WEB SCIENCE IN SE ASIA: CULTIVATING A ‘THAI DIGITAL RENAISSANCE’ THROUGH (RE)INTRODUCING AN INTERDISCIPLINARY SCIENCE IN HIGHER EDUCATION
Inseparable from the communication of knowledge through the World Wide Web, the study of online social interaction and communication in South East (SE) Asia is growing. The teaching of digital media literacy raises challenging debates for those in Higher Education (HE), especially in a burgeoning digital economy such as Thailand. The advances in technology, growth in mobile connectivity and social media have proliferated online political, social and personal movements, as well as providing a convenient alternative for offline communication. Thailand is emerging into a digital renaissance, but its education system is still lacking pedagogy to support learning for young digital natives.
The Thailand 4.0 initiative, a government reform, seeks just that; it challenges Thai HE to innovate teaching a digitally empowered, connected body of students who are now interconnected global actors, shaping complex heterogeneous networks as influencers, users, contributors, and critics. The increase in not only their power but knowledge of how to use the Web, an asset to extend their cultural identity and social capital, raises critical questions about such a burgeoning ‘Thai digital renaissance'. Undoubtedly, we need new ways to equip students as critical learners who can reflect on the inescapable interdisciplinary practice of complicated topics in their study, which includes issues like fake news, revenge pornography, social media journalism and even domestic law in SE Asia, which impact censorship and digital rights.
Problematically, these are not simply social or technical phenomena; they are interwoven, which for students new to thinking critically is hard to comprehend. Yet, an emerging discipline, Web Science, offers an interdisciplinary approach to solve this, one changing the view that studying the Web is technical, so understood through knowing how to make lines of code. In this paper, we conceptually integrate two core knowledge components that are intrinsic to Web Science, that of interdisciplinarity and sociotechnical heterogeneity, with current issues surrounding public opinion in Thailand, to offer a reintroduction, for a new audience of researchers, to a discipline we playfully conclude as #webscithai. So, a call to the academic community of Thailand to embrace a sociotechnical pedagogy useful for educating and empowering students in Thailand as global digital citizens.