Who are the Inhabitants of the World Wide Web?

At our weekly Data Science team meeting, a few weeks ago we watched the talk “Everyday Life in a Data Rich World” of Jon Kleinberg, where he lectured about the evolution and the structure of social relations in big scale networks.


What caught my attention most in this excellent talk, was a quote used by him right at the beginning:

“The emergence of cyberspace and the World Wide Web is like the discovery of a new continent.”
— Jim Gray, 1998 Turing Award

This metaphor stimulates my thinking till today and from now and then, new questions arise out of it. Following the metaphor of “the WWW as a new continent”:

  1. Who are the people living on it?
  2. Where do they come from?
  3. Why are they there?
  4. Who does this new continent attract most and who is excluded from living on it?
  5. What are they doing there?
  6. And finally: What are the interests of science in all this?

Right now, I don’t want to get too deep into discussing it, but some things already seem quite obvious:

  • This is historically the first time scientists get access to such huge amount of data about an global “settlement” activity.
  • As separated this continent is on one side, as connected it is from another point of view.
  • It attracts and excludes some people more than others.
  • The inhabitants of the continent are not representative to the society in general.

But anyway, watch the talk and make your own thoughts (would love to hear about them in the comments section).

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18 thoughts on “Who are the Inhabitants of the World Wide Web?

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