Professor Dame Wendy Hall

Meet Science Festival Guest Director, Dame Wendy Hall

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What area of development are you most excited about right now?

I’m passionate about the study of the Web, which is called Web Science. It’s very interdisciplinary; it’s not just computer scientists. We involve social scientists, psychologists, lawyers, economists, mathematicians, management, the humanities, etc. In the Web we have created a complex sociotechnical system. And we create the web by putting content on it – that’s why it grows. I find Web Science exciting because it’s both intellectually stimulating as well as multidisciplinary.

What do you think we’ll all be doing differently in 10 years’ time?

We will all be working differently in and around the Web. Communication is a fundamental driver for the human race. For people, one of the worst things you can do to them is solitary confinement. We’ll always find ways to communicate and ways to be in other people’s presence. All of this will be easier in 10 years’ time and technology will be the basis for this. But this raises interesting questions about the virtual and physical worlds. How much do we need to be together virtually and how much physically? Is being together virtually the same as being in the same room? Using online learning as an example, how important is it to be physically together for the learning environment? As the digital and physical worlds evolve, how will this change our behaviours? Will we want to travel as much?

How would you like to be remembered?

I’d like to be remembered as someone who made a difference; someone who inspired others to get involved.

What do you love about the Cheltenham Science Festival?

What I love about the Cheltenham Science Festival is the appetite for science I see there. From children all the way through to senior citizens, the audiences, as well as the topics, are so diverse and people just love it! The thing that really surprises me is how much science is packed into the Festival.
It seems that the interest in science is increasing across the board these days. When I was a child, science was something you did at school and that was it. Although I still do worry that we aren’t getting enough students to do science degrees, despite the increased appetite.