INFS 797 - Social Networks

Instructor: Dr. Larry Kerschberg

Meeting Time and Place:
Thursdays: 7:20 - 10:00 p.m., Robinson Hall Room B208.

Instructor's Office Hours:
Tuesdays and Thursdays: 5:00 - 6:30 p.m., Nguyen Engineering Building, Room 4412.

Please send course-related email to Dr. Kerschberg using Blackboard.

Course Objectives:

We are now in the era of Social Networks, and they are transforming our interactions in social, educational, and business settings. Although many of us have accounts on Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn and Twitter, we probably are not using them to their full potential. This course aims to study the theory of social networks, models to analyze social networks, case studies of Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus and Twitter. Further we intend to analyze the role and impact of social media in business, government, and society.

The course will supplement the texts with journal articles and other readings. Students will be responsible for reading the articles and preparing a weekly synopsis for the class. Student projects will focus on current and advanced topics related to social networks and social media. Students will also be expected to perform programming assignments in Java, PHP or C++.

Pre-requisites: INFS Foudation Courses or equivalent, elementary graph theory, database management, and accounts on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, or Twitter.

Topics Covered:

The course will address the following topics:

  1. Graph Theory and Social Networks
  2. Markets and Strategic Interactions in Networks
  3. Information Networks and the World Wide Web
  4. Network Dynamics: Population and Structural Models
  5. Institutions and Aggregate Behavior
  6. Social Media and its impact on Business, Politics, Law and Revolutions
  7. Legal Responsibilities for Social Media
  8. Case Studies: Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter.
  9. Emerging Trends in Social Networks and Media (Guest Lecturers will be invited to present special topics).

Grading Policy:

The grade will be determined by grades obtained in individual assignments, research paper review and report, a group research project and presentation, and class participation.

Individual Assignments
Group Reading Assignments and Presentations
Group Research Project Paper
Group Research Project Presentation (Individual Grade)
Class Participation
Final Exam

In the group projects, students form small, 3-4 person, teams to perform research on a topic related to the course.


Required Text:

Networks, Crowds, and Markets: Reasoning about a Highly Connected World, David Easley and Jon Kleinberg, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0-521-19533-1

Available in Fenwick Library as

The web page for our textbook is here:

There is also an online pre-print PDF version of the book at Cornell University:

Recommended Texts:

We will be using the GMU Digital Library for books as well as journal articles. The books listed below are accessible in the GMU Digital Library.

Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age, Duncan J. Watts, W.W. Norton & Company, 2003. ISBN 0-393-32542-3.

Mining the Social Web: Analyzing Data from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media sites, Matthew A. Russell, O'Reilly Media, 2011, ISBN: 978-1-449-38834-8.

Analyzing Social Media Networks with NodeXL: Insights from a Connected World, Derek L. Hansen, Ben Shneiderman, and Marc A. Smith, Morgan Kaufman, ISBN 978-0-12-382229-1.