logo: network books Collective Dynamics Group
ISERP -- Columbia University

Six Degrees: The New Science of Networks


All readings listed under topic headings are compulsory; references listed under Additional Reading are optional.

Note: Some sections will require more time than others; thus the number of readings per topic is not constant. The length and difficulty of the readings also varies. In general, you should expect to devote at least a few hours to reading every week. If you do that consistently, you should have no difficulty in keeping up; if you let it accumulate, you will be swamped.

Part I: Why are social networks interesting?

Reaching out to each other

  • Who are your friends, and why?
  • Who do you want to meet? (and do they want to meet you?)
  • Who pays attention to whom

Working and Playing Together

  • Distributed computing
  • Open source software
  • Wikis and clickworkers
  • MMOG's
  • Peer-to-peer file sharing

Part II: What do we know about social networks?

Networks as a way of looking at society

  • Basic network concepts and terminology
  • Real-world social networks

The Small World Problems

  • The Small World Experiment
  • Why is it surprising?
  • Random graphs
  • Small World networks

How to Search a Social Network

  • The Search Problem
  • Identity and Social Search
  • Is 6 a big or small number

Scale-free networks

  • Cumulative Advantage
  • Power laws and scale free networks
  • Classes of networks

Part III: How do networks affect social processes?

Disease Spreading, Outbreaks, and Epidemics

  • Modeling the spread of disease
  • The epidemic threshold
  • Concurrency in sexually-transmitted diseases
  • Why are epidemics so unpredictable

Social Contagion and Information Cascades

  • Threshold rules for decision making
  • Social contagion versus biological contagion

Information Cascades and Unpredicatability

  • The Activation Game
  • Threshold rules and cascades on networks
  • Social influence and unpredictability
  • Accidental influentials

Networks, Emergence, and Causality in Social Processes

  • Emergence: "the whole is different from the sum of its parts"
  • Networks as a way to solve micro-macro problem
  • Hindsight bias and creeping determinism
  • Cause and effect in complex systems

Organizations, Problems Solving, and Robustness

  • The Toyota-Aisin crisis
  • Markets versus hierarchies
  • The firm as an information-processing network
  • Ultra-robust networks

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