Web Science Conference
July 7th - 10th, 2020
Southampton, UK

WebSci’20 Workshop:

Evolutionary thinking for the Web

The Web has been the subject of compelling biological metaphors that liken it to an evolving ecosystem. Analogies of this kind could benefit from further theoretical and empirical examination through the lens of evolutionary and cognitive approaches. This half-day workshop (hosted by the Web Science conference) aims to bring together researchers who work at the intersection of evolution and the Web. Evolutionary approaches are increasingly crossing disciplinary boundaries, including (but not limited to) fields such as network and complexity sciences, anthropology, computer science and social psychology. This workshop provides an opportunity for researchers from these diverse disciplines to come together, exchange views and establish collaboration.

Call for papers [Submission is now closed]

We invite short paper submissions on topics such as:

Contributions should aim, wherever possible, to cross traditional disciplinary boundaries. Papers can be up to 8 pages long and should be formatted according to the ACM SIG Conference proceedings template. Please submit your paper via EasyChair.

Important Dates

April 17, 2020 - Workshop paper submission deadline
April 24, 2020 - Workshop paper submission deadline [extended]
May 15, 2020 - Camera ready papers due
July 7, 2020 - Workshop date

Information regarding conference registration will become available on the official WebSci’20 website.

Workshop Programme

To be confirmed.

Due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19), the workshop will be run online. We will share updates on this webpage and via email to all participants.

Description of Workshop Theme

Evolutionary approaches started becoming popular in the social sciences just over three decades ago, when academics began using mathematical models to explain the emergent diversity and complexity of technologies, language and cultural traits. Today, evolutionary thinking has expanded across scholars from a wide range of disciplines in the natural sciences, social sciences, humanities and complexity sciences. The main premise of this research is that cultural entities change over time through a Darwinian process of “descent with modification”, where small-scale mechanisms operate gradually to create changes that are observable on a larger scale (Mesoudi, 2011).

This kind of thinking complements the intention of Web Science to analyse and discover the microscopic laws that generate observable behaviours and patterns on a large scale (Berners-Lee et al, 2006). Analogies between biological evolution and technological evolution are very pertinent to digital media and software such as the Web. Similar to the role of genomes in living organisms, software encodes and transfers the information that determines how a technology functions and expresses itself (Valverde, 2016). There is also socially generated information, whose transmission and accumulation can be traced online in ways that surpass offline media. This has led researchers to investigate current topics such as the spread of online misinformation, cognitive biases, echo chambers and machine intelligence (Acerbi, 2019; Smart, 2018; Smart, 2017).

The biological roots of evolutionary and cognitive approaches provide not only a compelling theoretical framework, but also a heritage of robust analytic tools that seek to quantify complex and subjective social phenomena. The goal of this workshop will be to introduce evolutionary theory and methods through speakers who have applied them in their own research. We will also invite the participants to share Web Science topics that are of interest to them, so that we can discuss how these themes might be addressed using evolutionary and cognitive approaches.

This workshop will bring into conversation social science and computer science researchers who may not have had the opportunity to come together previously. Scholars, researchers and students at any stage of their career and an interest in Web evolution are invited to participate.


Maria Priestley, University of Southampton
Dr Thanassis Tiropanis, University of Southampton
Professor Tim Sluckin, University of Southampton

If you have any queries, please email Maria Priestley: mp5g15@soton.ac.uk