This house believes that open technology and standards have widened social injustice.

Doors open at 7pm, debate starts at 8pm.
Buy Tickets or £20 / £10 (concessions) on the door.

Open technology and standards have driven a revolution in the way that information is created, consumed, shared and commented upon. From medical advice to fake news, almost anything can be found, at any time, by anyone, wherever they may be.

Many might assume that the free-flow of information has reinforced the three tenets of social justice: liberty, equality and fraternity. The Internet age has freed voices that weren’t previously heard, spread education and wealth, and brought communities together.

But is there a darker side to the information revolution that has, in fact, widened social injustice? Has it created a divide between those who control information and those who consume it; between the young who understand the new technology and the old who don’t; between the rich who have access to the latest electronic gadgets and the poor who can’t afford to get connected online.

On the 20th anniversary of the publication of the first XML standard, leading information scientists come together to debate whether their creation, and the technology that has followed, have increased liberty, equality and fraternity or have widened social injustice across the world.


This house believes that open technology and standards have widened social injustice.

Doors open at 7pm, debate starts at 8pm.
Buy Tickets or £20 / £10 (concessions) on the door.

Irina Bolychevsky Irina Bolychevsky.

Irina Bolychevsky is passionate about products and using technology to make things better. She spent many years working on open data at Open Knowledge (as one of the directors and ckan product owner), at web startups, and recently as a data consultant for the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), Open Data Institute and the UK and Dubai governments.

She co-founded — a project to promote and bring together people working on and interested in decentralised digital technologies.

Michael Kay  Dr Michael Kay.

Mike Kay Ph.D FBCS is the editor of the W3C XSLT 2.0 and 3.0 language specifications for performing XML transformations, and the developer of the Saxon XSLT and XQuery processing software.

He was educated at Salesian College in Farnborough, and then went to Trinity College, Cambridge to read Natural Sciences. He gained his Doctor of Philosophy degree while working on databases in the Computer Laboratory, University of Cambridge, under the supervision of Maurice Wilkes.

He spent over twenty years (1977-2001) with the British computer manufacturer International Computers Limited (ICL). He was appointed an ICL Fellow in 1990. On leaving ICL, he worked for three years with Software AG before forming his own company, Saxonica.


Jean Paoli Jean Paoli.
Jean Paoli is the Founder of Classify & Process Inc., a startup for enterprise users in the domain of productivity, machine learning and semi-structured data and documents, – inspired by his deep belief that openness and interoperability raises all boats.He was formerly President of Microsoft Open Technologies, Inc., and one of the co-creators of the XML 1.0 standard with the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

Throughout his career, Jean has worked in startups: before Microsoft, with Inria, the renowned French research Labs (Gipsi S.A. and Grif S.A.); and within Microsoft creating four new startups: XML, InfoPath, opening the Office formats and MS OpenTech (Microsoft’s open source subsidiary). The startups he built created breakthrough platform technologies used today by millions.

He is the recipient of multiple industry awards for his work on XML, semi-structured data, the convergence of documents and data and openness at large.

In addition to core technical design, Jean takes deep care at building healthy ecosystems at worldwide scale. He is credited as one of the key leaders responsible for shifting in a fundamental way, under the guidance of the CEO, Microsoft’s strategy to embrace and love open source.

Massimo Ragnedda Massimo Ragnedda.
Massimo Ragnedda (PhD) is a Senior Lecturer in Mass Communication at Northumbria University, Newcastle, UK where he conducts research on the digital divide and social media. He is the co-vice chair of the Digital Divide Working Group (IAMCR).

He has authored ten books with his publications appearing in numerous peer-reviewed journals, and book chapters in English, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese texts. His books include: Digital Inclusion. An International Comparative Analysis (co-edited with Bruce Mutsvairo), Lexington Books 2018; Theorizing the Digital Divide (co-edited with G Muschert), Routledge (2017); The third Digital Divide: a Weberian approach to Digital Inequalities (2017), Routledge; The Digital Divide: The Internet and Social Inequality in International Perspective (co-edited with G Muschert) (2013), Routledge.

Anna Scott Anna Scott.
Anna Scott is Head of Content at the Open Data Institute. She manages research and outputs across the ODI’s programmes to support its vision for people, organisations and communities to use data to make better decisions and be protected from any harmful impacts. Anna is also an ODI Registered Trainer and presents the ODI Podcast.

