Web Science in the Making – Or is It?

By: Sonny Zulhuda

The first time I encountered the word web science was when I came to know about the then-upcoming OII Summer Doctoral Programme (SDP) 2008 early this year. My first impression was it was something curiously-yet-intellectually stimulating.

Why ‘web’ science? That was among my first questions. All this while my research intersects with issues of the Internet in the society. We have talked quite extensively on how the Internet affects society and how a social reaction in turn shapes the trend and the future of the Internet itself. Then comes the term ‘web’ science. At least from the SDP I knew I was not alone to think that ‘web-science’ may connote a science about the physical infrastructure of the web, per se. This is because the term web for me is too technical to stimulate any discussions on social or humanity issues. But the word ‘Internet’ –being more popular– is not; we’ve heard about the ‘Internet society’, ‘Internet law’, or ‘Internet generation’. This is still very narrow compared to a more generic term of ‘information society’, for example. The word ‘web science’ itself is therefore, to many quering minds, still an area of debate by itself.

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Quotable Quotes from SDP 2008

The Oxford (OII) summer school is a huge pool of idea and inspiration. I have recorded few of memorable quotes here:

“You don’t have to understand it.. it doesn’t matter.” (Gerry J Sussman, MIT, while quickly showing his slides)

“As a computer scientist I would trust technical solutions more (than legal ones).” (Harry, responding during a discussion).

“My supervisor said you must be able to explain your research goal in sixty seconds.” (Matthew, during his presentation).

“Just because you have a computer and an Internet connection, it does not make you a serious journalist any more than having access to a kitchen makes you a serious cook.” (Ulla, in her presentation).

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Some Shots on My Research Methods

Lunch of Day 3, OII Summer School.

Chat with Prof Gerry (left) and Danny (MIT) at OII

Spent about half an hour with Danny Weitzner (MIT) on my ongoing research. Danny commented couple of things especially on my methodological aspects, which I think I’d better store them here.

He initially agreed with me on the use of CIA (Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability) concept as a model for my framework. However, he notes that such information security concept may not necessarily make a good regulatory framework, i.e. it’s an option. More importantly, he stressed on e priority or the first question should be what risk(s) is being addressed here? For whose interests? Etc.

The common failure of the regulatory framework, Danny argued, is that the law does not reflect the development of the technology. It must pass certain neutrality standards, such as technical neutrality as well as architectural neutrality. Need to learn from the American Privacy act (on wiretap, etc) that had not passed the architectural neutrality.

On the source of data: Danny agreed it is very important to approach the regulators, lawyers and computer scientists/practitioners; however, asking consumers’ may not be easy. It can be appropriately taken out.

Also, while it is interesting to assess whether or not CIA template is useful (eg the problem might lay heavily on confidentiality as opposed to other elements), it is far more important to understand what or where the existing law has failed. For this, it is very useful to ask people in the law enforcement, i.e. police, etc: ‘what are their problems in implementing the law?’

On top of that, Danny further emphasised the importance of comparative study with other countries/jurisdictions. Given the experience and exposures Danny as an academic possesses, this lunch chat was great.

Thanks Danny! (p.s.: Since 30th July 2009, Danny has been appointed to run the US Government Internet Policy Unit under the new US administration)

New Menu for My Dessert-ation…

Al-Shami Lebanese Restaurant

Al-Shami Lebanese Restaurant

  • Day/Date: Monday, 14.07.08
  • Time: 21:14
  • Scene: Dinner at Al-Shami Restaurant, Oxford
  • Menu:  …. (have to ask Gerry again, he knew the names of all the food served!)

The summer school students and faculties were having very delicious dinner serving Middle-Eastern food. I was sitting next to Professor Gerald J. Sussman from MIT and Prof Bill Dutton, the director of the OII. We had a warm and friendly chats, especially with Prof Gerald (or Gerry), ranging from American politics & election to Indonesian coffee (Gerry surprisingly mentioned a fact which i don’t know, that the best coffee from indonesia is ‘Mandailing coffee’). We also chat about one of the best movies each of us had watched: The Beautiful Minds.

I have to thank Gerry especially for his brief insight on what I need to include in my research. He particularly suggested the inclusion of the issue of product liability pertaining to consumer protection against defective software, etc., so as not to unjustifiably cause the loss it the users.

We dispersed at around 10pm. and spray of rain started, briefly lasted though. Thanks to the OII for the treat!

‘Can Internet really works?’ Asks Jonathan Zittrain

Lectures in the second Day feature Prof Jonathan Zittrain from Harvard University’s Berkman Cyberlaw Centre, and Prof. Daniel Weitzner from the Massachusetts Instititute of Technology (MIT)

Jonathan’s presentation’s ttile was ‘Civic Technologies and the Future of the Internet’. Meanwhile, Daniel talks about ‘Information Accountability’.

Copyright Sealed in an Envelope

Oxford Summer Programme, Day One.


Kevin from the States told us this story in his presentation. Since he was six or so, he was taught how to understand and protect copyright for his works. In order to establish such right, they believed they would have to write a letter to themselves, writing about the work and right established thereform, and sent to themselves through a post office (kevin, correct me if I’m wrong). Once received, the envelope would be kept without first opening the content. So it’s kept selaed. This would become a proof in future to show that the copyright over his particular work does exist. This was known as ‘poorman’s copyright’.

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Off to Oxford

KL International Airport. 13.07.08, 03:13.



Thanks to Faisal abu Azama dan Halim Abu Abdil Aziz…. mereka nganter aku ke KL Sentral. Terus ambil ERL ke KLIA. Sekarang waktu menunjukkan jam 3.13 pagi. Aku udah duduk lebih sejam nunggu di luar boarding room. Insya Allah sebentar lagi boarding. Pesawat ke Doha dijadualkan jam 4.15, Kelihatannya cukup rame juga yang boarding. Tapi sampe Qatar nanti pasti nyebar. Hmm.. aku udah ga sabar pengen dapet senderan bisa tidur… badan capek dan agak kurang enak badan. untung tadi istriku tersayang udah nelpon, dan sebelumnya juga udah ngobrol banyak ama ayah ibu.. dan udah denger suara Utaz dan Ulya juga… jadi pikiran dan perasaanku tenaang… Bismillah. Mau boarding dulu…

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