CompSci595N/PolSci595N/Engl593: The Technology and Society Seminar Series

Spring 2006: Social and Computer Networks
Seminar Overview

Winter 2005

Fall 2005

Spring 2006

Fall 2006

Spring 2007

Social and Computer Networks

The study of social networks is an important area of social scientific inquiry. Network analysts have developed a range of methodological tools for studying the relationships between individuals, groups, and other social entities and, perhaps more importantly, patterns of relations. The application of these methods have allowed for major advances in the understanding of how ties between people and larger social entities (e.g., organizations) are patterned as well as the consequences of these patterns.

Recently a range of scholars have begun to apply network-based theories and methods to online networks. These networks range from literal computer networks, to networks of websites, to networks of users, and beyond.

Industry has also been increasingly interested in social networks, as evidenced by popular websites such as MySpace, Friendster, and FaceBook. A similar trend is found in referral applications, such as Amazon and Netflix's referral applications, which use similarity in expressed preferences in books, music, and videos to recommend new merchandise to consumers.

Important questions arise from these developments, such as:

* How are social networks affected by technology use (e.g., How do applications that facilitate networking affect social networks? More generally, does technology use expand networks? Expand certain kinds of networks? Atrophy other kinds of networks?)

* Do different kinds of technologies affect networks differently (e.g., do wireless devices like cell phones have different impacts on networks than Internet use, etc.)

* How connected are objects on the web and are there important patterns in those connections?

* How can computer scientists, engineers, and other technologists build software that helps to collect and analyze social network- based data?

* How can computer scientists, engineers, and other technologists improve new technologies based on network-based analyses? For instance, could ad-hoc networking benefit from data on enduring patterns in social networking? Could the relationships between software programs be used to build better software for privacy protection (e.g., better detection of root kits, key loggers, and other malicious code)?

The questions, and others that lie at the intersection of social network analysis and computing, will be examined in this seminar.


The seminar will be held in Engineering I, Rm 2114 (just across the hall from Prof. Almeroth's office) from 11:00am to 12:30pm on Wednesdays. The first seminar will be April 5 and the last seminar will be May 31.

Course Signup Information

The course will be cross-listed in at least the above three departments. However, it may be offered in other departments as well. There are a few things to keep in mind when considering signing up for this course. First, this quarter, if you wish to attend you must sign up. Second, it does not really matter under which course number you register. The reason we are cross-listing it is to advertise and to make it more accessible for those who do not normally look in other departments for interesting courses. And finally, seminars of this type often are added to the registration system late. If you are having problems finding the course in the registration system, come to class on the first day, and we will help.


The format of the seminar is weekly presentations and free-form discussion. Assignments for those students who do not present are to gather, synthesize, and write an overview of work relevant to the seminar topic and related to their own discipline(s).