June 24 – 29 , 2018, Dagstuhl Perspectives Workshop 18262

10 Years of Web Science: Closing The Loop


Susan Halford (University of Southampton, GB)
James A. Hendler (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute – Troy, US)
Eirini Ntoutsi (Leibniz Universität Hannover, DE)
Steffen Staab (Universität Koblenz-Landau, DE)

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List of Participants
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Dagstuhl Perspectives Workshop Schedule [pdf]


The Web changes the world and the world changes the Web. In order to understand this interaction, Web Science was launched as a field about 10 years ago [1]. Web Science seeks to understand the past and present of the Web and to shape its future by understanding the Web and its many different aspects: mathematical underpinnings, technical engineering, and social and legal impacts [2].

Ten years later the Web reaches far beyond computer science, which in the early days, laid out the technical foundations. The vast amount of research that has been undertaken in the last ten years in Web Science mostly refers to analytics in order to understand the online activities of individuals and communities. Research also links these digital traces to analysis of offline activities that are shaped by and shape the Web.

However, scientific investigation of the Web as a complex sociotechnical system should also include experimental methods that test research hypotheses in controlled environments.

Some notable efforts in this direction already exist. Facebook, for example, manipulated the feeds of random users by controlling the amount of positive and negative posts in a psychological study to examine how emotions can be spread on social media [3]. The study resulted in interesting findings like moods being contagious, however the users who were selected for the emotion-altering project experiment were not asked for explicit permission.

Such incidents have provoked widespread public concern, and it is clear that there is a lack of agreement, expertise and ethics knowledge about how to do experimental Web research. The scale, reach and immediacy of the Web makes this a hugely promising approach for Web Science. But, currently there is no agreement, expertise, or ethics knowledge on how to go from Web Analytics to experimentation and intervention.

The main objective of this Dagstuhl Perspectives Workshop is how to do robust, scientifically interesting Web experimentation without violating ethical and legal norms. This is of concern to Web Science researchers across all disciplines. Accordingly, the workshop seeks the widest possible input and collaboration in order to achieve our objective.


  1. T. Berners-Lee, W. Hall, J. Hendler, N. Shadbolt, and D. Weitzner, Creating a Science of the Web, Science, 311, 2006.
  2. Web science manifesto. Accessed: 2017-04-15.
  3. Facebook tinkers with users emotions in news feed experiment, stirring outcry. Accessed: 2017-04-15.

  Creative Commons BY 3.0 DE
  Susan Halford, James A. Hendler, Erini Ntoutsi, and Steffen Staab


  • Society / Human-computer Interaction
  • World Wide Web / Internet


  • Web Science
  • Social Experiments
  • Intervention
  • Nudging

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Books from the participants of the current Seminar 

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