Communication and Social Networks (Spring 2020)
- COM 411: Communication and Social Networks
- Location: BRNG 2273
- Class Hours: Tuesdays and Thursdays; 3:00-4:15pm
- Instructor: Jeremy Foote
- Email: email@example.com
- Office Hours: Thursdays; 12:30-2:30pm; BRNG 2156
Course Overview and Learning Objectives
Communication is inherently a social process. This class focuses on understanding how the structure of relationships between people influence communication patterns and behavior. This perspective can help us to understand a broad set of phenomena, from online communities to friendships to businesses.
Students who complete this course will be able to:
- Understand the foundations of social network theory and analysis.
- Critically read and comprehend concepts, results, and implications presented in studies of social networks.
- Learn how networks are related to the social phenomena of their own interests.
- Gain a basic understanding of gathering network data and analyzing them using the programming language R.
Required resources and texts
We will be meeting in a computer lab and you are welcome to use the lab computers for the in-class work that we are doing. In addition, I have ensured that the software we are using is also installed in the lab in the basement of Beering. If you choose to use your own computer, you need a machine with at least 2GB of memory. Windows, Mac OS, and Linux are all fine but an iPad or Android tablet won't work.
- Required text: Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age by Duncan Watts. I will list required chapters in the weekly notes below.
- Other readings: Other readings will be made available on Blackboard.
Additional readings and resources
- Barabasi, A-‐L. (2002). Linked: The new science of networks. Cambridge, MA: Perseus.
- Hanneman, R. A., & Riddle, M. (2005). Introduction to social network methods. Riverside, CA: University of California, Riverside (available at http://faculty.ucr.edu/~hanneman/nettext/)
- Scott, J. (2000). Social network analysis: A handbook (2nd edition). London: Sage Publications.
Note About This Syllabus
This is my first time teaching this course and this syllabus will be a dynamic document. Although the core expectations for this class are fixed, the details of readings and assignments may shift based on how the class goes. As a result, there are three important things to keep in mind:
- Although details on this syllabus will change, I will not change readings or assignments less than one week before they are due. If I don't fill in a "To Be Determined" one week before it's due, it is dropped. If you plan to read more than one week ahead, contact me first.
- Closely monitor your email. Because this a wiki, you will be able to track every change by clicking the history button on this page. I will also summarize these changes in an announcement that will be emailed to everybody in the class.
- I will ask the class for voluntary anonymous feedback frequently. Please let me know what is working and what can be improved.
Office hours and email
- I will hold office hours Thursday afternoons and by appointment. If you come with a programming question, I will expect that you have already tried to solve it yourself in multiple ways and that you have discussed it with at least two classmates. This policy lets me have time to help more students, but it's also a useful strategy. Often just trying to explain your code can help you to recognize where you've gone wrong.
- I am also available by email. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I try hard to maintain a boundary between work and home and I typically respond only on weekdays during business hours (~9-5) but during the week I will generally respond within 24 hours.
Note: Edited after the move to online classes to remove second exam and explain final project.
There will be multiple types of assignments, designed to encourage learning in different ways.
I expect you to be an active member of our class. This includes paying attention in class, participating in activities, and being actively engaged in learning, thinking about, and trying to understand the material.
To make sure that everyone has an opportunity to participate and to encourage you to do the assignments, I will randomly select students to discuss readings or to explain portions of homework assignments and labs.
I will also create discussion spaces on Brightspace. I encourage you to use that space to discuss the readings and homeworks. I know that some people prefer text communication to talking in class and I expect those who are quieter in class to be more active on Brightspace.
There will be a number of homework assignments. At the beginning of the class, these will be designed to help you to grasp foundational network concepts. As the class progresses, more and more of them will be analyzing and visualizing networks in R.
There will be one in-class exam, approximately one-third through the semester. It will assess your understanding of core communication and social networks concepts.
NOTE: Before the move to online classes, there were two exams. The points from the second exam will not be moved to the final project.
Students will work on a Final Project that explains how network analysis and a network approach can benefit an organization.
I made a video explaining the project.
Most of this course will follow a "self-assessment" philosophy. I am more interested in helping you to learn things that will be useful to you than in assigning grades. The university still requires grades, so you will be leading the evaluation of your work. This will be completed with me in four stages, at the end of weeks 4, 8, 12, and 16. In each stage, you will use this form to reflect on what you have accomplished thus far, how it has met, not met, or exceeded expectations, based both on rubrics and personal goals and objectives. At each of these stages you will receive feedback on your assessments. By the end of the semester, you should have a clear vision of your accomplishments and growth, which you will turn into a grade. As the instructor-of-record, I maintain the right to disagree with your assessment and alter grades as I see fit, but any time that I do this it will be accompanied by an explanation and discussion. These personal assessments, reflecting both honest and meaningful reflection of your work will be the most important factor in final grades.
