Towards a "Mindful" Web

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Slides for my talk at Trinity College, Dublin, on what Web Science means to me.

ABSTRACT

It is common to view any artificially created entity as an extension of our human faculties. So it was with our early understanding of the World Wide Web. In the initial years, the Web was viewed variously as a very large database, a digital library or even as an extension of our thoughts. In this talk, I will argue that, far from the Web being an extension of ourselves, *we* are individual appendages to a large emergent characteristic space created by the Web. This is called the "Socio-Cognitive Space". Much like the "economy" -- an entity created by us, which in turn affects our financial well being, the socio-cognitive space that is created by us in turn influences what we think and even how we feel. The socio-cognitive space can satiate our scientific curiosity or strengthen our cognitive biases, stroke our inner-most desires or make us deeply outraged, create wise crowds or unruly mobs, and create a livelihood or drive people to suicide.

The socio-cognitive space is immersive and specific in its influence. Two people from the same family could be affected very differently by the Web, depending on their own innate characteristics. We are only beginning to understand the impact of this very powerful space, which is only going to increase in the coming years. I will also argue that arguments that view the Web as a whole as a great opportunity or a great threat, are both inherently missing the essence of the socio-cognitive space. Instead, I will draw concepts from Eastern philosophy to view the space as a collective "state of being" characterized by different levels of harmony or disharmony.

