HONR219J, The Science Behind Social Networks and the Web, Spring 2011

Instructor: Aravind Srinivasan
Class Venue and Time: CHE 2145, 12:30-1:45PM Tue, Thu

General Information

Course Overview:

Large-scale social information networks are now fundamental components of society, perhaps the most well-known one being the Web. This class will address the science behind such networks, for students with a sound mathematical background at a high-school level, and with an interest in the social & mathematical sciences and their applications. The course will study topics including the following (with a few modifications based on class interest): Learning Outcomes -- Students will:
  1. Learn the basics of graph theory & game theory as tools for the analysis of networks;
  2. Understand how networks support the diffusion of information, as well as the role of strong/weak and positive/negative ties in networks;
  3. Explore some major existing information networks deeper; and
  4. Develop new models for networks and for their social applications.
Regular class-attendance is expected; a part of the grade will be based on the quality of class participation and team-work. The class will also require regular well-thought-out blog-postings on contemporary aspects of network science, and one detailed contribution to Wikipedia.

There will be a project on: (i) the analysis of existing networks, or (ii) a detailed proposal on developing new social-network-based businesses or applications (network-based lending for educational loans is an illustrative example). The project will have two phases. In Phase I (due to Aravind by 11:59PM on March 18th), each group will email Aravind the idea and initial details for their project. This can be any idea you have about networks: the future of a networked society, ideas/devices/modes of living that you would like to see, new business models, how to make campus life (or society in general) better, new modes of enterainment and communication, etc. Students are strongly encouraged to think big and email Aravind a well-thought-out idea along with details on what their group will do, and how they will conduct the research. Aravind will then email each group his comments by March 29th, and each group can then start Phase 2. Students are also welcome to brainstorm their ideas for Phase 1 with Aravind.
The projects will be presented by each team in class on May 3rd and 5th, with each team getting 15 minutes total (including questions). In addition, a detailed writeup of at most 15 pages (excluding references) should be submitted by May 10th by each team. The content will be the main aspect of the writeup that will be evaluated (as opposed to the length).

The course will also have written homework, a mid-term, and a final exam.

There is no required textbook, but Networks, Crowds, and Markets: Reasoning About a Highly Connected World by Easley and Kleinberg is a highly-recommended supplementary book.

Office Hours:

Aravind's office hours will be in his office, AVW 3263, at 2:30-3:30PM on Thursdays and 10AM-12PM on Fridays. Please email Aravind to setup alternative times if you would like to come for some office hours but cannot make it at these times. Aravind will also hold additional office hours 10AM-12 noon on March 16th (one day before the mid-term).

Homework, Grading, Teams, and Exams

The final examination, according to the official university schedule, will be on Tuesday, May 17, 1:30-3:30PM. The mid-term will be closed-book, closed-notes, and will be held in class on Thursday, March 17th; all material covered up to (and including) March 10th is included for the mid-term.

Students will form teams of two each. The homework, Wikipedia posting, and project will be done collaboratively by each group.


Homework Assignments

Homework 1, due Feb 17th.
Homework 2, due Mar 10th.
Homework 3, due May 10th.

Additional Information

Students claiming a excused absence must apply in writing and furnish documentary support (such as from a health care professional who treated the student) for any assertion that the absence qualifies as an excused absence. The support should explicitly indicate the dates or times the student was incapacitated due to illness. Self-documentation of illness is not itself sufficient support to excuse the absence. The instructor is not under obligation to offer a substitute assignment or to give a student a make-up assessment unless the failure to perform was due to an excused absence. An excused absence for an individual typically does not translate into an extension for team deliverables on a project.

Any student eligible for and requesting reasonable academic accommodations due to a disability is requested to provide, to the instructor in office hours, a letter of accommodation from the Office of Disability Support Services (DSS) within the first two weeks of the semester.

The University of Maryland, College Park has a nationally recognized Code of Academic Integrity, administered by the Student Honor Council. This Code sets standards for academic integrity at Maryland for all undergraduate and graduate students. As a student you are responsible for upholding these standards for this course. It is very important for you to be aware of the consequences of cheating, fabrication, facilitation, and plagiarism. For more information on the Code of Academic Integrity or the Student Honor Council, please visit http://www.studenthonorcouncil.umd.edu/whatis.html.

The CourseEvalUM (course evaluation) website is open through Wednesday, May 11. You can submit confidential evaluations there and find the summarized results at the same location; also, the system does not identify to the instructor whether or not any individual submitted an evaluation. Course evaluation is an important part of making our courses better, and students are strongly encouraged to submit their evaluations.