Social Networks
Communications/Sociology 375 (course id 99999) ... Fall 2012, Online
University of Maine at Augusta

Faculty Contact and Office Hours

Assistant Professor James Cook
Phone: 207-621-3190
E-mail: james.m.cook@maine.edu
Social Media: Google+ | Facebook | Twitter
Office Hours: tbd, incl. in-person, phone, and Google Hangout

Alternative Contact in case of Emergency: College of Arts and Sciences (Administrative Assistant LeeAnn Trask), 621-3272.

Course Description

Sociology is the scientific study of society and social interaction. Beginning with the fundamental insight that regular patterns in interaction are the ties that bind societies together, social network analysts examine the impact of these patterns on a number of aspects of social life.

You have already encountered social networks in your own life. Most of us participate in "social networking" online when we post updates via Facebook and "follow" people on Twitter. But social networks exist offline as well. Every time you join an organization, pass on a rumor, collect information, ask someone you know for a favor, or try to find a job, social networks play a part. Social network analysis uses the same methods to understand aspects of our world occurring above the individual level. The social distinctions and institutions that powerfully shape your life are in turn shaped powerfully by patterns of social ties. The spread of culture, the transmission of disease, the competition of organizations and the development of nations are profoundly affected by the structures of interaction represented in social networks. Using a simple yet flexible model, social network analysts have been able to gain insights in subjects across the sociological spectrum.

This course is organized into five sections:

  1. We begin with an introduction to the foundations of the social network perspective.
  2. Next, we turn to the practical steps necessary for you to conduct social network research and use social network software.
  3. Third, we look at examples of social networking in the political and online world.
  4. Fourth, we master the techniques of empirical social network analysis, learning how to measure aspects of the structure of complete networks, ego networks, dyads, triads and groups.
  5. Fifth and finally, we will learn how to use QAP analysis to explain the impact of social networks on outcomes we care about in politics and online.

If you like to think about ideas in terms of pictures, you may find the presentation below to be helpful. Click on the gray triangle next to the word "Prezi" to load an interactive presentation of the related ideas we'll be considering this semester. Click on that same arrow to progress down the occasionally branching course path in this sociogram (picture of a network).

Throughout the course you will apply the research tools of social network analysis to understand your personal connections and the connections between the organizations that are most influential in our society. This course can offer but a brief introduction to the broad terrain of social network theory and research. It is my hope that your exploration of the field of social networks will continue after the course is complete.

Course Learning Outcomes

The learning goals of this course fit in three categories, consonant with General Education and Social Science program learning outcomes described by the University of Maine at Augusta. A student who successfully completes this course will:

Goal 1. Demonstrate an understanding of the theory of social networks by:
A) Connecting contemporary social network theory to classical theoretical works by Emile Durkheim and Georg Simmel
B) Comparing, contrasting and applying relevant network theoretical strands from psychological, anthropological and sociological perspectives.
C) Engaging in critical thinking regarding the applicability or inapplicability of social network theory to various sociological phenomena.

Goal 2. Develop a command of the vocabulary and characterization of social networks, by:
A) Using network terminology to identify nodes, arcs, edges and affiliations in graphical form through sociograms and in mathematical form through matrices.
B) Appropriately distinguish between a complete network, network samples, ego networks, one-mode networks and two-mode networks.
C) Calculating measures of connection at the level of the actor, the position/role, the tie, the dyad, the triad, the group and the network as a whole.
D) Utilizing UCINET and NodeXL software for social network analysis to assemble, organize and transform network data.

Goal 3. Demonstrate competence in social network research by:
A) Gathering one-mode social network data on communication and two-mode social network data on affiliation from online and offline sources.
B) Utilizing network analysis software to characterize social network structure
C) Analyzing the impact of network structure on patterns through multivariate network statistics.
D) Applying social network analysis to understand socially meaningful outcomes in political action and online interaction.

Course Expectations

Reading Assignments
You will need to acquire two printed books for this course: Analyzing Social Media Networks with NodeXL by David Hansen, Ben Shneiderman and Marc Smith and Social Network Analysis by Christina Prell. Other readings will be accessible as hyperlinks to web pages and online academic journals here in this syllabus. Unless the syllabus specifically notes otherwise, all reading assignments for this class are required, and should be completed by date of the class under which they are listed. Lectures and discussions will be based on the assumption that you have completed the readings in a thorough fashion.

Software
You will be required to purchase, install and use UCINET software, available at www.analytictech.com/ucinet/. You should also install the free software plugin NodeXL, available at nodexl.codeplex.com. In order to use these programs you must have access to a Windows XP or Windows Vista computer on which you can install programs. To run the NodeXL plugin, you must have Microsoft Office installed on your computer, since . For your convenience and to accomodate students for whom this is an unacceptable expense, UCINET and NodeXL have been installed on five computers in the first-floor Randall Student Center computer lab on the main Augusta campus of UMA.

Grading
Major Assignments. There will be four major assignments in this class, due on Weeks 10, 11 and 14. Your performance on each major assignment will account for 20% of your final grade. Spelling, grammar and clarity of expression will be assessed along with the content of each assignment for grading purposes, and each will be scored on a 100-point scale. Assignments should be turned in as e-mail attachments to james.m.cook@maine.edu.

