#SNAc week 1: what are networks and what use is it to study them?

I’m finally getting to grips with social network analysis via the #SNAc MOOC. See My first MOOC for thoughts about the course environment (and Coursera)  in general – posts here are my notes on the content.

Week 1 consisted of an overview of concepts and an introduction to software tools. I’m generally not a video fan, but these were the exception that proves the rule. Watched them once, then scanned the slides and script afterwards for the detail. Crucially, you can speed them up (something I often want to do!) or, more useful in this case, slow them down for crucial bits. Definitely still a question of blindly following instructions rather than knowing how to do things, but hopefully that will come with time.

Software tools

#SNAc using Gephi for visualisation and basic network metrics, plus NetLogo for modelling network dynamics. Programming types will also be using iGraph.

Not using Pajek (free, extensive functionality via drop-downs), UCINet (costs) or NodeXL, all of which are Windows based. Or NetworkX (open source, uses Python). Specialised tools not using include the SNA package for R (statistics heavy) and SoNIA (Social Network Image Animator, good for longitudinal analysis. From Twitter: posts on Python for SNA and R for SNA.

Resources

The recommended readings look interesting, but it’s the curse of the netbook again – there’s no way I’m going to read a 20 page PDF on a screen. Some highlighted resources from Twitter and the forum look a bit more possible:

Assignment 

The assignment is to upload your Facebook network into Gephi and visualise it. The course app to grab the data is a version of the Netvizz app – apparently Wolfram Mathematica does the same thing.

Any two people in the Facebook graph are connected with an average of 4.7 hops.

My Facebook network is small and, although I had to refer back to my notes for most of the tasks, I got 10/10. Hurra! I might give it another go with my partner’s rather larger network.

Lots of people have tweeted their networks, and some people have also tweeted LinkedIn maps. On 26 September an email was sent out re collaboration and Coursera’s honor code – not quite sure what that’s about, but some people have been oversharing their short answers and/or code, apparently. Tsk tsk.

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One thought on “#SNAc week 1: what are networks and what use is it to study them?

  1. Pingback: MOOC Reflections « OUseful.Info, the blog…

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