From its inception, the World Wide Web endeavours to be an open and free space for all for information and knowledge sharing and informed public democratic debate (see for example the ACM Turing Award lecture by Tim Berners-Lee at WebSci’18), in other words, “to serve humanity”. Still, there are many barriers and obstacles to this ideal, a situation commonly characterized as the Digital Divide.
Several billion people especially in the Global South do not have access to Internet/Web for reasons of lacking (affordable) infrastructure, poverty, low literacy, lack of digital skills, language, etc., and are thus digitally excluded.
But “the fringes of the Web” are not just a matter of the Global South. In the Global North, despite being technologically “advanced”, we also see severe digital inequalities and power disparities, in part for the same reasons and in part due to the Web being exploited as a centralized surveillance and money-making machine, controlled by big parties such as states and big corporations, thus creating further inequalities and exclusion.
In this workshop, we aim to bring together ongoing research on the Web and the Digital Divide and on what to do about it. Apart from empirically grounded (case) studies and theoretical analyses of mechanisms behind digital inequalities, we also seek, in view of recent initiatives such as Digital Humanism or Tim Berners Lee’s SOLID initiative, programmatic or solution design-oriented work from multiple disciplines, and concrete experiences on what scientists and professionals can do to help redress matters of digital inequality and exclusion. We encourage work rooted in the Global South, as both topics of interest for and authors from the Global South are underrepresented in Web Science, but also welcome work addressing matters of the Digital Divide and underprivileged communities in the Global North.
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