Music culture as a social network (Fall 2011)

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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". But the idea of using graph theory to understand social groups and culture goes back nearly a century, while the existence of social networks dates to the dawn of humanity, if not before...

Ethnomusicology is the study of music in society or music as culture...if social network analysis (SNA) is an important approach to understanding society and culture, then it should also provide an insightful means of thinking about ethnomusicology, and an productive tool for ethnomusicological research. Yet few ethnomusicologists have explored SNA's possibilities, perhaps because SNA is generally classed under "mathematical sociology" while music scholars have tended to prefer the more qualitative, critical, and interpretive sides of the human sciences. SNA also presents some challenging methodological difficulties for fieldworkers. Yet its origins are in social anthropology, a field with longstanding connections to ethnomusicology.

This seminar-workshop attempts to bridge the gap by offering students specializing in the arts and humanities a gentle introduction to contemporary social network analysis, in theory and in practice, 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; the analysis of fame as a network; exploring communities of musical taste; understanding the circulation of online music; analyzing the structure of online social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Myspace...and others specifically devoted to music); investigating networks of musical friendship, prestige, and respect; examining music sites on the Internet as a social network; networks generated by musical collaborations; the overlap of friendship and musical collaboration network; small world networks in the arts (c.f. Degrees of Kevin Bacon[1]); and many other topics.

Course work and goals include:

  • weekly
    • lectures and discussions
    • readings
    • problem sets, to learn and reinforce concepts
  • two short quizzes, to encourage learning
  • computer “lab work”, using free SNA software tools (mainly Pajek) to develop an intuitive grasp of network concepts
  • data collection via participant-observation, survey fieldwork, or online data mining
  • designing and completing a small research project, including planning, fieldwork, analysis, and interpretation.

There is no final exam.

You will be expected to bring a laptop to class, as we will use the software together.

An outline is forthcoming - please watch this space!

Required texts

Robert A. Hanneman and Mark Riddle. Introduction to social network methods (also available as a pdf. Free.)

Wouter de Nooy, Andrej Mrvar, and Vladimir Batagelj, Exploratory Social Network Analysis with Pajek, illustrated edition. (Cambridge University Press, 2005). (Available in the SUB bookstore.)

Optional texts

John P Scott, Social Network Analysis: A Handbook, 2nd ed. (Sage Publications Ltd, 2000). (Available in the SUB bookstore.) (succinct summary)

Linton C. Freeman, The Development of Social Network Analysis: A Study in the Sociology of Science (Empirical Press, 2004). (for those interested in SNA"s intellectual history)

Wasserman, Stanley and Faust, Katherine. Social network analysis methods and applications. Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press; 1994. (for those who want a more complete and rigorous treatment)

Popular treatments

Albert-Laszlo Barabasi, Linked: How Everything Is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means (Plume, 2003).

Duncan J. Watts, Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age (W. W. Norton & Company, 2004).

Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference (Back Bay Books, 2002).

Nicholas A. Christakis and James H. Fowler, Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives (New York: Little, Brown and Company). (A popular science treatment.)

Software (all free!)

Pajek for Windows or Mac (required - accompanies textbook)

NodeXL for Excel






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

Wiki for SNA

Social Network Analysis Instructional Web Site