Anna’s background is in human rights and global development, having covered them as a specialist journalist at the Guardian and, before that, contributed to programmes and policy outreach at the Center for Global Development in Europe.

Norm Walsh Norm Walsh.
Norm Walsh will be the chairman of our debate. For many years, he has been active in international standards efforts at both the Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C) and the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS).

At the W3C, Norm was chair of the XML Processing Model Working Group, co-chair of the XML Core Working Group, and an editor in the XQuery and XSLT Working Groups. He served for several years as an elected member of the Technical Architecture Group.

At OASIS, he was chair of the DocBook Technical Committee for many years and is the author of “DocBook: The Definitive Guide”.

Norm has spent more than twenty years developing commercial and open source software and is a Principal Engineer at MarkLogic Corporation where he helps to develop APIs and tools for advanced content applications.

Wanda Wyporska Dr Wanda Wyporska.
Dr Wanda Wyporska, FRSA is Executive Director at The Equality Trust, where she leads the work of the organisation in its mission to improve the quality of life in the UK by reducing social and economic inequality. She is also a Visiting Fellow at the University of York.

In her previous role, she established a vibrant equalities function at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, founded the Safer Schools Network and led the union’s work on anti-bullying, child poverty, social mobility and violence against women and girls. Between 2006-2012, she worked with business and trade unions at unionlearn, the TUC’s learning project, funded by governments of all hues. 

Wanda was a Starun Senior Scholar at Hertford College, Oxford, where she was awarded a doctorate in European History and subsequently published her first book, Witchcraft in Early Modern Poland 1500-1800 in 2013. It was shortlisted for the Katharine Brigs Folklore Award. She has spoken at various literary events, conferences and seminars and regularly comments in the media, having appeared on BBC Radio 4’s The Moral Maze and on BBC 1’s The Big Questions.


This house believes that open technology and standards have widened social injustice.

Doors open at 7pm, debate starts at 8pm.
Buy Tickets or £20 / £10 (concessions) on the door.

The XML Debate will follow the normal conventions of an Oxford Union debate.

On entry to the chamber, the audience will cast their vote for or against the motion.

The Chairman will briefly outline the format and etiquette of the debate and call upon the first speaker.

The first speaker for the Proposition will introduce the other speakers and propose the motion. The Chairman will then call the first speaker for the Opposition, who will start by introducing the first speaker for the Proposition and then present the opposing position. The Chairman will then call upon the second apeakers for each side, after which he will open the debate to the floor.

Anyone in the chamber may make a speech from the floor, in proposition or opposition, having first been called upon by the Chairman, who will try to ensure that everyone wishing to speak is given that opportunity. Speeches can be as short as you like, but no longer than 2 minutes.

On conclusion of speeches from the floor, the Chairman will call upon the third speakers for the Proposition and Opposition to close the debate.

The audience will again cast their votes for or aganist the motion as they exit the chamber. The results of the debate will be announced afterwards in the bar – whether the motion was carried and the side which gained audience votes between entrance and exit.


Speeches in Proposition or Opposition shall be no longer than 8 minutes. Speeches from the floor shall be no longer than 2 minutes.

The audience may only interrupt  using a Point of Information or a Point of Order.

Point of Information: The speaker can choose to accept or refuse a point of information. This type of interruption should be used to clarify or question a point of information raised by the speaker, and not to express an opinion.

Point of Order: Speakers must give way to a point of order. Such an interruption must only be used to draw attention to an abuse of the Forms of the House, such as a slanderous remark that the speaker may  wish to withdraw.


This house believes that open technology and standards have widened social injustice.

Doors open at 7pm, debate starts at 8pm.
Buy Tickets or £20 / £10 (concessions) on the door.

The XML Debate runs in association with the XML Summer School. Ticket options are shown below and can be purchased online. Or attend as a delegate of the  XML Summer School.

Doors open at 7pm. The debate starts promptly at 8pm and is due to finish at 10pm. The bar will be open before the debate and afterwards, for announcement of the result.

Dinner will be served from 7pm – a cold buffet with wine and soft drinks. Accommodation is in a single or twin room at St Edmund Hall (a delightful 10 minute walk away) and includes breakfast.

Debate Only – £20

Debate Only, for those in full time education – £10

Debate and Dinner – £44

Debate and Accommodation – £68

Debate, Dinner and Accommodation – £92

To book, please visit our online booking page.

Buy Tickets