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Conference at British Library will explore ethics and the Web

Behaviour and morals online, including this week’s Wikileaks scenario, will be discussed at a workshop on 'Ethics and the World Wide Web', which will be held at the Foyle Centre in the British Library tomorrow (Thursday 2 December).

The workshop is being held as part of the British Library's Growing Knowledge exhibition, and is co-sponsored by The Web Science Trust, which was established in 2009 to advance education and research in Web Science for the public benefit.

The workshop will focus on the fact that although the World Wide Web is the most complex piece of technology ever engineered and has transformed almost every aspect of everyday life, little is known about appropriate ethical behaviour online. The workshop will try to improve our understanding of what that stronger ethic will need to be.

Questions to be explored include:

• Does the Web as an information space need special ethical consideration?

• How has the Web changed our moral view of ourselves?

• How do moral norms apply to artificial agents?

• What are our responsibilities as Web engineers and designers?

• What are our responsibilities as website managers and content creators?

• Does the Web assume a liberal culture with unrestricted information flow? Can it be adapted to less liberal regimes, and if so, should it?

• What norms of behaviour does the Web depend upon?

• How should researchers approach open data online?

• What is the public’s understanding of “public” on social networking sites, search facilities and other services?

• What should researchers think about when collecting data, analysing it and disseminating their findings?

Dr Kieron O’Hara of the Web Science Trust, and a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Southampton’s School of Electronics and Computer Science (ECS), is keynote speaker at the event. He said: "The Web is a new space and we don't know yet what is right and wrong online. At the workshop, we will question what rights and responsibilities we bring with us to the Web.

“For example, the ethics of this week’s Wikileaks situation are complex and controversial, and no doubt everyone has an opinion. From the point of view of Web Science, the debate extends beyond the rights and wrongs of Wikileaks’ actions, to consider the ways that the use of the Web as a medium has changed the situation.”

To explore these issues, the workshop has invited keynote speeches, panel discussions and debate with an invited audience of practising engineers, academic researchers and philosophers.

The keynote speakers, in addition to Kieron O’Hara, are Luciano Floridi (University of Hertfordshire/University of Oxford) and Jeroen van den Hoven (Delft University of Technology).

The panellists include:

• Martin Moore (Media Standards Trust)

• Nigel Shadbolt (University of Southampton)

• Yorick Wilks (Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition/University of Oxford)

• David Wright (Trilateral Research)

Aleks Krotoski, Researcher-in-Residence, Growing Knowledge, British Library, who will present a session on: 'Introduction to Growing Knowledge: the Evolution of Research' said: "As we learn to navigate the World Wide Web for scholarship, we must take into consideration the people behind the machines. This demands new concepts of research ethics and practice, and a reflection on the relationship between online researcher and virtual participant."

Growing Knowledge – the Evolution of Research (12 October 2010 – 16 July 2011) showcases some never-seen-before research tools, thought-provoking content and futuristic design in a fully interactive research environment. The exhibition aims to challenge audiences on how research is changing and ask what they want to experience from the library of the future. The Library has worked closely with Researcher in Residence, Aleks Krotoski to ensure that visitors will not only experience an exhibition not seen before at the Library but also engage with the ongoing debate about the usefulness of these technologies in tomorrow’s Library.

Posted by Joyce Lewis on 01 Dec 2010.