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  • University of Warsaw
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People, Networks and Neighbours: Understanding Social Dynamics

Learn why social processes seem so unpredictable and understand better the basics of social dynamics.

972 enrolled on this course

People, Networks and Neighbours: Understanding Social Dynamics
  • Duration

    3 weeks
  • Weekly study

    4 hours
  • 100% online

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Explore a new way of approaching questions about social behaviour

This three-week course will help you understand why social processes seem so unpredictable and understand better the basics of social dynamics. It’s designed to show you a new interesting way of approaching questions about social behaviour. Throughout, you’ll focus on social mechanisms and will explore how models and simulations can help to understand those mechanisms.

Understand how micro behaviours can lead to unexpected results for a group or society

You’ll gain an understanding of how the behaviour of individuals can lead to unexpected results on a group or societal level. You’ll also explore a new way of looking at social phenomena by focussing on underlying mechanisms, and will investigate how models can help decipher social processes.

Explore how similar social processes occur across different contexts

You’ll also explore how similar social processes occur across different contexts, and will experiment with a simple pen-and-paper model and a computer simulation of a social mechanism. Finally, you’ll identify the opportunities that computational social sciences (CSS), especially modelling and simulations, offer for understanding social processes.

Experiment with models and simulations - without any prior mathematical or programming skills

Throughout the course you will be investigating some simple social processes with the help of models that illustrate how humans behave and how they influence each other. For that we will use examples, animations and game-like tools - no mathematical and programming skills are required!

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Skip to 0 minutes and 3 seconds Will people vote in the elections and who will they choose? Will people change their habits in order to prevent plastic pollution? How are people going to react to new regulations related to the pandemic? Have you ever wondered how some behaviours seem so hard to change over time although you’d probably like them to, while in other cases, a huge social change happens quite suddenly almost like out of nowhere? How can you predict what will happen? All these questions are related to social processes and the final effect depends on a mass of people, making decisions on how to behave. In this course, you will try to decipher some basic characteristics of social dynamics.

Skip to 0 minutes and 56 seconds You will be focusing on what individual people do and how their actions, taken together, lead to a certain result. As a case study, you will investigate how people organise a protest and analyse it step by step with the help of some simple models and simulations that illustrate how humans behave, how they influence each other, and what unexpected outcomes may result from those behaviours. Together, with an international team of experts, we designed a set of examples, illustrations, and exercises that will help you explore modelling and simulations. The course is designed in such a way that you don’t need any mathematical or programming skills for that.

Skip to 1 minute and 47 seconds During this course, you will have a chance to try out this approach by working with some simple models and even experimenting on an imaginary village in a game-like manner. You will experience how such an approach can help you analyse social processes. Finally, it will also help you better understand some basic mechanisms of social behaviour, and you will be able to see the world around you in another light. If you want to find out more, join us.

Syllabus

  • Week 1

    Discovering social dynamics

    • Why are social processes hard to predict?

      In this activity, you will consider why social processes seem so unpredictable and have a closer look at one specific process of organising a protest.

    • Organising a protest - investigating a simple model

      In this activity, you will investigate a very simple model of how a protest comes to life and explore how micro behaviours lead to unexpected outcomes on a social level.

    • Between micro-behaviours and social outcomes

      In this activity, you will explore how a small change can have a big impact on the final outcome and how it is important to think about mechanisms leading from individual behaviours to the results on a societal level.

    • Model, modelling and simulations

      In this activity, you will learn what model, modelling and simulations are - on the basis of your experiences with the protest organisation example.

    • Summary of Week 1

      We wrap up the week.

  • Week 2

    Conformity, friends and networks

    • Imitation and influence

      In this activity we will discuss why we sometimes imitate other people’s behaviour.

    • Grapevine protests - how protest spreads through social relations

      In this activity, we will investigate how a protest may spread via friendship relations. We will also start looking at the way networks of relations influence our decisions.

    • Social Network Analysis and the networks around us

      In this activity, we will discuss what Social Network Analysis is and explore the world of networks around us.

    • Describing social dynamics

      In this activity we will focus on measuring social dynamics, we will investigate the ways that the numbers grow and find out what a nonlinear process is.

    • Social dynamics and computational models

      In this activity, we will discuss why we need computational models to study complex processes and what is the added value of simulating social processes.

  • Week 3

    Neighbours, flags and a bird’s eye view

    • Protests that spread spatially

      In this activity, you will consider how sometimes protest comes in a ‘spatial’ form and consider how some processes may spread via neighbour-to-neighbour influence.

    • Protests in Cherryville

      In this activity, you will investigate a model of a process that spreads in space and we will focus on the process of creating this model, both by looking at individuals and their surroundings.

    • Spatial protests seen from a bird’s eye view

      In this activity, you will explore the model further, this time on a bigger scale and you will see the results of the process from a bird’s eye view.

    • Simulating the spread of the protest in different cities

      In this activity, you will experiment with different cities with the help of a simple simulation tool (no need to install anything!) and you will observe how protests spread depending on different initial conditions.

    • Combining the number of initiators and level of threshold.

      In this activity, you will first investigate how both the number of initiators and the average threshold level impact the final patterns and afterwards we will sum up the results of all experiments.

    • Agent-Based Models

      In this activity, you will learn about agent-based models (ABMs) - on the basis of spatial protest simulations - and explore some real-life applications of those models.

    • Finishing the course

      You have reached the end of this course. Thanks for participating! In this activity, we will quickly wrap up the contents of the whole course and point to some directions on how you can study computational models further.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and learn at your own pace. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

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Learning on this course

You can take this self-guided course and learn at your own pace. On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Explain how behaviour of individuals can lead to unexpected results on a group or societal level
  • Explore a new way of looking at social phenomena by focussing on underlying mechanisms
  • Investigate how models can help decipher social processes
  • Explore how similar social processes occur across different contexts
  • Describe how modelling works, both with a simple pen-and-paper model and computer simulation of a social mechanism
  • Identify the opportunities that Computational Social Sciences, especially modelling and simulations, offer for understanding social processes

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for anyone who is interested in understanding human behaviour, especially in how different social processes work.

It will be particularly useful for professionals dealing with situations where social change takes place (or is desirable) and where social influences play a role, such as in the context of public policy, business, marketing, and healthcare.

If you are studying social sciences and are curious how computational approach works, this course will be particularly helpful. And if you are an academic teacher with no prior experience with this approach yet and you’re considering enriching your own courses, we encourage you both to take the course, and to use the materials for your students.

What software or tools do you need?

For the models used in the course we highly recommend that these are done on a large screen, either a PC, laptop or a tablet at least, as the models will not be easy to operate on a phone.

Who will you learn with?

I'm a sociologist at the University of Warsaw, passionate about using models and simulations to study social processes. I'm leading the project Action for Computational Thinking in Social Sciences.

I love translating difficult things into easy and understandable ones. I'm leading the Digital Sociology masters programme at the University of Warsaw.

Who developed the course?

University of Groningen

The University of Groningen is a research university with a global outlook, deeply rooted in Groningen, in the north of the Netherlands.

University of Warsaw

University of Warsaw is the leading research university and the largest higher education institution in Poland, with a comprehensive portfolio of research and teaching activities.

Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society

The Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society is exploring digitalisation together with economic, political and civil society stakeholders.

ACTiSS

Action for Computational Thinking in Social Sciences (ACTISS) is an Erasmus+ project aimed to develop engaging and accessible online courses introducing the basics of computational social sciences.

Endorsers and supporters

funded by

Erasmus+
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