While the Web has drastically expanded opportunities for diverse populations to engage in global discussions and contribute to online content, questions on how to expand online inclusivity and better attend to a politics of representation remain pertinent to Web Science.  In their monograph, “Web Science: Understanding the Emergence of Macro-Level Features on the World Wide Web,” O’Hara et al set forth that the scientific study of the Web hinges on considering how micro-level actions emerge into macro-level phenomena. The goal of this workshop is to reflect on these micro-level actions from the standpoint of users who have been habitually excluded from or misrepresented in Web environments and to consider how these divides play a role in shaping macro-level phenomena. In doing so, the workshop aims to facilitate interdisciplinary discussions that consider how Web standards, technologies, platforms, and research methodologies could be improved so as to increase inclusivity and refocus representation on the Web.


This workshop is framed in terms of ‘divides’ both strategically and with caution.  For too long, a focus on ‘bridging the digital divide’ has privileged concerns about access to digital technologies over the design and research decisions that facilitate exclusion and misrepresentation.  In one sense, this traditional focus narrows the scope of ‘divides’ to those who have access to digital technology v. those that do not, ignoring the diversity of users with access, the role of architecture in causing exclusion, and the role of certain research methodologies in establishing a politics of representation. In another sense, the traditional focus forecloses rich interdisciplinary collaborations; bridging the digital divide becomes a mutually exclusive activity where social scientists point out excluded populations and computer scientists design and deliver.  Instead, this workshop will aim to reinvigorate the concept of ‘divides’ with a focus on how social scientists and computer scientists can draw on each other’s expertise in order to offer insights on how Web standards, technologies, and platforms can be restructured to enhance participation and engagement with the Web amongst diverse populations.  It will additionally consider how research studying the Web as complex socio-technical system can better attend to those who have been excluded from or poorly represented in Web environments.


In adopting this focus on exclusion and representation, the workshop aims to draw diverse and marginal social theory into Web Science discussions – particularly scholarship from feminist, post-colonial, and critical race traditions.  In social science disciplines, such scholarship has been integral for illuminating how marginalities can be both discursively and technologically constructed.  Fields peripherally related to Web Science, including information science and the digital humanities, have already begun engaging with such scholarship in order to consider how the design and study of the Web can produce silences amongst marginal populations.  In drawing this scholarship into Web Science, the workshop aims to open space for discussion on how to better attend to marginalities when studying the use and expansion of the Web.  At the same time, the workshop aims to collect empirical cases that exemplify why an attention to divides is so critical to Web Science.  The organizers hope that both social scientists and computer scientists can draw from their experiences designing and studying the Web in order to provide concrete examples of exclusion and misrepresentation and to offer potential points of intervention.

The workshop has been designed to first provoke participants to think through the implications of existing divides on the study and design of the Web.  We will be inviting a keynote speaker to offer initial questions and provocations on exclusions and misrepresentations in Web design and research.  After this, several short peer-reviewed papers will be presented; following every two papers, a discussant will speak to the papers’ common themes and unique insights.  The workshop will conclude with open discussion.  During this time, we will aim to address the questions brought up in response to the keynote and workshop papers and to draft an agenda for incorporation of such insights into broader forms of Web Science research.

The organizers aim for workshop participants to come away with several take-aways:

  1. To consider how existing scholarship speaking to divides can inform Web Science research
  2. To recognize how marginalization can be produced through particular Web configurations
  3. To consider how marginal populations can be better represented in research conducted on the Web
  4. To consider how to design Web standards, technologies, and platforms to better attend to excluded populations
  5. To recognize the ways in which social scientists and computer scientists can collaborate to meet such goals



Relevant topics may include but are not limited to:

  • Access and opportunities for engagement
  • Inequality of access and inequality of representation
  • Visibilities and invisibilities
  • Postcolonial/feminist/critical race viewpoints on the Web
  • Resistance and quirky approaches to Web use
  • Marginalization on the Web
  • Politics of data ideologies, practices, and visualizations
  • Politics of Web architectures and platforms
  • Examples of Web technologies that consider marginalized users


Schedule of papers, panels, and talks

14:00 – 14:05 Introduction workshop and guest speaker (Lindsay Poirier)

14:05 – 14:30 Initial thoughts and provoking questions (Helen Kennedy) + discussion

14:30 – 15:30 Presentations (6 minutes each) and discussion

Internet Pornography: Inclusion and exclusion? (Abigail Whitmarsh)

This is for everyone? Steps towards decolonizing the Web (Jessica Ogden, Susan Halford, Les Carr and Graeme Earl)

Atheism on YouTube (Gareth Beeston and Nawar Halabi)

Black Twitter: Rethinking Digital Divides (Sanjay Sharma)

The challenges of going online (Sora Park)

Open Data: The Digital Divide as Function of Size of Organisation (Mark Frank and Johanna Walker)

15:30-16:00 Break

16:00-16:40 Group discussion and general discussion

16:40-17:00 Discuss concrete next steps