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Lynda Hardman

1960

On the eve of the 1990s, computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee believed it would be pitiful if the pool of information floating on the Internet would do so perpetually unorganized. Rather, he pondered that there would be value in arranging the information into a web-like structure, allowing for creative puzzle-solving where people could “add useful ingredients to each other’s half-formed notions”. By connecting all tiny bits of information together, as he believed, it could even lead to the cure for AIDS. An ingenious maneuver would make it all possible: Hypertext, meaning the coding of words on the Internet in such a way that, when clicked on, they forward the reader immediately to other pieces of relevant information. Perhaps one can already guess the name of Tim’s ‘little’ project. Does ‘the World Wide Web’ ring a bell?

For Scottish computer scientist Lynda Hardman, it was the arrival of Hypertext that heralded for her a prosperous career in Computer Science. It meant the bridge from graduating in Mathematics and Physics at Glasgow University to becoming a part of the computer industry - developing software for processing Hypertext.

Scotland might have been the birthplace of Lynda’s career in Computer Science, but it was in the Netherlands where it blossomed. After moving here to accompany her Dutch husband, the locus of her career would no longer be Hypertext-related software. Nevertheless, it would still very much be connected to the ‘linked data cloud’ that had become the World Wide Web. While holding positions at the Centre for Mathematics and Informatics (CWI) and the universities of Eindhoven and Amsterdam, she wondered how computers could present the enormous pool of Web content to their users in a way that they actually wanted it. In other words, how to make the computer truly ‘understand’ their human counterpart? Currently, as Professor of Multimedia Discourse Interaction at the University of Utrecht, she continues to ponder on that question. Projects she has embarked on over the years, such as the ‘LinkedTV’ and ‘K-Space’, have certainly guided her endeavour. The former, for example, set out to seamlessly interweave television and Web content into “a single, integrated experience”.

Outside of the digital realm, Lynda is - just as much as Tim - interested in bringing together people and their respective knowledge. As the past President of the Informatics Europe Association, she tried to accelerate European ICT-innovation by bringing together people from different countries and organizations. As current director of Amsterdam Data Science, she continues to do so. Moreover, as a member of the Management Team at the CWI, she is eager to promote diversity among its employees. Now, at the age of 59, 234 publications into her career, the University of Utrecht seems to become her final stop: “I hope to stay here until I retire”.

Lynda Hardman

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