Tutor Interview Series: Mark Weal – Democracy


Briefly tell me what your session is going to be about –
In this session we are going to consider the democratic nature of the Web and the ways in democracy is being used in the political process by both governments and activists. Increasingly governments might see the Web as a tool for improving transparency, broadcasting information, driving innovation or even improving trust in the democratic process. We will look at the use of open government data towards these aims and explore an example of the publication of national crime statistics through and activity and a discussion. We will also look in depth at the role that the Web increasingly plays in activism, as alternative voices embrace the technologies to try and effect change.

What are the main aims you want to achieve? –
We want to illustrate the wide range of ways in which the Web permeates the political sphere and how for governments it can both be a force for openness and transparency, yet often something that they may desire to control. An appreciation of the complexities of the issues in this area will be gained and  some insight into the types of research methodology that have to be adopted in order to understand the role of the Web in this area.

How will the learners benefit? –
Students will benefit by gaining a better understanding of how specific Web technologies support agendas such as the publishing of open data and a greater perspective on the complexities of the Web’s engagement in democratic processes and the difficulties of balancing the openness of the Web with respect for individuals privacy and a desire to restrict the use of the Web for extremist or anti-government agendas.

What excites you most about delivering this session within the Web Science MOOC? –
I think it has been a wonderful opportunity to show that understanding the Web involves far more than just understanding a set of technologies and infrastructures. The Web is created by people and the way in which they use it and is an ever evolving, highly complex system. To truly undertand it and to help society to benefit from the Web we need to use a wide range of research methods and draw on insights from many different disciplines.