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