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Strachey Lecture - The Windmills of Your Mind: Reflections of a career in computer science research

Dame Wendy Hall ( University of Southampton )

The Windmills of Your Mind: Reflections of a career in computer science research

How did someone with a PhD in algebraic topology end up advising governments around the world on the ethics of AI and the geopolitics of digital governance? In this talk I will reflect on my career in computer science research - from intelligent tutoring systems, through multimedia and open hypermedia, to the semantic web, web science, and social machines. Somehow all this experience led the government to ask me to co-chair a review of AI policy in the UK which has led to a high profile role in the debate about the future of AI both nationally and internationally. But, as I explore sentiment analysis in Twitter, the application of AI to Chinese Traditional Medicine, the application of topological data analysis to the analysis of social networks and the fragmentation of the internet, my research journey continues. I am never happier than when I’m pushing on disciplinary boundaries and making links between seemingly disparate research areas to tackle a problem from a completely new approach. I learnt at the feet of Ted Nelson that everything is deeply intertwingled, and I’ve always tried to help people make sense of complex interconnected information, like the circles that you find in the windmills of your mind.

The lecture will followed by refreshments. Doors open at 1.30 pm, please be seated by 1.50 pm.

The Strachey Lectures are generously supported by OxFORD Asset Management.

Speaker bio

Dame Wendy Hall, DBE, FRS, FREng is Regius Professor of Computer Science, Pro Vice-Chancellor (International Engagement), and is an Executive Director of the Web Science Institute at the University of Southampton. She was Dean of the Faculty of Physical Science and Engineering from 2010 to 2014, and was Head of the School of Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) from 2002 to 2007.

One of the first computer scientists to undertake serious research in multimedia and hypermedia, she has been at its forefront ever since. The influence of her work has been significant in many areas including digital libraries, the development of the Semantic Web, and the emerging research discipline of Web Science.

Her current research includes applications of the Semantic Web and exploring the interface between the life sciences and the physical sciences. She is Managing Director of the Web Science Trust.

In addition to playing a prominent role in the development of her subject, she also helps shape science and engineering policy and education. Through her leadership roles on national and international bodies, she has shattered many glass ceilings, readily deploying her position on numerous national and international bodies to promote the role of women in SET, and acting as an important role model for others.

She became a Dame Commander of the British Empire in the 2009 UK New Year's Honours list, and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in June 2009.

She was elected President of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) in July 2008, and was the first person from outside North America to hold this position.

Until July 2008, she was Senior Vice President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, was a member of the UK Prime Minister's Council for Science and Technology, and was a founder member of the Scientific Council of the European Research Council. She was President of the British Computer Society (2003-4) and an EPSRC Senior Research Fellow from 1996 to 2002.

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