Difference between revisions of "Music culture as a social network (Fall 2011)"

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(Kinds of music networks)
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=Sources of online network data=
=Sources of online network data=
* Online social networks
* Web-based social networks
** [http://twitter.com Twitter]. Entities:  users. Relation: following (unidirectional).  Information flow: tweets, retweets.
** [http://twitter.com Twitter]. Entities:  users. Relation: following (unidirectional).  Information flow: tweets, retweets.
** [http://facebook.com Facebook]. Entities: users. Relation: friendship (bidirectional); like (unidirectional); groups and events (affiliation) . Information flow:  status.
** [http://facebook.com Facebook]. Entities: users. Relation: friendship (bidirectional); like (unidirectional); groups and events (affiliation) . Information flow:  status.

Revision as of 17:35, 4 September 2011

short link: http://bit.ly/mcsn

MUSIC 466/566 LEC A1 T R 11:00AM - 12:20PM
HC (Humanities Centre) room 4-78 (available for undergraduate or graduate credit)

Note: the following course outline is not yet finalized!


SNA segment.png

These days, social networks seem to be everywhere, especially with the advent of "social networking" as a catchphrase, new web-based social networking services such as Facebook, and popularization of social network concepts such as six degrees of separation, and small-world networks[1]. But the idea of using graph theory to understand social groups and culture goes back nearly a century, while social networks themselves are intrinsic to being human. [2][3]

Ethnomusicology is typically defined as the study of music in society or the study of music as culture...if social network analysis (SNA) is an important approach towards understanding society and culture, then it follows that SNA should also provide an insightful means of thinking in ethnomusicology, and a productive tool for ethnomusicological research.

Yet few ethnomusicologists have explored SNA's possibilities, perhaps because SNA appears inaccessible, filed under "mathematical sociology," while music scholars have tended to prefer the more qualitative, critical, and interpretive approaches of the human sciences. SNA also presents some challenging methodological difficulties for fieldworkers - mapping social networks is not always easy, practically and ethically. Yet SNA's origins lies in social anthropology, a field with longstanding connections to ethnomusicology. Methodologically SNA is more feasible today, with the emergence of online virtual communities, defined by social networking websites, and other electronic communications. And the basic mathematics required to understand SNA is quite elementary.

This seminar-workshop attempts to bridge the gap between traditional humanistic scholarship and SNA by providing a gentle introduction to methods, theories, and issues in social network analysis,with applications to ethnomusicology. You won’t merely read about social network analysis, you’ll actually do it!

Ethnomusicological applications of SNA include understanding the ways musicians and audiences interact in performance; network aspects of celebrity formation; exploring communities of musical taste; understanding the circulation of online music; analyzing the role of music in the structure of online social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Myspace...and others specifically devoted to music); investigating networks of musical friendship, prestige, and respect; examining linkages between music sites on the Internet; considering networks generated by musical collaborations (e.g. composer-lyricist relations); the overlap of friendship and musical collaboration network; small world networks in the arts (c.f. Degrees of Kevin Bacon[4]); affiliation networks of numerous types; and many other topics.


MCSN 2011 schedule (assignments and class activities, by date)

Google Calendar


  • Weekly...
    • Classroom work: Lectures (mostly Tuesdays), demos (your demonstrations of Pajek technique), and discussions (more on Thursdays), all interspersed with group exercises, Q/A, videos, demos, etc.
    • Homework, promoting a theoretical and practical grasp of social network concepts
      • Readings: (mostly in ESNAP)
      • Lab: Pajek exercises, described in the ESNAP text (it's very important to do these completely!)
      • Problems: to test and reinforce those concepts. Questions are typically due on Thursdays; assignments are typically due the following Tuesday.
  • Occasional in-class self-guided group projects (these projects are to be written up and handed in the following class)
  • Three very short (20 minute) quizzes (Sep 22, Oct 13, Nov 3), to motivate and assess learning
  • Proposal to analyze a public online social network, comprising four short paragraphs and a bibliography (draft due Oct 27, to be resubmitted until accepted):
  1. General aim and value of your study, framed as a contribution to ethnomusicology
  2. Brief background on your selected case (topical and theoretical), citing relevant literature
  3. Principal research questions and tentative hypotheses
  4. Methods: what do you plan to do? (data sources and modes of analysis)
  5. Bibliography (can be very short at this stage)
  • SNA research project of your choosing, including planning, written proposal, data gathering, preparation of Pajek files, analysis, interpretation, and writeup as a final paper (Music 466: 2500 words; Music 566: 3500 words).
  • Class presentation, amply illustrated with Pajek graphs - 10 minutes - outlining your project's main questions and methods, with partial results, during the last few classes at term's end (depending on enrollment).