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Towards a "Mindful" Web

  1. 1. Talk at Trinity College, Dublin, July 2014 Towards a “Mindful” Web Srinath Srinivasa Web Sciences Lab http://cds.iiitb.ac.in/wsl/ Center for Data Sciences http://cds.iiitb.ac.in/ IIIT Bangalore – India http://www.iiitb.ac.in/
  2. 2. Talk at Trinity College, Dublin, July 2014 Recent additions to our vocabulary ● Social media ● Tweeting ● #hashtags ● SEO ● Wikipedia ● Netbanking ● MOOC ● Crowdsourcing ● Big Data ● Phishing ● Trolling ● SEO ● Cyberstalking ● Cyber squatting ● Identity theft ● Online privacy ● Big Data
  3. 3. Talk at Trinity College, Dublin, July 2014 The World Wide Web What started as a means for managing  documents, is now an integral part of the  lives of more than 360 million users  worldwide Models of the Web Very large database Digital library A cognitive extension of ourselves Socio­cognitive space   Image source: http://info.cern.ch/Proposal.html
  4. 4. Talk at Trinity College, Dublin, July 2014 Web as a Database Early approaches (mid '90s) to  model the Web Focused on the “semi­structured”  nature of the Web and as a  special case of managing  structured (RDBMS) databases Research objectives: structured  and rich query semantics Examples include:  [AMM 97],  [Eng 98], WebQL  An example WebQL query Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WebQL
  5. 5. Talk at Trinity College, Dublin, July 2014 Web as a Digital Library Shift from:  Strict notions of “query”        Looser notions of “retrieval”  and “relevance” Strict notions of “schema”     Looser notions of “ontology”  Emphasis still on retrieving information Web still seen as a passive repository of information Examples: [GR+ 97], [HMA 03]
  6. 6. Talk at Trinity College, Dublin, July 2014 Web as a Cognitive Extension of Ourselves Rooted in Vannevar Bush's interpretation  of hypertext reflecting the way  information is organized in human brains Focus on interpreting hyperlinks, rather  than (just) data on web pages Hyperlink as a(n): – Relevance indicator – Endorsement – Attention pathway Examples: PageRank [BP 98],             HITS [GKR 98]  Memex
  7. 7. Talk at Trinity College, Dublin, July 2014 Web as a Socio­cognitive Space Characteristic paradigm of Web 2.0 approaches Web as an active, participatory, social space  Shift of emphasis from retrieving information from the Web to engaging users  with the Web Characteristic elements of the socio­cognitive space paradigm: Crowdsourcing Participatory authoring (Ex: Wikis) Social bookmarking  Recommendations  Push­based notifications Social media and information diffusion modeling Personalized search
  8. 8. Talk at Trinity College, Dublin, July 2014 The Socio­cognitive Space From web users to web participants Active “behavior molding” from other participants  and web elements (User feedback, likes, +1, ­1;  algorithmic ranking and recommendations) “Ask not what the Web can do for you, ask what you  can do for the Web” “If any online social space provides services for free,  then you are not the customer, you are the product!”
  9. 9. Talk at Trinity College, Dublin, July 2014 The Socio­cognitive Space Immersive and individualized  experience “Karmic” gratification Social nature of mass media Individualized nature of “social” media
  10. 10. Talk at Trinity College, Dublin, July 2014 Survival in the “Space” Three things to know: Actor, agent and identity Spread of ideas versus spread of emotions Crowds, herds and mobs
  11. 11. Talk at Trinity College, Dublin, July 2014 Actor and Agent Two forms of identity: Actor: Our externally projected set of characteristics Agent: Our set of innate characteristics  Actor: Who we are in a social setting Agent: Who we are when we are alone “Moral” Actor and “Selfish” Agent [FSO 14] Agnostic to cultural variations  
  12. 12. Talk at Trinity College, Dublin, July 2014 Actor and Agent Collectives Predominantly­actor societies Society made of people contributing  their “actor” selves to the collective Values collective good over  individual freedom Values manners and political  correctness over direct honesty Low collective dissonance, but high  individual dissonance  Predominantly­agent societies Society made of people contributing  their “agent” selves to the collective Passionate and enthusiastic Values honesty and transparency  over political correctness Lesser individual dissonance, but  may witness more conflicts compared  to predominantly­actor collectives
  13. 13. Talk at Trinity College, Dublin, July 2014 Actor and Agent The web is likely to be a predominantly­agent space Even more so, when participation is anonymous!  Anonymity, invisibility and lack of eye contact brings out the “agent”  and obviates need for the “actor” [NB 12]  Possible explanation for the “online disinhibition effect” [Suler 04] Online social  life likely to be more passionate and more conflict­ prone than offline social lives.
  14. 14. Talk at Trinity College, Dublin, July 2014 Ideas and Emotions Spread of ideas Spreads by dynamics of (bounded)  rationality  Facilitated by connectivity Hampered by “too much” connectivity  (conformance psychology) Needs critical connectivity and  rational motivation Spread of emotions Spreads by emotional contagion Facilitated by connectivity Unhampered by too much connectivity No rational basis for spread Triggered by any form of dissonance
  15. 15. Talk at Trinity College, Dublin, July 2014 Entrenchment and the Diffusion of  Ideas Information diffusion is faster in sparsely connected parts of a network,  rather than densely connected (entrenched) parts due to conformance effects. Node d in the above figure does not switch to the new idea because of  conformance pressures from nodes e, f and g Image Source: [Sri 06]
  16. 16. Talk at Trinity College, Dublin, July 2014 Mental Models, Weak Ties and the  Emotional Contagion
  17. 17. Talk at Trinity College, Dublin, July 2014 Mental Models, Weak Ties and the  Emotional Contagion
  18. 18. Talk at Trinity College, Dublin, July 2014 Mental Models, Weak Ties and the  Emotional Contagion
  19. 19. Talk at Trinity College, Dublin, July 2014 Mental Models, Weak Ties and the  Emotional Contagion
  20. 20. Talk at Trinity College, Dublin, July 2014 Mental Models, Weak Ties and the  Emotional Contagion
  21. 21. Talk at Trinity College, Dublin, July 2014 Mental Models, Weak Ties and the  Emotional Contagion
