Student profile: Reuben Binns
What was your academic path before coming to the Web Science DTC 4 year MSc/PhD programme?
MSc in Philosophy of Science and Technology from the University of Cambridge.
Why did you choose Web Science?
Having grown up using the web and seeing it evolve, I wanted to understand it more deeply. The interdisciplinary nature of the DTC also appealed to me, especially given that the web is such a complex and multi-faceted phenomenon.
What does the Web mean to you?
The web is has quickly become our primary means of communication, information storage and dissemination. It is not just a collection of static technologies, but a constantly changing medium constructed as much by ordinary users, governments, businesses and other stakeholders as it is by web developers.
Best experience of the course so far?
Meeting all of the other members of the DTC, and finding out about our very varied academic and professional backgrounds.
What Research Areas are you interested in for your MSc/PhD?
My interests currently range quite widely, but centre around two themes.
One is ‘openness’, in relation to the creation and dissemination of knowledge and culture on the web. This includes issues such as the future of intellectual property; free culture and creative commons licensing; non-proprietary funding models. I’m also interested in related topics such as digital rights, privacy, and web censorship; open government data; the ethics of personal data and big data; and – speaking hopelessly broadly here! – policy, politics and social change on the web.
Another set of interests are less normative and more descriptive, and focus on cognitive and epistemological questions about the web. Can ideas in the philosophy of mind, language, artificial intelligence and cognitive science help us understand the web? This area includes questions about the status of distributed knowledge and cognition on the web; the meaning and reference of URIs; and the idea of web-enabled offloading of human cognition.
Some day I hope to connect these apparently disparate themes together in a coherent way(!).
Prior to beginning the DTC, I worked on Handy Elephant, a seed-funded start-up which provides social analytics.
I’m currently co-organising a conference on Free Culture in Europe due to be held at the EU Parliament on 1st-2nd March 2012.
What are your Career ambitions?
I hope to continue as a researcher, whether in an academic institution or elsewhere, in addition to consulting work and not-for-profit projects.
Reuben’s answer to what is Web Science?
Web Science is an interdisciplinary attempt to understand the web, and contribute (in a non-purely-technical way) to engineering its future.