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NETWORKED LIFE
Networked and Social Systems Engineering (NETS) 112
Fall 2014
Tuesdays and Thursdays 10:30-12, Berger Auditorium, Skirkanich Hall
Prof. Michael Kearns

Jump to the course schedule.


COURSE DESCRIPTION

  • What science underlies companies like Facebook, Google, and Twitter?
  • What are the economics of email spam?
  • Why do some social networking services take off, and others die?
  • What do game theory and the Paris subway have to do with Internet routing?
  • How does Google find what you're looking for... and exactly how do they make money doing so?
  • What structural properties might we expect any social network to have?
  • How might a social network influence election outcomes?
  • What problems can be solved by crowdsourcing?
  • How does your position in a social network (dis)advantage you?

    Networked Life looks at how our world is connected -- socially, strategically and technologically -- and why it matters.

    The answers to the questions above are related. They have been the subject of a fascinating intersection of disciplines, including computer science, physics, psychology, sociology, mathematics, economics and finance. Researchers from these areas all strive to quantify and explain the growing complexity and connectivity of the world around us, and they have begun to develop a rich new science along the way.

    Networked Life will explore recent scientific efforts to explain social, economic and technological structures -- and the way these structures interact -- on many different scales, from the behavior of individuals or small groups to that of complex networks such as the Internet and the global economy.

    This course covers computer science topics and other material that is mathematical, but all material will be presented in a way that is accessible to an educated audience with or without a strong technical background. The course is open to all majors and all levels, and is taught accordingly. There will be ample opportunities for those of a quantitative bent to dig deeper into the topics we examine. The majority of the course is grounded in scientific and mathematical findings of the past two decades or less (often much less).

    Fall 2014 is the eleventh offering of Networked Life. You can get a detailed sense for the course by visiting the extensive course web pages from past years:
    [Fall 2013]   [Fall 2012]   [Fall 2011]   [Spring 2010]   [Spring 2009]   [Spring 2008]   [Spring 2007]   [Spring 2006]   [Spring 2005]   [Spring 2004]
    (Note: the Fall 2011 version used a different course management platform than the simple HTML site we'll be using this year, so it might be easiest to peruse the 2013 and pre-2011 sites to get a sense of how the course unfolds.)

    There is also a greatly condensed version of this class offered to the general public as part of the online education platform Coursera. All Penn students should create a (free) Coursera account, and sign up for the session of Networked Life there that begins on Monday, September 1, 2014. See the course schedule for information on how we will make use of the online material and how to sign up.

    Networked Life is the flagship course for Penn Engineering's recently launched Networked and Social Systems Engineering (NETS) program. Throughout the course we will foreshadow material that is covered in greater depth in later NETS program courses.


    REQUIRED TEXTS

    The following three books are required texts for the course:

  • The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell. Paperback. Little Brown & Company, 2000.
  • Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age, by Duncan J. Watts. Paperback. W.W. Norton, 2003.
  • Micromotives and Macrobehavior, by Thomas C. Schelling. Paperback. W.W. Norton, 1978.

    NOTE: The books are not yet in the Penn bookstore, but "The Tipping Point" should be in stock there by Friday September 5.

    In addition to readings from these texts, there will be frequent articles from the recent scientific and popular literature that will be provided directly on this web page at the appropriate points in the syllabus.


    COURSE PERSONNEL

    Prof. Michael Kearns, Course Instructor
    mkearns@cis.upenn.edu
    Levine Hall 509
    Office hours: Tuesdays 12-1 PM (right after lecture), or by appointment

    Shahin Jabbari, Teaching Assistant
    jabbari@cis.upenn.edu
    Office hours: TBD

    Ryan Rogers, Teaching Assistant
    ryrogers@sas.upenn.edu
    Office hours: TBD


    LECTURE LOCATIONS AND TIMES

    Attendance at the main lectures is considered mandatory for all enrolled students. They are held Tuesdays and Thursdays 10:30-12 in Berger Auditorium of Skirkanich Hall. There are no recitations for the course.


