Sometimes academia can be more of a calling than a career. I’ve spent the last few years balancing freelance work with family responsibilities; immediately before that, I was doing applied research. For all that, I find it satisfying to engage in blue skies thinking from time to time… especially if it’s villanous!

"Aviators"
(“Aviators” by katylevinson, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)

It was, as ever, a pleasure to work with Mark Bernstein on a paper for this year’s Hypertext conference, originating from our discussions on “Web Science for good”. Mark is talented at capturing people’s imagination: I’ll never forget his poetic delivery, at WebSci11, of his analysis of the fragility of the Web’s long tail. The twist of delivering this fresh analysis as a villainous guide, rather than something rather more dry, is entirely Mark’s creativity.

Our paper is entitled A Villain’s Guide to Social Media and Web Science. It’s in the Blue Sky Ideas track, and was awarded second place in the track. Here’s the abstract:

If we have not yet achieved planetary super-villainy on the desktop, it may be feasible to fit it into a suburban office suite. Social media and Web science permit the modern villain to deploy traditional cruelties to great and surprising effect. Because the impact of villainous techniques is radically asymmetric, our fetid plots are difficult and costly to foil.

Sad to say, I shan’t be making it to the conference myself, but I’m certain you’re in for a treat if you can attend Mark’s presentation of our work.