  22. 22. Talk at Trinity College, Dublin, July 2014 The Web  and the  Emotional Contagion Spread of ideas hampered by entrenchment effects and conformance  pressures Spread of emotions facilitated in entrenched and tightly­knit  networks Interactions over the Web typically span across mental models Interaction across mental­models increases dissonance and  emotionally charged conversations Emotions spread faster on the Web than ideas!
  23. 23. Talk at Trinity College, Dublin, July 2014 The Wisdom of Crowds..
  24. 24. Talk at Trinity College, Dublin, July 2014 Crowdsourcing is all fine, but.. Not all groups of people form “wise” crowds!
  25. 25. Talk at Trinity College, Dublin, July 2014 Crowds, Herds and Mobs Crowds – A shared­attention group debating about a topic – Rich in diversity of viewpoints and argumentation – Wisdom of the Crowd Herds – A shared mental­model group, all possessing the same or similar beliefs – Potent in strength of conviction of beliefs – Unwise as a collective and potentially manipulable  – Herd Mentality Mobs – A shared emotional­state group, all possessing the same emotional state, but no shared  mental model or attention – Extremely unpredictable, unwise and potent as a collective – Mob fury
  26. 26. Talk at Trinity College, Dublin, July 2014 Crowds, Herds and Mobs Crowds: Members act as individuals High cognitive load Unstable Herds: Members comply to collective Low cognitive load Stable Mobs: Deindividualized members No self-awareness as individuals Expansive degeneration
  27. 27. Talk at Trinity College, Dublin, July 2014 Perspectives towards the Web The Web is an  Opportunity The Web is a Threat                         The Web is.
  28. 28. Talk at Trinity College, Dublin, July 2014 The “Mindful” Web From: Web as an object of interest Problem­solving   Objectification (de­personalization) Transactional and specific  interventions Imperative control actions (Do this,  Do that..) To: Web as a collective state of being Harmonizing Self­awareness  Ongoing relationship with generic  interventions Declarative control actions (This needs to  be achieved..)
  29. 29. Talk at Trinity College, Dublin, July 2014 The “Mindful” Web WWW Web-state modeling center(s) Web observatory Participatory web site
  30. 30. Talk at Trinity College, Dublin, July 2014 Engineering a “Mindful” Web One or more “State of the Web” model­building centers Powered by inputs from a distributed array of “Web Observatories” Providing strategic, declarative, aggregate­level inputs to  participatory websites like social media sites Managed in an open and transparent fashion by public   endowments
  31. 31. Talk at Trinity College, Dublin, July 2014 Towards a “Mindful” Web Rich area of inter­disciplinary research Several open problems – including legal and ethical  dilemmas  Ex: Is it advisable to dampen the spread of some news  simply because it can induce an intense negative  emotional reaction? Web Science : Humanities :: Cognition : Being Human
  32. 32. Talk at Trinity College, Dublin, July 2014 Thank You! All images used in this presentation have a CC public license or their licensing terms were unspecified. Copyright rests with the creators. Icons source: http://findicons.com/ http://velyrhorde.livejournal.com/73019.html
  33. 33. Talk at Trinity College, Dublin, July 2014 References [AMM 97] G.O. Arocena, A.O. Meldelzon and G.A. Mihaila, Applications of a Web query language, in: Proc. of the 6th  International World Wide Web Conference, April 7–11, 1997, Santa Clara, California, USA,  http://www6.nttlabs.com/HyperNews/get/PAPER267.html [GR+ 97] Gudivada, V.N.; Raghavan, V.V.; Grosky, William I; Kasanagottu, R., "Information retrieval on the World  Wide Web," Internet Computing, IEEE , vol.1, no.5, pp.58,68, Sep/Oct 1997 [BP 98] Sergey Brin and Lawrence Page. 1998. The anatomy of a large­scale hypertextual Web search engine. In  Proceedings of the seventh international conference on World Wide Web 7 (WWW7), Philip H. Enslow, Jr. and Allen  Ellis (Eds.). Elsevier Science Publishers B. V., Amsterdam, The Netherlands, The Netherlands, 107­117.  [Eng 98] Carlos F. Enguix. 1998. Database querying on the World Wide Web: UniGuide, an object­relational search  engine for Australian universities. Comput. Netw. ISDN Syst. 30, 1­7 (April 1998), 567­572. DOI=10.1016/S0169­ 7552(98)00080­4 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0169­7552(98)00080­4 [GKR 98] David Gibson, Jon Kleinberg, and Prabhakar Raghavan. 1998. Inferring Web communities from link topology.  In Proceedings of the ninth ACM conference on Hypertext and hypermedia : links, objects, time and space­­­structure in  hypermedia systems: links, objects, time and space­­­structure in hypermedia systems (HYPERTEXT '98). ACM, New  York, NY, USA, 225­234.   [HMA 03] Ian Horrocks, Deborah L. McGuinness, and Christopher A. Welty. 2003. Digital libraries and web­based  information systems. In The description logic handbook, Franz Baader, Diego Calvanese, Deborah L. McGuinness,  Daniele Nardi, and Peter F. Patel­Schneider (Eds.). Cambridge University Press, New York, NY, USA 427­449.
  34. 34. Talk at Trinity College, Dublin, July 2014 References [Suler 04] Suler, John. "The online disinhibition effect." Cyberpsychology & behavior 7.3 (2004): 321­326. [NB 12] Lapidot­Lefler, Noam, and Azy Barak. "Effects of anonymity, invisibility, and lack of eye­contact  on toxic online disinhibition." Computers in Human Behavior 28.2 (2012): 434­443.  [FSO 14] Frimer, J. A., N. K. Schaefer, and H. Oakes. "Moral actor, selfish agent." Journal of personality  and social psychology 106.5 (2014): 790­802. Google IR Research http://research.google.com/pubs/InformationRetrievalandtheWeb.html When crowdsourcing goes wrong: Reddit, Boston and missing student Sunil Tripathi  http://www.newstatesman.com/world­affairs/2013/04/when­crowdsourcing­goes­wrong­reddit­boston­and­m issing­student­sunil­tripathi The 5 Most Entertaining Crowdsourcing Disasters  http://www.businessinsider.com/the­5­most­entertaining­crowdsourcing­disasters­2009­9/ifail­20­1?IR=T# ifail­20­1 The Story Behind the Worst Movie on IMDb  http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the­story­behind­the­worst­movie­on­imdb/   Web Observatory http://wstweb1.ecs.soton.ac.uk/web­observatory/  

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