    COURSE PREREQUISITES

    Networked Life has no formal prerequisites, and is meant to be accessible to a broad range of students across SEAS, the College, and Wharton. No computer programming background is required, but students should be comfortable using computers and the Web, and accessing resources on the Internet.

    The course is open to all majors and all levels.


    CURRICULUM REQUIREMENTS FULFILLED BY NETS 112

  • Networked Life is one of the courses satisfying the College of Arts and Sciences' Quantitative Data Analysis Requirement.
  • Networked Life is counted as an official Engineering Elective course in CIS and SEAS.
  • Networked Life can be counted for credit in the Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) and Science, Technology and Society (STSC) programs. Check with your academic advisor in these programs to confirm exactly how you can count the course.


    COURSE FORMAT AND REQUIREMENTS

    The main lectures for Networked Life will be in fairly traditional format, including class participation, discussion, and communal experiments. PDF slides for all lectures will be provided, usually at least slightly in advance of the lecture itself.

    There will be two or three homework assignments. These will include simple quantitative exercises, as well as essay questions, computer and web exercises. Collaboration on the homeworks is not permitted.

    There will be a midterm, and a final exam.

    As an added bonus, this year there will also be online experiments on solving challenging problems in networks.

    It is anticipated that the homeworks, experiments, midterm and final will each count for approximately a quarter to a third of the overall grade.

    Students are encouraged to bring articles, demos, web pages, news events, etc. that are relevant to course topics to the attention of Prof. Kearns. Extra credit will be given if the suggested material is used in the course (see the "Fourth Column" below).


    DETAILED COURSE SCHEDULE

    Except for occasional hard-copy handouts distributed in lectures, all of the material for the course will be posted in the table below. Lecture slides, reading and homework assignments, in-class and out-of-class experiments, due dates, exam information, etc. will all be provided below. The materials posted are initially those from the last offering of the class, and will be gradually updated and possibly altered as we progress through the course. New materials and topics may be added as well. Reading and working ahead are encouraged, just be aware that things may change a bit as we proceed. It is every student's responsibility to monitor this schedule closely and regularly.

    In the assigned readings below, "Gladwell", "Watts" and "Schelling" refer to the three required texts cited above. Other readings will be directly provided as links to PDF documents. Unless specified otherwise, you should generally try to complete the assigned reading during roughly the period spanned by the dates given in the same row of the table.

    The lecture slides are all in PDF format, but they may often contain links to documents in other formats, including Postscript, JPEG, video, etc. In order to view all of the linked content you may need to be using a computer with viewers installed for these formats. Note that since slides are revised shortly in advance of each lecture date, links to future decks may not yet be active.

    In the "DATES" column of the table below, our current place in the schedule will be highlighted in red.

    "THE FOURTH COLUMN" will be used to put links to class-related materials from the popular media, the web, etc. Extra credit will be provided to those who send me such material if it is used.

    DATES SLIDES ASSIGNMENTS AND ANNOUNCEMENTS THE FOURTH COLUMN
    Lectures:        
    Tu Sep 2
    Course Introduction and Overview
    [PDF] [PPT]
    (Rev. 8/21)

    There is a greatly condensed version of this class available to the general public, launching on Coursera on Monday, September 1. All Penn students are required to register for the Coursera version, and to watch the videos corresponding to class content as we encounter them, as per the scheduled links given below. Penn students are not required to take the Coursera quizzes, but are strongly encouraged to do so to test understanding. You should create a Coursera account (which is free) and register as soon as possible, since registration will close in a couple of weeks. Note that the Coursera version moves at a 7-week pace with quizzes etc., but you will have access to all materials after the 7 weeks.

    Here is the Coursera course overview video.

    Within the first two weeks of class, you should read Malcolm Gladwell's "The Tipping Point" in its entirety. While we will not spend a lot of time in lectures directly on the book, it remains a highly readable introduction to some central course themes.

    Here is a document containing a brief background survey and our second communal social experiment. Please print them out, complete them (which should only take a few minutes), and return them at the start of the second lecture (Th Sep 4), as we will analyze the results of the social experiment on the fly in class.

    As sample Fourth Column material, A contagion oldie but goodie.