I must admit that I've tended to be rather sceptical about the whole topic of 'Web Science,' as proposed by the University of Southampton and MIT through their shared Web Science Research Initiative (WSRI).
My initial view was that we really don't need yet another academic subject just to 'permit' us to study the Web, and that we're perfectly well served by the Computer Scientists, Anthropologists, Sociologists, Economists, Psychologists and Neuroscientists that already seek to understand both the Web and its impact upon all of us.
Dame Wendy Hall is Professor of Computer Science at the University of Southampton, and currently President of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). Together with Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Professor Nigel Shadbolt and Daniel J. Weitzner she is a Founding Director of the Web Science Research Initiative.
I spoke with Wendy last week to learn more about Web Science and her views on the Semantic Web, and the result has just been released as a podcast.
During the conversation she speaks persuasively of the need to bring researchers from diverse disciplines together in a space that is not labelled 'Computer Science,' and to find the hooks that will appeal to groups and individuals put off by the nature of gatherings where Computer Science - and Computer Scientists - tend to dominate.
So maybe Web Science isn't an unnecessary 'new' subject, but a label for something that's already happening; a label that provides institutional credibility to an area of research whilst simultaneously allowing the Anthropologist working to understand our use of Twitter to reassure her friends that she's really not doing Computer Science!