Spring course on Networks at Columbia

Richard R. John, a new faculty member in the Communications Program at Columbia, will be offering a course on networks in the spring semester. A first draft of the syllabus is posted below along with contact details for Professor John for those interested. It looks fascinating, and wide-ranging too.

Networks:  History, Theory, Practice


Richard R. John    rrj2115@columbia.edu

Spring 2010     212 854 0547

Monday 2-4     Room TBA

Office:  Journalism 201E   Office hours:  Monday 10-12

This course has two goals: to introduce students to the outpouring of recent work among sociologists, historians, psychologists, and urban planners in networks (social, technical, and digital) and to provide them with an opportunity to prepare a piece of scholarly writing that builds on the burgeoning literature—academic and journalistic—on this topic.  Students are expected to read the assigned texts in advance of the class discussion, to prepare a brief memorandum on each week’s readings (after the first week), and to complete two written assignments:  A five-page speculative analysis of the future trajectory of a network of the student’s choice (due 8 March);  (2) a fifteen-page essay on a topic of the student’s choice that has been approved in advance by the instructor (due 10 May).

      • Note: All topics much be approved by the instructor
      • Grading will be based on the following criteria
  1. class participation and memoranda (40 percent)
  1. five-page analysis (20 percent)
  1. fifteen-page essay (40 percent)

Both papers must be submitted in hard copy; email attachments are not accepted.

Required Texts:

    Albert-Lazlo Barabasi, Linked: The New Science of Networks (2002)
    Charles Tilly, Big Structures, Large Processes, Huge Comparisons (1984)
    Erik van der Vleuten and Arne Kaijser, eds., Networking Europe: Transnational Infrastructures and the Shaping of Europe, 1850-2000 (2006)
    Alfred D. Chandler, Jr., Inventing the Electronic  Century:  The Epic Story of the Consumer Electronics and Computer Industries (2001)
    Ken Auletta, Googled: The End of the World as We Know It (2009)
    Manuel Castells, The Rise of the Network Society (1996)
    Manuel Castells, Internet Galaxy: Reflections on the Internet, Business, and Society (2001)
    Bruno Latour, Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory (2005)
    Stephen Graham and Simon Marvin, Splintering Urbanism: Networked Infrastructures, Technological Mobilities, and the Urban Condition (2001)
    Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing without Organizations (2008)
    Yochai Benkler, The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom (2006)
    Steven Weber, The Success of Open Source (2004)
    Jean-Noel Jeanneney, Google and the Myth of Universal Knowledge (2007)

Week 1 (25 January):  Introduction:  The ‘Science’ of Networks

Reading:  Barabasi, Linked; Watts, “New ‘Science’ of Networks” (in CourseWorks)

Unit 1: History

Week 2 (1 February): Social Networks

Reading: Tilly, Big Structures; Hancock, “The Trouble with Networks” (in CourseWorks)

Week 3 (8 February): Technical Networks

Readings: van der Vleuten and Kaijser, Networking Europe; Hughes, “Firm to Network Systems” (in CourseWorks)

Week 4 (15 February): Electronic Networks

Readings: Alfred D. Chandler, Jr., Inventing the Electronic Century:  The Epic Story of the Consumer Electronics and Computer Industries (2001); Turner, “The Triumph of the Network Mode” (in CourseWorks)

Week 5 (22 February): Digital Networks

Readings: Auletta, Googled; Campbell-Kelly and Garcia-Swartz, “Software as a Service” (in CourseWorks)

Unit 2: Theory

Week 6 (1 March): Historical Sociology:  The Network Society

Readings: Castells, Network Society, prologue, chaps, 1, 3, 5, 6; Castells, Communications Power, chap. 1 (in CourseWorks)

Week 7 (8 March):  Historical Sociology: The Internet Galaxy

    Readings: Castells, Internet Galaxy; Williams, “Afterword” (in CourseWorks)



Week 8 (22 March): Science and Technology Studies (STS): Actor-Network Theory

Readings:  Latour, Reassembling the Social; Hemmingway, Into the Newsroom (in CourseWorks)

Week 9 (29 March): Urban Planning

Graham and Marvin, Splintering Urbanism, prologue, intro., pt. 1;  Rochlin, “Networks and the Subversion of Choice” (in CourseWorks)

Week 10 (5 April): Social Psychology

Readings: Shirky, Here Comes Everybody; Christakis and Fowler, Connected, chaps. 5, 6 OR Sageman, Understanding Terror Networks, chaps. 1, 5 (in CourseWorks)

Week 11 (15 April): Critical Legal Studies


Readings: Benkler, Wealth of Networks, intro. and pt. 1

Week 12 (19 April): Critical Legal Studies

Readings: Benkler, Wealth of Nations, pts. 2-3 OR Weber, Open Source

Unit 3: Practice

Week 13 (26 April):  Social Policy

Readings: Jeanneney, Google; Darnton, Case for Books (in CourseWorks)

Week 14 (3 May): Everyday Life

Readings:  Aspray, “File Sharing” (in CourseWorks); Robins and Webster, “Cybernetic Capitalism” (in CourseWorks)


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