While i think up to now we were still trying to sort out how this venture might go, there’s no turning back now that we’ve been linked over on OrgTheory. Not for the next week or so anyway. And given Kieran’s link i think i am going to try to take advantage of the impending/underway OrgTheory bump.
i’m currently teaching an undergrad social networks class. And following discussions with my chair, i may be doing so most semesters for the foreseeable future. This is a good thing. However i am taking a slightly different tack on it than most SN courses i’ve seen previously, so i am actively tweaking it as i go, and know it could definitely benefit from others’ input.
Anyone who’s spent some time within the networks community has become abundantly aware of a variety of the critiques of a networks perspective (not an exhaustive list, just some greatest hits; not necessarily conceding these, just acknowledging they’re out there):
- It’s a-theoretical
- Too many static networks, too little attention to dynamics
- Our visualizations often make things feel more “real” than they are
- Relationship stacking*
- “I can’t add that to my survey!”
- Can we really capture the networks we think matter?
Of these, the first is probably the most widespread, and will quickly evoke strong reactions from many of us who study networks (see Borgatti et al 2009 in Science). But ironically, if networks is taught as an undergrad class it’s almost always taught as a methods/stats class. This can go some distance in undermining our ability to withstand that particular criticism, no?**
Anywho, this is where i have taken a slightly different approach to teaching networks to undergrads than most syllabi i’ve seen.*** It’s not a methods/stats class. And it really, ironically doesn’t include much math. i do tackle the intuition behind some of the math, but i don’t expect them to know/calculate any formulas. Instead, i’m trying to take a topical approach to networks. I.e., here’s some of why we think they matter, and here’s some of the evidence that’s so. In some respects, i’m really trying to make it an alternate approach to an intro to sociology – addressing many of the core issues we’d expect students to get there, but doing it with a fundamentally relational lens.
So, the self indulgent reason for my post? Do you have any readings i must add to my syllabus in future iterations? (If you want to see what i am doing now, it’s here.) i’m already planning to drop about 20% of those from this time around next semester (mainly ones that just didn’t quite work like i’d hoped). And more than just for this re-write, i would really like to have a “deep bench” – both so that i can keep it fresh for myself, and so that, where possible, i can tailor some readings to the interests of the class.
* My best attempt at a label for a very interesting critique from Ezra Zuckerman.
** Likely a slightly bigger can o’ worms than i want to open at this point, but…
*** i’d be happy to be pointed to examples that i’ve missed on this front. The only one i’ve actually seen is Matt Salganik’s at Princeton, though i’ve heard word of a few others out there or in the making. Drop any pointers in the comments or email me (jimi dot adams at AY ESS YOU dot EE DEE YOU).