ACM WebSci’18 in Amsterdam

ACM WebSci’18 in Amsterdam
Xinyuan Xu

Thanks to the support of my supervisor and co-authors Dr. Terhi Nurmikko-Fuller and Dr. Bernardo Pereira Nunes, and the Centre for Digital Humanities Research at the ANU, I had the chance to attend my first big international peer-reviewed conference, ACM Web Science'18, where I presented a full paper.


Scholars Networking

My first night in Amsterdam I attended the WSTNet Labs Ph.D. Student Social, thanks to students of the University of Southampton's Web Science Centre for Doctoral Training who invited me to join in them. After an almost 24 hour flight to a strange place, it was fantastic to find some outstanding scholars and to go with them to see a bit of the nightlife without having to be out in an unfamiliar city on my own. Not to mention the excellent networking opportunities and delicious apple pie - one of the traditional desserts of Holland - they offered me.

At the WSTNet Labs Ph.D. Student Social I also met made a new friend who is doing his Ph.D at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and his research area is around Artificial Intelligence (AI). He impressed me through the debates with me about the risk of AI and VR (virtual reality). We also talked about the similarities between these two technologies and the controversial between technologies and humanities. As my research project talks about social media mourning, and my Master thesis focuses on Virtual Reality Social Media, we talked about using VR technology to technologically reinvigorate the departed, for example through building avatars for memebers of families who have passed away. This thought was similar to the episode “Be Right Back” in the breakout British series Black Mirror in which a woman loses her husband in a car accident and, unable to move on, buys an artificially engineered version of him: a breathing, life-like being whose mind and speech is populated by all the details of his digital footprint. We also pushed the discussion to cover the sense of "realness" of the avatar. He mentioned a hypothesis about building the avatar of one person based on the actual thoughts and ideas of that person, and we even looked at this point through the most classical philosophy question: "Who am I?".

In nutshell, all the discussions inspired me to see the same problem from anglea that I've never thought of before, and I think this is one of the biggest, most valueable things for a researcher about attending international conferences.


Father of WWW

On my first day at WebSci'18 I attended the Turing Lecture delivered by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web and the recipient of the 2016 ACM A.M.Turing Award, aka the Nobel Prize for Informatics.  I will never forget the sea of faces that I saw that day. Since I study in Canberra, it is rare to see a place packed with people, like sardines in a tin. Everyone was looking forward to being informed and inspired by such world-renowned scholarly icon. Sir Tim Berners-Lee mainly talked about the history of as well as the current state of the Web. He mentioned cyber-utopia, which I think is the most intrigue part (one reason may be because he used a picture of Hobbiton in the presentation!), and Linked Data which also made me excited as this is the research area which fires up my supervisor's enthusiasm. Another informing point made by Sir Tim Berners-Lee was the suggestion to re-decentralize the Web, which I would like to contribute to through related research in the future.


My presentation

It was a big deal for me to attend and present my paper at the 10th ACM Conference on Web Science in Amsterdam. Before the presentation, many friends that I had met there showed interests in my research project. In particular, they mentioned the title of my paper is eye-catching (Thanks to Terhi!). As this is my first time  at an international conference, if I said I am totally fine and didn't feel nervous, this would definitely be the biggest lie ever. Especially the night before the day I presented, we enjoyed the boat trip through the famous canals of Amsterdam at the WebSci Social Event and Conference Dinner. I was worried that my mind would be stolen by the stunning views of Amsterdam and the delicious food provided by WebSci'18, and I, therefore, couldn't focus on my presentation. When I got back to the hotel, I couldn't even fall asleep. Fortunately, I made it :D


Presenting Research

After the presentation, I stayed for another two attendees' presentation in the same session. One paper that really grabbed me was titled "Analyzing Right-wing YouTube Channels: Hate, Violence and Discrimination". This research reveals the collective conduct of the YouTube community promoting and consuming right-wing content, and it won the WebSci’18 Best Student Paper Award. I also attended another three sessions for learning other scholars' findings. There was another research project also explored Sina Weibo, titled "Opinion Spam and User Classification for Hot Topics on Sina Weibo", which really fascinated me. Before the end of this conference, I attended the final keynote session: "The Future of Semantics on the Web", by John Domingue. This session deepened my enthusiasm on Semantic Web. John spoke about the FAIR principles (i.e., Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable) for data. He also mentioned that "Main role benefits of semantics is its ability to sit between the machine and humans: raising the level of discourse; supporting interoperability; enabling automation."

In short, all the research projects at WebSci'18 are really amazing. This international conference embraces research projects all over the world, enables scholars to meet others, and study Web Science.

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Updated:  22 June 2018/Responsible Officer:  Centre Director/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications