Examining the Architecture of the Web: Social Implications of a Universal Information Space

Harry Halpin
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The Web is without a doubt the most significant computational phenomenon yet, a universal information space that reflects our increasingly global society. Surprisingly, at its start the Web was based on no firm theoretical principles. This lack of standardization nearly destroyed the Web during the "browser wars", yet was saved by the standardization efforts of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The W3C is a non-profit organization founded by Tim Berners-Lee (inventor of the Web) to "promote its evolution and ensure its interoperability." After years of deliberation the open calls for comments, the W3C has produced the document "The Architecture of the Web" that aims to articulate the principles behind the Web. We examine the text of this document and the W3C itself with an eye towards the social implications of the ideas of universality and digital sovereignty, particularly as present in current theories of globalization and democracy as articulated by Hardt and Negri. Their principles of "interoperability, evolution, and decentralization" are examined in light of the goals of "universal access, Semantic Web, and the Web of Trust," using the philosophically rigorous information theory of Dretske to ground the often amorphous terminology present in the document itself.

Keywords: The World Wide Web, Information, Universality, W3C, Architecture of the Web, Empire
Stream: Technology in Community, Knowledge and Technology
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Examining the Architecture of the Web

Harry Halpin

Postgraduate Researcher, Institute of Communicating and Collaborative Systems School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh

Harry Halpin is a postgraduate researcher, working primarily with Henry S. Thompson (W3C/University of Edinburgh) over the architecture of the Web and the social and philosophical implications thereof. His current interests include search engines (such as the Web Proper Name proposal), the integration of natural language technology and the Web, and schemas for web documents. He has also been active in independent media, such as the Scotland Independent Media Centre, and an activist in globalization issues.

Ref: T05P0084