Homework. In 10 out of the 14 weeks of this semester there will be homework for you to turn in. Each piece of homework has a specific due date and time listed on the course schedule and should be turned in by posting to the discussion board dedicated to that homework on the course webpage (a different board will be created for each piece of homework). You should complete piece each homework on your own, and the work you turn in should be wholly your own work. If you turn in a piece of homework on time and complete all required tasks, you will receive 10 points. Homework that does not complete all tasks will receive 5 points. Homework that is turned in late will receive half the credit it would otherwise receive (5 points for complete homework, 2.5 points for incomplete homework). Your thirteen homework grades will be added together and graded on a 100-point scale (any total score over 100 will be graded as a 100). Together, homework will count for 20% of your final grade. Spelling, grammar and clarity of expression will be assessed along with the content of each assignment for grading purposes.

Timeliness. Writing assignments must be turned in on time. If you cannot attend class or know you will be busy on the day a paper is due, turn it in early. If you have missed work for authorized reasons and receive an incomplete grade for the semester, you must contact me for permission and to make arrangements to turn in your completed work by the end of the following semester.

How to Calculate your Grade:

Assignment #1 (0-100 points) _____ * .20 = _____
Assignment #2 (0-100 points) _____ * .20 = _____
Assignment #3 (0-100 points) _____ * .20 = _____
Assignment #4 (0-100 points) _____ * .20 = _____
Homework Total (0-100 points) _____ * .20 = _____
Total Grade: = _____
Plus "Prove Me Wrong" Extra Credit Points: = _____
Final Total: = _____
Final Grade Range A: 93 - 100 A-: 90 - 92.99 B+: 87 - 89.99 B: 83 - 86.99 B-: 80 - 82.99 C+: 77 - 79.99 C: 73 - 76.99 C-: 70 - 72.99 D+: 67 - 69.99 D: 63 - 66.99 D-: 60 - 62.99 F: 0 - 59.99

If you are determined to earn a high grade in this class, I applaud you and encourage you. Be sure to ask questions when you feel unsure by contacting me by e-mail in office hours; the chances are that if you have a question or a doubt, you're not the only one. It is a bad idea to wait until late in the semester to seek help. The worst thing you can do is to never seek my help at all.

Course Schedule with Readings

All readings should be completed on or before the week under which they are listed.
(Syllabus task: Weeks to be dated with specific due dates)

Academic Integrity

The following is a verbatim quote of the Student Academic Integrity Code for all students at the University of Maine at Augusta. The words below not only describe the general expectations of UMA for all students -- that your work must be your own -- but my particular expectations for your conduct in this class. You are responsible for learning the standards of academic integrity and ensuring that your work meets these standards. Failure to do so may result in appropriate sanctions -- and nobody wants you to end up in that circumstance. If you have any questions about whether you might be violating standards of academic integrity, do two things: First, stop. Second, if you're in doubt, consult with me to find out what the right course of action would be.

"Plagiarism: the representation of others' words or ideas as one's own. For example, Submitting as one's own work an examination, paper, homework assignment, or other project (laboratory report, artistic work, computer program, etc.) that was created entirely or partially by someone else. Failure to use quotation marks to signal that one is using another person's precise words. Even brief phrases must be enclosed in quotation marks. Failure to identify the source of quotations and paraphrases. Of course one must cite the source of quotations; one must also cite the source of ideas and information that is not common knowledge even when paraphrased (presented in one's own words). Sources include unpublished as well as published items -- for example, books, articles, material on the Internet, television programs, instructors' lectures, and people, including other students, friends, and relatives. Creating an academically dishonest paraphrase. When paraphrasing the author must find their own way of expressing the original meaning. Simply inserting synonyms into the source's sentence structures is plagiarism. Failure to identify the source of the elements of a nonverbal work (for example, a painting, dance, musical composition, or mathematical proof) that are derived from the work of others.

"Cheating: the use or attempted use of unauthorized assistance in an examination, paper, homework assignment, or other project. For example, Copying answers from another student's examination. Communicating in any way with another student or a third party during an examination without the permission of the instructor. Using unauthorized materials or devices (e.g. notes, textbooks, calculators, electronic devices) during an examination without the permission of the instructor. Obtaining and/or reading a copy of an examination before its administration without the permission of the instructor. Collaborating with other students or third parties on a take-home examination, paper, homework assignment, or other project without the permission of the instructor.

"Additional violations of academic integrity include:

"Duplicate Work: Submitting a paper or other project in more than one course without the permission of the instructors. Students are expected to produce original work for each course. A student should not submit identical or substantially similar papers or projects in two different courses (in the same or different semesters) unless both instructors have given their permission.

"Facilitating Academic Dishonesty: assisting another student's academic dishonesty. For example, Writing a paper or other project for another student. Permitting another student to copy from one's examination, paper, homework assignment, or other project. Assisting another student on a take-home examination, paper, homework assignment, or other project if one knows or suspects such assistance is not authorized by the instructor.

"Fabrication: For example, Fabrication of data: Inventing or falsifying the data of a laboratory experiment, field project, or other project. Fabrication of a citation: Inventing a citation for a research paper or other project. Alteration of an assignment: Altering a graded examination, paper, homework assignment, or other project and resubmitting it to the instructor in order to claim an error in grading."

In this class, I encourage you to share notes with other students and to study together. But you may not collaborate with other students on graded assignments.

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

If you have a disability which may affect your ability to participate fully in this course, it is your responsibility to request accommodations promptly. Contact the UMA Learning Support Services Office (phone 207-621-3152, email pltrask@maine.edu) to discuss possible assistance. Accommodations are not provided retroactively.

Changes to this Syllabus

I do not anticipate the need to make any changes to this syllabus, but I reserve the right to do so under extenuating circumstances or as unforseen events may warrant. Should make any changes to the syllabus, I will communicate these in advance and through multiple means -- by changing the syllabus itself, by making an announcement in class and by posting message to the course Blackboard website.