The Road from Jarrow Docks

The Roads to Wigan Pier
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I have lived in two towns that were destroyed by economic change and government policy. This may explain why I’ve lived in Cambridge for so long, because the place does have resiliency, and the university seems likely to make its millenium. It may also explain a lot about my politics and desire for social justice, fairness and mutualism.

 

I was born in Newcastle in 1960 and my family home was in Jarrow, a town famous for the 1936 Jarrow March [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jarrow_March]  and whose troubles were so eloquently captured by local MP Ellen Wilkinson [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jarrow_March] in her book ‘The Town That Was Murdered’.

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The Open Web and Its Enemies

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This lecture builds on my thinking over many years, going back to my essay Damn the Constitution in 2002[1]. It also owes much to research and thinking done for a lunchtime lecture organised by Digital Repository of Ireland in Dublin in September 2013 and a keynote talk I gave at the UKSG conference in Harrogate, April 16 2014 which was subsequently published in the UKSG journal. It’s also indebted to long conversations and arguments and debate with Wendy Hall, Nigel Shadbolt and other luminaries of Web Science. 

Abstract:

In the age of electronics an open society, one in which questions can be asked, where critical thinking is not just permitted but encouraged and where investigation rather than ideology is used to seek out the truth about the world – the open society according to Karl Popper[2] – has also to be an open data society because reusable, structured data has become the main machine for doing the heavy lifting of moving knowledge around, just as books move ideas around.

The open Web is the most visible expression of that open data society, but it is increasingly undermined by the efforts of government on one side and commercial interests on the other, squeezing the public space occupied by civil society. Web science, grounded in the study of the open network, offers an opportunity both to study the impact of this shift and to propose countermeasures. In his talk Bill Thompson will argue that we can use the tools of Web science to design and build a better and more resilient Web – but that we must move quickly or there will be nothing left to save.

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