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Unit information: Social Networks in 2017/18

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Unit name Social Networks
Unit code SOCI30100
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. McAndrew
Open unit status Not open
Pre-requisites

None

Co-requisites

None

School/department School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law

Description

This unit will examine the importance of networks for social life and the rise of the ‘network society’. In introductory sessions the unit investigates concepts such as connectedness, social support and homophily (the tendency of ‘birds of a feather to flock together’) as well as how to determine how central someone is to a social network. The remainder of the unit investigates a number of different examples of the study of networks in social life, such as:

• social networks and civic engagement – the apparent trend towards ‘bowling alone’
• the importance of networks for creativity and ‘art worlds’
• how networks are leveraged for career success
• gender and social networks at work
• elites and closed social worlds
• terrorist networks.

Social Network Analysis (SNA) has become more prominent in recent years. It provides a relational perspective compatible with a wide range of theoretical positions, and methods available for studying social networks complement traditional qualitative and quantitative methods. New areas of application include criminal networks, terrorist networks, online networks, cultural networks, and economic networks. Outside sociology, network analysis is used by biologists, psychologists, in economic and business research, and in linguistics. The unit will provide training in analysing social networks using NetDraw, a simple network visualisation program. No prior knowledge of SNA or NetDraw is assumed. Students will be shown how to make lists of links between individuals and how to import these lists to create network diagrams for visual presentation. These practical skills are attractive to employers in a number of sectors, such as digital media agencies, the Civil Service, think tanks, policing, and research organisations.

Intended learning outcomes

On completion of this unit successful students will be able to:

• demonstrate critical engagement with key texts in the study of social relationships and social networks;
• define and critically assess network concepts such as social capital, homophily, centrality, clique, bonding, bridging;
• compile information on social ties from offline or online social networks, and use simple methods to create network diagrams and measures using NetDraw;
• assess claims related to the benefits and risks of bonding and bridging social ties.

Teaching details

1 hour lecture and 2 hour computer lab/seminar per week

Assessment Details

Group project: 1500 word research report (15%, incorporating a peer evaluation worth 5%).

3,000 word essay (85%).

Both assessments assess all learning outcomes.

Reading and References


• Howard Becker (1982), Art Worlds (Berkeley: University of California Press).
• Steve Borgatti, Martin Everett and Jeff Johnson (2013), Analysing Social Networks (London: Sage).
• Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler (2011), Connected: The Amazing Power of Social Networks and How They Shape our Lives (London: Harper Press).
• Bonnie Erickson (1996), ‘Culture, Class, and Connections’, American Journal of Sociology, 102/1, pp. 217-251.
• Mark Granovetter (1973), ‘The Strength of Weak Ties’, American Journal of Sociology, 78/6, pp. 1360-1380.
• Miller McPherson, Lynn Smith-Lovin, and James Cook (2001), ‘Birds of a Feather: Homophily in Social Networks’, Annual Review of Sociology, vol. 27, pp. 415-444.
• Robert Putnam (2000), Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of the American Community (London: Simon & Schuster).

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