Note that there is no final exam, but only a final paper. All assignments are to be handed in via the Moodle, but please bring them to class also (electronically or hardcopy) for discussion. The final paper should be submitted electronically, and also in hardcopy.

If possible, bring your laptop to each class, so we can explore the software together.


  1. This course can be taken at either of two levels: 468 (regular) or 568 (advanced). If you are an undergraduate, you should be enrolled in 468. Graduate students should be enrolled in 568. At the same grade level, expectations for 568 are slightly higher, and the final paper should display greater sophistication (as well as being 50% longer).
  2. Word counts do not including bibliography or illustrative graphs and other diagrams.


The evaluation of each requirement is on a scale from 0-4 points. These scores are combined according to the percentages indicated in order to produce a final numeric grade. This grade is rounded to the nearest numeric value in the table below, in order to determine the final letter grade. In exceptional cases the grade A+ may also be assigned. Expectations for the 500 level are higher than for the 400 level. Without a valid excuse (documented medical or family emergency) grades for late assignments will decremented by a quarter-point per day, and make-up quizzes will not be administered. Please take care to plan ahead, bearing in mind due dates for your other courses.

All assignments are to be submitted via the Moodle.

  • Attendance and class participation (including Pajek demos): 15%
  • Homework (mainly ESNAP "questions" and "assignments", as well as project writeups): 20% total (each submitted item receives an equal weight).
  • Quizzes: 6.6666% each (20% total)
  • Project proposal: 5%
  • Research class presentation: 10%
  • Research paper: 30%

A A- B+ B B- C+ C C- D+ D F
4.0 3.7 3.3 3.0 2.7 2.3 2.0 1.7 1.3 1.0 0.0

Moodle site

The University's new Moodle system will be used, primarily to accept submitted assignments.



You'll find a number of these books on reserve in the Music Library (Rutherford, 2nd floor), though new rules may preclude placing textbooks there. Some are also available electronically. But I do recommend purchasing the required work (ESNAP), since working from an electronic version may prove awkward as you're also using your computer to work the examples using Pajek.


Wouter de Nooy, Andrej Mrvar, and Vladimir Batagelj, Exploratory Social Network Analysis with Pajek (abbreviated: ESNAP), illustrated edition. (Cambridge University Press, 2005). (Available in the SUB bookstore, and also available online, though you may find it difficult to work with an ebook.) To be read in conjunction with Pajek (which was created for PCs but also runs fine on Macs).

IMPORTANT NOTE: Purchase the first edition (blue), not the 2nd edition (green). The second edition is not out yet, and so I could not use it while preparing this course. It might be on the market by September 2011, however. While it might seem logical to buy the most recent version, new editions can differ significantly, and all my assignments refer to the first (blue) edition. So don't buy the 2nd edition unless you're prepared to spring for both.


No need to purchase these at the outset, and several are already available for free online. As for the others, if you find them to your liking you may wish to own a copy. Browse at the library or bookstore.

Texts and reference works

Use these to supplement the primary text, particularly if something is unclear. Several of these books are available for purchase in the bookstore, and I'll put as many on Music Reserve as possible. (New rules restrict placing textbooks on reserve...)

