Sunday, October 15, 2006

Paper Review: Creating a Science of the Web

Science Magazine, 11 August 2006: Vol. 313. no. 5788, pp. 769 - 771
Creating a Science of the Web Tim Berners-Lee, Wendy Hall, James Hendler, Nigel Shadbolt, Daniel J. Weitzner

Understanding and fostering the growth of the World Wide Web, both in engineering and societal terms, will require the development of a new interdisciplinary field.
This is a remarkable observation. Web research is starting to be beyond the traditional scope of Computer Science, which, by Berners-Lee and his colleagues, "is concerned with the construction of new languages and algorithms in order to produce novel desired computer behaviors." Behaviors on the Web are not only about computer behaviors, but also about human behaviors. On the Web, we are not using computers to simulate human behaviors. Instead, we are expecting computer behaving to cooperate with humans. This is a portion of Web Science that is beyond Computer Science.

Comparing to physics and biology, Web Science is to analyze Web behaviors and try to "find microscopic laws that, extrapolated to the macroscopic realm, would generate the behavior observed." This perspective is again different from traditional Computer Science. There are no natural laws in Computer Science research. We may adopt (or adapt) natural rules for Computer Science research to follow or simulate in contrast to discover natural laws in Computer Science research. There is, however, a semi-natural existence in Web Science research, which is the World Wide Web itself. Although the Web is an artificial creature, it has grown to be a nearly natural existence because no single human (or even entire human beings) may shut it down. Therefore, Web Science is indeed unique and it is a hybrid branch of nature science and social science.

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