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Teaching social network theory concepts to undergraduates


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In class lecture and slides for teaching undergraduates:
social networks, social capital, strength of weak ties, bridging social capital, bonding social capital. Used in my social media class.
An updated set of slides.

I explain these slides in depth on a blog post titled "Teaching Social Network Concepts: Fun Class Activity" at:

Published in: Education
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Teaching social network theory concepts to undergraduates

  2. 2. LIST  On the left: 10 people you talked to last.  In a column to the right:  For each, what’s your relationship with them:  How do you know them?  Friend, family, acquaintance, someone you work with.  In a 3rd column:  Who introduced you to that person?  Who introduced you to the person that introduced you to that person?
  3. 3.  Draw each person’s name on a piece of paper. Spread them out.  Draw a line FROM 1 person to ANOTHER if that person knows the other person.  Turn that line into a directional arrow from YOU to person B if YOU introduced person A to person B. Person A: My Mom Person B: My wife Example: I introduced Mom to my wife ME
  5. 5. SOCIAL OBJECTS  Social networks are built around social objects, not vice versa.  “The social object is the reason people are talking to each other” – Hugh MacLeod Image: marc wathieu
  6. 6. SOCIALIZATION  Socialization is not random, it is purposeful  Humans seek social connection  1 way we find it via social objects  What the object is may not matter  It is a vehicle for connection
  7. 7. SOCIAL OBJECT EXAMPLE  Apple iPhone Example Source: MacLead
  9. 9. CULTURAL “SOCIAL OBJECTS”: MEMES  A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols, or practices.  Transmitted from 1 person to another  Analogous to genes  Self replicate  Evolve & mutate Source: Wikipedia
  10. 10. MEME EXAMPLES  Feminist Ryan Gosling   “Binders full of women”   LOL cats  search: LOL cats
  11. 11. SOCIAL OBJECT  The conversation happening around object is what’s valuable  How can we start conversations? Image: marc wathieu
  12. 12. THOUGHT QUESTION  Social objects are 1 thing that connects us to others, building social networks.  What are other things that organize our connections with others and build networks?
  13. 13. RETURN TO YOUR NETWORK  Between each edge (the arrow), write any social object you have in common with people directly connected to you.  Ex My roommate Best Friend, John ME Dude from class
  15. 15. SOCIAL CAPITAL IS  'the number of people who can be expected to provide support and the resources those people have at their disposal”  Taps “goodwill” available to a person/group.  Can be converted into economic gain Image: MixTribe Photo
  16. 16. SOCIAL CAPITAL  Is not simply who you know  But who you have access to via who the people you know. Image: MixTribe Photo
  17. 17. SOCIAL CAPITAL IS  Reciprocal  Your capital is directly tied to the capital of others  You gain social capital by giving Image: ~dip
  18. 18. SOCIAL CAPITAL  Bonding Social Capital - strong ties with kin and close friends that offers social support, builds collectivity, and is shared among people with similar values and goals (Lin, 2005; Putnam, 2000).  Bridging Social Capital - is goal-oriented and offers networking opportunities and access to external resources via extra-community ties (Gittell & Vidal, 1998; Putnam, 2000).
  19. 19. STRONG & WEAK TIES
  20. 20. WHAT DO YOU THINK?  Which person is more important for spreading NEW information to as many people as possible  A) Telling 1 of your 5 best friends  B) Telling an acquaintance in class
  21. 21. STRENGTH OF WEAK TIES  Groundbreaking study by Granovetter showed:  Similar people tend to form strong ties  These ties tend to share similar information  Cause a lot of overlap in info exchange  Therefore  Weak ties most important ties in social networks  Responsible for transmission of info between people Ties
  22. 22. GRANOVETTER STATES:  “Intuitively speaking, this means that whatever is to be diffused (shared) can reach a larger number of people, and traverse greater social distance when passed through weak ties rather than strong.” Ties
  23. 23. TIES THAT BIND  Weak Ties  Can Become  Strong Ties  But it is not necessary for them to for you to have success!  Weak ties are critical to info diffusion  But more & new strong ties, means new weak ties Image: Carolyn_Sewell
  24. 24. NETWORKS ON BOARD  Some students come up and draw their networks.  Then, we’ll see if any connections exist between them.