As digital media professionals interested in the future of communications and business, we use terms like social media and social network with an almost casual abandon. And yet we are hard pressed to explain in detail the nature, function, or structure of the “social” formations that structure these “networks.” This is unfortunate, because a more nuanced, more granular understanding of social network formations can help facilitate stable, useful, and attractive social networks and thus enhance the potential success of social media strategies. Fortunately, there is a robust set of literature focusing on “network theory,” literature that tries to understand and anticipate why some networks work better than others. Engaging this theory through digital and analog case studies, this course will explore concepts like small worlds, strong and loose ties, positionality, agent-based modeling, and emergent properties, among other ways of understanding how to advance social networking. The goal is to move beyond social networking as a label and into a deeper, more complex understanding of the phenomena at work beneath the surface of the social formation.
“As the title indicates, Health of Networks is about addressing a lot of things and ONE thing, at the same time – that in seeking to truly understand the way we connect, we must understand (to a certain extent) ALL the ways we connect. As obvious at it may seem to some, and completely lost on others, in Health of Networks, Ken Rufo challenges students to address the painful truth – that we all talk a hell of a lot about social media networks without any effort truly given to understand what it is. So, how do you measure whether a social network, or networks of any kind are thriving? What are the networks, and the nodes within them that really matter? MOST importantly, what does a network look like and how does it behave? These are the questions that Rufo requires students “wrestle to the ground”, in theory and practice, throughout the term. Ken Rufo is both a deep and a peripheral thinker. You have to be on your mettle to get something out of this course, but then you will be GUARANTEED to learn something of value as a graduate student of communication, and with luck become enlightened to the challenges and pitfalls of human’s reliance on digitally-based social interaction.”