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Introduction to network properties

Networks have a number of properties that help us distinguish between different types of network, tell us how networks might behave or change, and help us identify important nodes and relationships. In this step we explore in more detail a number of these key concepts.

In this step you will have a chance to learn in more detail about some of the terms and concepts that were introduced in our introductory video lecture. It may help to remember that:

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  • Nodes are the things in the network. In a social network nodes are people.

  • Edges are the connections in the network (between nodes). In a social network edges are friendships.


There are five concepts for you to look at in the next five articles, the first two are about the shape and behaviour of the whole network, the last three are about network properties that we can use to describe and identify networks. Understanding how social networks are structured, and having ways of describing their properties, gives us important tools to compare them, and to look at how individuals are positioned within the network.

In each article there is a brief section at the top called Essential Knowledge that summarises the key things that you need to know. The following section You May Be Interested That goes into a bit more detail and expands on the explanation. The final section If You Are Really Curious contains optional material including the mathematical definitions for those that want them.

Once you have read through and understood the articles there is a brief quiz where you will be able to test your understanding and see how well you can apply them to real networks!

You will also find this new knowledge useful in preparation for the activity later on in the week in which we analyse a simple Twitter-like social network to identify which of its participants is the most powerful and influential individual.

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This article is from the free online course:

The Power of Social Media

University of Southampton

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