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The power of network thinking

At their heart social media sites and applications are about networks.

In this step we will look at the arguments for an increased role of networks in our understanding of the world, and for a new science of networks. A discipline that would be a key tool for web scientists and anyone who wants to understand the way that social media works.

Networks are critical for Web Science; by understanding the digital, social and knowledge networks of the Web we can gain new understanding about how the Web is structured, and how people and communities behave.

But are networks important for all of our scientific and philosophical understanding? And is there a coherent science of networks that web scientists could draw on to support their work?

The power of networks

Take a look at the RSA Animation about the power of networks linked from this article. It argues that as we become increasingly aware of the complexity of the world around us, we must move from using tree structures to networks, in order to fully reflect, appreciate and interpret that complexity.

The video takes a very strong position on the importance of networks. To what extent do you think that network thinking is essential to the understanding of our modern world? Might it help us to think about social networks - can they tell us anything about individuals, communities, or even a whole society?

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This article is from the free online course:

The Power of Social Media

University of Southampton

Get a taste of this course

Find out what this course is like by previewing some of the course steps before you join:

  • Welcome to the course
    Welcome to the course

    This course explains how by understanding networks better we can exploit social media. Watch Dr David Millard & Dr Lisa Harris tell you more.

  • What are networks?
    What are networks?

    Watch Dr David Millard explore what we mean by a network, and look at some of the examples of networks around us and their characteristics.

  • Recruitment in a digital world
    Recruitment in a digital world

    Watch Dr Lisa Harris, Nic Fair & Sarah Hewitt discuss the role of social media in recruitment from the perspective of employers & potential employees

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