  • Robert A. Hanneman and Mark Riddle. Introduction to social network methods (also available as a pdf. Free.) Works well with Netdraw (which runs only on PCs, or Macs in Windows compatibility mode). You may wish to refer to this alternative text to clarify and reinforce understanding, especially if you're having trouble with a concept presented in ESNAP.
  • John P Scott, Social Network Analysis: A Handbook, 2nd ed. (Sage Publications Ltd, 2000). (Available in the SUB bookstore.) Provides a succinct summary of the field at a more advanced level.
  • Wasserman, Stanley and Faust, Katherine. Social network analysis: methods and applications. Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press; 1994. A rich summary of SNA theory and applications, for those who want a more complete and rigorous reference work.

Popular treatments

Enjoyable and accessible, these books will also stimulate your creative thinking...feel free to browse selectively.

Software (all free!)


Pajek (Slovenian for "spider") is required, as it accompanies our textbook. Pajek runs on Windows, Linux, and Intel Mac platforms. Your first task is to install Pajek on your computer, and begin to get comfortable using it.


Optionally, you may like to explore and experiment with other packages...

NodeXL for Excel (Windows only)









International Network for Social Network Analysis (professional SNA society - with lots of links, naturally!)

Wiki for SNA

Social Network Analysis Instructional Web Site

David Easley and Jon Kleinberg's Interdisciplinary networks course at Cornell University (cross-listed in computer science, economics, sociology, information science)

Mathematica demos

Instructive, and fun to play with (btw, Mathematica is wonderful...but pricey)















Social nets













Kinds of music networks

  • affiliation networks
    • musicians/groups: co-membership
    • fan clubs and groups
    • musical taste networks (people who like this music also like this...)
  • relation between friendship networks and musical attributes (taste, performance, consumption, breadth)
  • structure of musician communication networks
  • product networks (co-purchase, e.g. Amazon)
  • flow networks (diachronic)
    • the temporal flow of musical awareness/preference/popularity
    • the flow of music production/distribution/consumption
    • communication networks in performance
  • modal networks and Markov chains
  • transmission: teaching and learning networks (oral tradition, diachronic variation, discipular genealogy...)
  • networks of musical collaboration (e.g. composer/lyricist networks, co-member networks)
  • musical prestige and authority
  • musical preference: celebrity topologies
  • egonets and music attributes (performance, consumption, taste, breadth)
  • citation and co-author networks among music scholars
  • affiliation networks linking scholars to research areas (topical, theoretical, disciplinary, or geocultural)
  • aesthetic preference networks (digraph: judgments on pairs of music objects)
  • web-based networks
    • webpage word co-occurrence (e.g. musical genres)
    • Facebook networks (centered on musicians; or musical friendship links; or embedded music information)
    • Twitter networks (centered on musicians)

Network types:

  • small world networks (large networks with small diameters)
  • Geographical vs. scale-free networks

Sources of online network data

Possible project ideas

  • Connecting class members via real or online networks (e.g. shared FB friends)
  • Daily changes in the Twitter egonetwork for music celebrities, correlated to album releases
  • Studies of ethnomusicologists as they collaborate in groups, or affiliate to topics
  • Musical taste implications for social networks
  • Observation of conversational interactions
  • Plot networks in films about musicians
  • Ego-alter networks
  • Friendship networks
  • Musical affiliations
  • Flow: how you learn about music from friends...
  • Literary connections through song lyrics
  • Composer-lyricist networks
  • Social fragmentations induced by media fragmentations
  • Which music networks are scale free?
  • Diameters of music collaboration networks

Pajek Help

Need help?

Official policy

Please carefully review the following:

  • The University of Alberta is committed to the highest standards of academic integrity and honesty. Students are expected to be familiar with these standards regarding academic honesty and to uphold the policies of the University in this respect. Students are particularly urged to familiarize themselves with the provisions of the Code of Student Behaviour and avoid any behaviour which could potentially result in suspicions of cheating, plagiarism, misrepresentation of facts and/or participation in an offence. Academic dishonesty is a serious offence and can result in suspension or expulsion from the University.”