Teaching Network Analysis

I had a conversation with Scott Weingart the other day, prompted by this plaintive cry:


Backstory: I’m teaching a class where we are looking at maps and networks and archaeological data, as ways of understanding how cities and countryside blur into one another in the ancient world. Last week, we played iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma’s with playing cards (thanks to this site by Alannah Morrison) as part of a discussion about Agent Based Modeling.

Which brings me to the conversation with Scott. Today, we’re playing with Gephi and making network models of the character relationships in our favourite TV shows. The next step is to combine the two lessons to address the question: what flows over networks? What do different network shapes imply, and what kinds of metrics answer what kinds of questions? So I think I’ll set up two different networks with the students – literally, I’ll arrange students in a line, a star, etc – and have them play iterated Prisoner’s Dilemmas with the people to whom they’re connected. We’ll use playing cards to represent payoffs… and hopefully we’ll see the cards flow over the network.

I thank Scott for his suggestions!




Then we’ll turn to Netlogo’s community models of network dynamics. That is, they will. The classroom computer is so locked down that I can’t run a freaking java applet in the classroom.

Anyway, that’s the plan for today.

2 thoughts on “Teaching Network Analysis

  1. Looks great, can’t wait to see how it turns out! I hope you post the results. I should point out that the ball-passing exercise doesn’t necessarily converge on PageRank without some stricter rules on directionality and random changes of ball location, but it was hard to explain that in a tweet.

  2. Cool ideas! Really looking forward to hearing your experiences after you did it, and what the students thought of it. I guess your students are all archaeologists? It is definitely a challenge to teach them SNA and ABM so am really curious. One idea I once had is to replay the classic SNA example of a cocktail party, where the host tells one person a message and then you explore how long it takes until everyone heard the message. The fun thing about this is that you can simulate a fun social event in your class room (alcohol optional I guess).

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