever Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), which starts today. The Web Science MOOC, developed by WSI members in partnership with the Centre for Innovation in Technologies and Education (CITE) and Future Learn, will examine the origins and evolution of the Web, and consider key questions of security, democracy, networks and economy from both computational and social science perspective.

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