COM 411

COM 41100: Communication and Social Networks

Tuesday and Thursday, 3:00-4:15


Agenda for the day

  • Introductions
  • About the class

About me


  • Name
  • Year
  • Major
  • Something boring about you

What is Communication and Social Networks?


Social networks are much more interesting!

  • How do groups make decisions
  • How do fads and fashions start and spread?
  • How do our connections influence our perceptions about and behavior in the world?


  1. Understand the foundations of network theory and analysis
  2. Critically read social network studies
  3. Learn how social networks relate to your own interests
  4. Gain a basic understanding of gathering and analyzing network data in R

How we reach those goals


  • Homework
    • Social network concepts
    • Programming practice
  • Reading
  • Participation (in-class and online)


  • Multiple readings from Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age (~$10)


  • Two in-class exams

Final Project

  • Group-based, network-inspired project


  • Normal grading has some negative unintended consequences

  • How can we build a learning community?


  • I’m interested in teaching, not assessing
  • Assignments will be turned in on Brightspace
  • I will provide feedback
  • 4 times during the semester you will turn in reflection pieces
  • If I disagree I will reach out

Dangers of this approach to grading


  • You will be able to do stuff like this:

Getting in touch

  • Office Hours
  • Email

Tech in the classroom

Please be vocal

  • I will solicit feedback as part of reflections
  • Let me know what is and isn’t working


  • Read the syllabus
  • Fill out the survey (linked on syllabus)
  • Read preface and chapter 1 of Six Degrees
    • And order the book
  • Introduce yourself (and give thoughts on the readings?) on Brightspace

Simulation Activity

Read Instruction Sheet

  • Only communicate through written messages
  • No talking
  • Write your number and time finished on the board

How did it go?

  • What worked well?
  • What didn’t?
  • Who was fastest? Why?
  • What was the longest path a resource traveled?

Global network

Debrief topics to cover

  • Reciprocity
  • Degree centrality
  • Social capital
  • Structural holes
  • Reputation and deceit
  • Position and power
  • Multiplexity
  • Number vs. type of ties
  • Global/local networks
  • Tie maintenance
  • Sponsorship
  • Norms and social conventions

Meta discussion

  • How does this differ from real-world networks?

  • What does this make you see differently?