We will use the following rubric in our assessment:
- 20%: class participation, including attendance and participation in discussions and group work
- 20%: Labs and homework assignments
- 30%: Exam
- 30%: Final Project
The exam will be graded like a normal exam and the score will make up 30% of your grade. For the rest of the assignments (and the other 70% of your grade), I will provide feedback which will inform an ongoing conversation about your work.
My interpretation of grade levels (A, B, C, D/F) is the following:
A: Reflects work the exceeds expectations on multiple fronts and to a great degree. Students reaching this level of achievement will:
- Do what it takes to learn the principles and techniques of social networks, including looking to outside sources if necessary.
- Engage thoughtfully with an ambitious final project.
- Take intellectual risks, offering interpretations based on synthesizing material and asking for feedback from peers.
- Share work early allowing extra time for engagement with others.
- Write reflections that grapple meaningfully with lessons learned as well as challenges.
- Complete most, if not all homework assignments at a high level.
B: Reflects strong work. Work at this level will be of consistently high quality. Students reaching this level of achievement will:
- Be more safe or consistent than the work described above.
- Ask meaningful questions of peers and engage them in fruitful discussion.
- Exceed requirements, but in fairly straightforward ways - e.g., an additional post in discussion every week.
- Compose complete and sufficiently detailed reflections.
- Complete many of the homework assignments.
C: This reflects meeting the minimum expectations of the course. Students reaching this level of achievement will:
- Turn in and complete the final project on time.
- Be collegial and continue discussion, through asking simple or limited questions.
- Compose reflections with straightforward and easily manageable goals and/or avoid discussions of challenges.
- Not complete homework assignments or turn some in in a hasty or incomplete manner.
D/F: These are reserved for cases in which students do not complete work or participate. Students may also be impeding the ability of others to learn.
Extra Credit for Participating in Research Studies
The Brian Lamb School of Communication uses an online program that expedites the process of recruiting, signing up, and granting extra credit to students for participating in research studies. The program is called the Research Participation System, and it provides an easy online method for you to sign up for research studies, to keep track of the studies you have completed, and to view how many credits you have earned for each study. You can access the system online at any time, from any computer with a standard web browser. By participating in studies done within the Brian Lamb School of Communication, you can learn first hand how a study is conducted, you can contribute to the advancement of the field, and you can improve your grade by earning extra credit.
- You earn a ½ percent credit for every half-hour that you participate in a study. The maximum extra credit that you can earn for this course is 3%, which will be added to your total course points
- If you sign up to participate in a study and fail to show up without canceling your appointment in advance (up to 2 hours before the study), you can be restricted from signing up for any studies for 30 days. You may quickly cancel your appointment online using the Research Participation System.
- Please review the instructions before you sign up for studies; to view the instructions go to https://www.cla.purdue.edu/communication/research/participation/students.html
- You can sign up to participate in studies by logging into http://purdue-comm.sona-systems.com/.
NOTE This section will be modified throughout the course to meet the class's needs. Check back in weekly.
Week 1: Introductions and the network perspective
- Class overview and expectations — We'll walk through this syllabus.
- Read the entire syllabus (this document)
- Introduce yourself on our Brightspace discussion board
- Take this very brief survey
- Network simulation activity
- Start work on Homework 1
Week 2: Small worlds and scale-free networks
Readings (before class):
- Six Degrees, Chapter 2
- Travers, J. and Milgram, S. (1969). An experimental study of the small world problem. Sociometry, 32(4):425-443
- (Optional but short) Dodds, P. S., Muhamad, R., & Watts, D. J. (2003). An Experimental Study of Search in Global Social Networks. Science, 301(5634), 827.
- Complex systems and networks
- Individual and collective behavior
- Go through Parable of the Polygons by Nicky Case
- Small worlds
- Six Degrees, Chapter 3
Week 3: Social network data and analysis
- James M. Cook, What is a Social Network?
- Using R for network analysis and visualization
- Start work on Homework 3
- Finish Homework 3
- Install R and RStudio on your computer if you want to use your computer instead of lab computers. This tutorial should help you to succeed.
- Work on Introduction to R, chapters 1-3
Week 4: Continuing introduction to R
- Show family networks
- Introduction to RStudio
- Start Introduction to R, chapters 4-5
- Finish Introduction to R, chapters 4-5
- Start Network Analysis in R, chapter 1
- Use R to create an accurate network image of the family network you created for Homework #3. Include node labels for each family member.
Week 5: Density, centrality, and power
- Finish Network Analysis in R, Chapter 1
- Turn in your best network visualization
- Hanneman, R. A., & Riddle, M. (2005). Introduction to social network methods. Chapter 10: Centrality and Power
- Healy, K. (2013). Using Metadata to find Paul Revere.
