MAS 963 Designing Sociable Media
Instructor: Judith Donath

10.15 · social networks



1. Please read the papers. The first two are good background reading on this topic, Granovetter is a classic paper in the field, and the Newman paper is part of the large and growing work on mathematical approaches to network analysis - and is does an interesting job of making connections between a sociological and physics based approach. The fifth, by one of the founders of this field, is about, as you would guess from the title, visualizing social networks.

2. Garton et. al discuss ties and relations - ties may be of different strengths, and the relations between the connected people have many variations - they can be equals, one can be supportive of the other, one can be in love with the other, they can be parent and child, etc. Yet little of that shows through in the standard network visualizations. How would you depict these relations? You may also want to consider how the individuals are represented. Explore you ideas by sketching a small network - perhaps of people you have been in contact with in the last day or two, or your family, or characters in a novel, etc.

3. Wellman and Frank use a multi-level analysis to investigate social support in a network. Their research mostly confirms previous simpler forms of analysis, but does provide a more detailed view on how support works in a network. In their concluding section (p 18ff) they talk about the changes in network structure that are occuring in the "networked world". What aspects of their analytical model do you think are most affected by these changes? One of the big limits on support is time and attention - a person with a huge network cannot be supportive of everyone, all the time. How would you reframe their analysis to take into account levels of need and levels of ability to provide support? Your answer may be in the form of a short essay, a re-working of their model, or a sketch (similar to problem 2).

4. Newman's paper shows how one can, given sufficient knowledge of the neighboring network structure, estimate the range of "friends of friends" one has from one's immediate network. He demonstrates this by analysizing academic co-citation. Would a more nuanced approach to ties, as with Granovetter's discussion of weak ties and their function in linking otherwise unassociated networks, affect this model?  If so, how?

Please submit the URL of your critique and sketch online by Tuesday evening.