Course number: L&S 88-4
Instructor: Dennis Feehan

In this connector, we will explore social networks, an interdisciplinary subject that focuses on measuring, modeling, and understanding the different types of connections and interactions between people. Social networks come in many different types and sizes, from small, tightly knit networks like the members of a family; to massive, loosely connected networks like the users of Twitter.

Insights from the study of social networks are used in a wide range of different real-world settings. For example, demographers and epidemiologists at the Centers for Disease Control and UNAIDS use network models to help them predict and prevent the spread of infectious diseases like HIV and Ebola; data scientists at Facebook and Google use ideas from social networks to build products that enable people all across the globe to connect with one another; and researchers working on political campaigns use insights from social networks to try and convince people to turn out and vote for their candidate on election day.

Studying social networks means working with a broad toolkit of theories and methods drawn from the social, natural, and mathematical sciences. In this connector class, we will explore a few key ideas from this toolkit: our goal will be to understand what a social network is, to learn how to work with social network data, and to illustrate some of the ways that understanding social networks can be useful in theory and in practice.