- Holliday, Audrey, Campbell, & Moore, (2016). Identifying well-connected opinion leaders for informal health promotion
- Guest lecture by Seungyoon Lee
Week 6: Ego networks and mid-term
- Hanneman, R. A., & Riddle, M. (2005). Introduction to social network methods. University of California. (Chapter 9)
- Marsden, P. V. (1987). Core Discussion Networks of Americans. American Sociological Review, 52(1), 122–131. https://doi.org/10.2307/2095397
- Introduce ego networks
- Review for mid-term
In-class midterm exam
Week 7: Social Capital, structural holes, and weak ties
- Granovetter, M. S. (1973). The Strength of Weak Ties. American Journal of Sociology, 78(6), 1360–1380. https://doi.org/10.1086/225469
- (Optional) Bourdieu, P. (1986). The forms of capital. In J. Richardson (Ed.) Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education (New York, Greenwood), 241-258.
- Rainie, L. and Perrin, A. (2019). Key findings about Americans’ declining trust in government and each other. Pew Research Center.
- Putnam, R.D. (1995). Bowling Alone: America's Declining Social Capital. Journal of Democracy 6(1), 65-78.
- (Optional) Burt, R. S. (2000). The network structure of social capital. Research in Organizational Behavior, 22, 345–423.
- Troubled Lands Activity
Week 8: More advanced network visualizations
- Turn in your Self Assessment Reflection on Brightspace
- Troubled Lands reflection on Brightspace
- Freeman, L. C. (2000). Visualizing social networks. Journal of social structure, 1(1), 4.
- Skim Static and dynamic network visualization with R by Katya Ognyanova
- Finish discussion about social capital
- Introduce more advanced visualization methods in R
- Begin working through Chapters 2 and 3 Network Analysis in R
- Finish Chapters 2 and 3 of Network Analysis in R
- Answer questions about DataCamp
- Review principles of good network visualizations
- Find and assess networks visualizations (padlet is here)
- Begin visualization challenge
- Right click on THIS LINK, save it, and open it in RStudio.
Week 9: Tie formation and decay
- Summary and questions for Dr. Feld
- Feld, S. L. (1981). The focused organization of social ties. American Journal of Sociology, 86(5), 1015–1035.
- Feld, S., Knighton, D., and McGail, A. (forthcoming). Reflections On 'The Focused Organization of Social Ties' And Its Implications For Bonding and Bridging. In Personal Networks: Frontiers of Ego-Network Analysis. Edited by Mario Small, Ned Smith, Brea Perry, and Bernice Pescosolido. Oxford University Press.
- Guest lecture by Scott Feld
- Monge, P. R., & Contractor, N. S. (2003). Theories of communication networks. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. (pp. 298--314) - On Brightspace under Content > Readings
- Review tie formation and decay
- Revisit R and network visualizations
March 17, 19: SPRING BREAK
Spring Break: No Class
Have a great Spring Break!
From now on, we will be moving to an online learning format. While I would love to do a video chat version of the class, I know that members of the class are now in different time zones, with different responsibilities and stresses. In order to allow the class to fit into your schedule, we are going to make all assignments asynchronous.
The tentative plan is to have two things due every week: an assignment plus a video response on our Flipgrid page. These will both be due by Friday (although I encourage you to stay engaged on FlipGrid and post videos as you work on things).
We're also going to be using Slack to communicate - please Join our Slack channel and ask your questions there.
I will hold virtual office hours Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1-2 pm at https://meet.jit.si/JeremyOffice
Week 10: Social influence and diffusion
- Weekly lecture on social influence and network diffusion
- Interview with Josh Becker (skim his article below first).
- Dutch School Data Visualization Challenge
- Do The Wisdom or Madness of Crowds Simulation and discuss on Flipgrid.
- Chapter 4, "Special People", in Watts, D. J. (2011). Everything is Obvious: Once you know the answer. New York, NY: Crown Business.
- Becker, J., Brackbill, D., & Centola, D. (2017). Network dynamics of social influence in the wisdom of crowds. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 201615978.
- [Optional] Centola, D., & Macy, M. (2007). Complex Contagions and the Weakness of Long Ties. American Journal of Sociology, 113(3), 702–734.
- [Optional] Christakis, N. A., & Fowler, J. H. (2012). Social contagion theory: Examining dynamic social networks and human behavior. Statistics in Medicine, 32, 556–577.
- Great video about homophily in networks
- Duncan Watts on Common Sense
- Example with code for the Dutch School assignment
- Video explaining my example
Week 11: Cliques, clans, and groups in networks
- Groups and communities; Also goes over the assignment (no slides)
- Finding and visualizing groups in networks (Right-click, save, and open in RStudio). I go over the document in the YouTube video.
