Southampton Web Science – Research Exchange Meeting

Southampton Web Science – Network Institute Amsterdam Research Exchange Meeting
Thursday 31 March and Friday 01 April 2016 at VU Amsterdam

We invite you to an interdisciplinary research exchange meeting between young researchers and senior staff of the Southampton U Web Science Institute and the Network Institute Amsterdam, to be held Thursday 31 March and Friday 01 April 2016 at VU Amsterdam.
Both institutes happen to share a very similar interdisciplinary research philosophy covering multiple faculties (ranging from informatics/computer science, various social sciences, to linguistics and humanities).
The idea behind the meeting is to share interdisciplinary research experiences and approaches, enrich our understanding of them and, even more ambitiously, actually getting some collaborative interdisciplinary research done. Evidently we hope that this will lead (1) to strengthen views on how to do high-quality interdisciplinary research; (2) hopefully, to more long term-collaborations between our institutes.

Provisional programme
Thursday 31 March

09.30 Welcome and Opening
09.30-12.00 Your Current Research – Plenary: short pitches + poster/demo market
Everyone: making yourself known: prepare a brief (1-minute madness) pitch + poster (and/or demo) on the research you are doing. (Your posters will be publicized on the institute websites).
12.00-13.30 Lunch
13.30-14.00 Kick-off challenge research work in groups
The idea is to work on a number of outstanding and interesting interdisciplinary research challenges in small (around 4) and mixed (location as well as discipline) teams during the exchange meeting. For a preliminary idea of the research challenges, see below.
14.00-16.30 Self-work session I on research challenge in project groups
16.30-17.30 Invited talk
17h30- …  Dinner plus social event somewhere at a nice place in Amsterdam

Please appreciate that the “small hours” in Amsterdam easily become pretty BIG, but that the next morning we will start 09.30 (as if nothing has happened). 

Friday 01 April:
09.30-10.15 Plenary: Brief reporting back on progress by all research challenge groups
About 5 minutes per challenge/group
10.15 -12.30 Self-work session II on research challenge in project groups
And in parallel: Break-out senior staff meeting Web Science I – Network I.
12.30-13.30 Lunch
13.30-15.30 Plenary: Presentations on work on research challenges by all project groups
So tentatively, about 15 minutes for each challenge/group.
15.30-16.30 Plenary discussion of future collaboration: themes & methods
16.30 Closure

BTW: Not yet formally scheduled, but the Network Institute will ensure coffee (for the Dutch-inclined) and tea (for the English-inclined) during the whole meeting.

We cater for around 20 participants from Southampton and a similar number from Amsterdam.

The organizers:
Prof. Leslie Carr, Southampton
Prof. Susan Halford, Southampton
Prof. Frank van Harmelen, Amsterdam
Dr. Ivar Vermeulen, Amsterdam
Prof. Hans Akkermans, Amsterdam

Interdisciplinary Research Challenges in Web/Network Science (draft 2)
This is a preliminary longlist of interdisciplinary research challenges people may like to work on.


  • Background: Around 16 Southampton PhD students and around 4 faculty members will visit the Network Institute on March 31 / April 01
  • In Amsterdam they will be met by a similar number of PhD students / Academy Assistants and faculty members
  • In a Skype meeting both sides agreed that the main part of the two-day exchange should consist of a project wherein students would be divided in around 8 mixed (i.e., South/A’dam; computer/social science; seniority) groups of 4 and work on a web/network science challenge.
  • The following is a suggestion for some of these challenges as well as the general approach.


  • Challenges should be interesting, demanding, require hard thinking, and be fun!
  • Challenges should require an interdisciplinary approach.
  • Challenges should be methodologically focused (concepts, theory, methods, tools, data, ethics; concentrating on all or part of this process)
  • Groups are expected to provide indicative outputs/outcomes from their methodological investigation.
  • Presentations are limited to about 10 minutes
  • Support: groups should have access to web data via e.g. the Southampton Web Observatory, the VU LODLaundromat & others.

Example Challenges:

  1. Describe Donald Trump in one characteristic word or phrase. How does this change over time? How does this change per target group?
  2. What characterizes news stories that first emerge through social media (rather than trough the official news media)?
  3. If you would be a refugee from Syria, which EU country should you go to? (cross-platform examination of government policy, social and economic opportunities, racism, etc).
  4. Which word elicits most anger? (How can we understand emotion online? How do different techniques of sentiment analysis characterize emotion).
  5. How is Amsterdam represented online? [beyond geotags, key words, photographs perhaps, representations by different communities – different vernacular geographies).
  6. What measures of consumer confidence might we find on social media? Do they differ, and if so in what ways, from conventional data (such as surveys)?
  7. Can one actually predict next week’s hype on social media such as Twitter?
  8. What is it (contentwise, empirically) that makes a pop song a “hit”?
  9. What characterizes jokes on Twitter that are widely perceived as “very funny”?
  10. Does the Web have anything to say on what are the most important success factors for startups? How does this differ from traditional theory and advice from business schools, banks/investors, consultancies, chambers of commerce etc?
  11. These days, almost any city in the world is proclaimed to be “smart”. Is it possible to devise a measure as to the degree of smartness of cities in a way that can be empirically grounded through Web data?
  12. Civil society, citizen engagement: The Web is often positioned as an instrument for empowerment and democratic debate (e.g. by TBL himself). Countervoices claim however that digital debates such as on social media are often hijacked by the most noisy, with often extreme opinions, and so in fact reduce (representative) democracy. Q: How can one give some grounding on this issue of the Web as an instrument (or not) for democracy?
  13. A global issue: What is it to be “poor”, or “disadvantaged” or “underprivileged”? A common definition is that being poor = having to live off an income less than 2 dollars a day. This definition comes from various global institutional sources. But what do “the poor” themselves think of this? What evidence do the Web and social media give on their perspective on this global issue?

The organizers