- Flipgrid response
- Hanneman, R. A., & Riddle, M. (2005). Introduction to social network methods. Chapter 11: Cliques and sub-groups
Week 12: Networks in organizations
- Turn in your Self Assessment Reflection on Brightspace
- One paragraph summary of Krackhardt reading + 1 question about the reading
- Keep working on Groups in networks; enhance your visualization of the Dutch school data by including community detection of some kind.
- Krackhardt, D., & Hanson, J. R. (1993). Informal networks: The company behind the chart. Harvard business review, 71(4), 104-111.
- (SKIM) Katz, N., Lazer, D., Arrow, H., & Contractor, N. (2004). Network theory and small groups. Small Group Research, 35(3), 307–332.
Week 13: The dark side of networks
- One paragraph summary of each reading + 1 question about each reading
- Talk about readings/concepts on FlipGrid
- Watch this week's lecture
- Keep working on the final project
- Krebs, V. E. (2002). Mapping networks of terrorist cells. Connections, 24(3), 43–52.
- Kleinberg, J. (2007). The wireless epidemic. Nature, 449(7160), 287–288. https://doi.org/10.1038/449287a
Week 14: Networks and technology
- Watch this week's lecture
- Turn in reading summary on Brightspace
- Kleinberg, J. (2012). The Convergence of Social and Technological Networks. In M. Agrawal, S. B. Cooper, & A. Li (Eds.), Theory and Applications of Models of Computation.
Week 15: Networks and collaboration
- Read the Wikipedia Article about The Wealth of Networks
- Skim section two of Benkler, Y. (2002). Coase’s Penguin, or, Linux and "The Nature of the Firm." The Yale Law Journal, 112(3), 369.
Week 16: Finals week
- Final Project - Due Wednesday, May 6
- Turn in your Final self reflection on Brightspace - Due Friday, May 8
Attendance is very important and it will be difficult to make up for any classes that are missed. It is expected that students communicate well in advance to faculty so that arrangements can be made for making up the work that was missed. It is the your responsibility to seek out support from classmates for notes, handouts, and other information.
I love technology and I study how technology can help us to collaborate and create. However, the research is increasingly clear that in a classroom setting technology can easily become more of a distraction than an aid. Cell phones fall clearly into this category. Unless you have a specific and vital need to be accessible by phone, please silence your phone and keep it put away.
Laptops can also be distracting, to you and to others. I strongly suggest that you take notes using pen and paper. Taking notes on a laptop is permitted but please refrain from using your laptop from non-class purposes (email, Facebook, shopping, etc.). Please close any applications which might be distracting.
A grade of incomplete (I) will be given only in unusual circumstances. The request must describe the circumstances, along with a proposed timeline for completing the course work. Submitting a request does not ensure that an incomplete grade will be granted. If granted, you will be required to fill out and sign an “Incomplete Contract” form that will be turned in with the course grades. Any requests made after the course is completed will not be considered for an incomplete grade.
While I encourage collaboration, I expect that any work that you submit is your own. Basic guidelines for Purdue students are outlined here but I expect you to be exemplary members of the academic community. Please get in touch if you have any questions or concerns.
I strongly support Purdue's policy of nondiscrimination (below). If you feel like any member of our classroom--including me--is not living up to these principles, then please come and talk to me about it.
Purdue University is committed to maintaining a community which recognizes and values the inherent worth and dignity of every person; fosters tolerance, sensitivity, understanding, and mutual respect among its members; and encourages each individual to strive to reach his or her own potential. In pursuit of its goal of academic excellence, the University seeks to develop and nurture diversity. The University believes that diversity among its many members strengthens the institution, stimulates creativity, promotes the exchange of ideas, and enriches campus life.
Students with Disabilities
Purdue University strives to make learning experiences as accessible as possible. If you anticipate or experience physical or academic barriers based on disability, you are welcome to let me know so that we can discuss options. You are also encouraged to contact the Disability Resource Center at: email@example.com or by phone: 765-494-1247.
In the event of a major campus emergency, I will update the requirements and deadlines as needed.
If you or someone you know is feeling overwhelmed, depressed, and/or in need of mental health support, services are available. For help, such individuals should contact Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at 765-494-6995 during and after hours, on weekends and holidays, or by going to the CAPS office of the second floor of the Purdue University Student Health Center (PUSH) during business hours.
I reached out to a number of network scholars for guidance with this syllabus. This version is based most strongly on the course taught by Seungyoon Lee, but I also received syllabi, materials, or ideas from Josh Barbour, Brooke Foucault-Welles, Katy Pearce, and Sandra González-Bailón.