Introduction

Welcome to An Algorithmic View of our Networked World. This is my second attempt at teaching a First Year Seminar and I expect to enjoy it as much as the one I taught last fall: Algorithms: From Euclid to iPad.

In this seminar, we will discuss ways in which our world is becoming increasingly
“networked” and try to understand the structure of these networks and how this structure
affects all sorts of phenomena, e.g., spread of disease, spread of news via social media, traffic congestion, etc. We will also study algorithms that leverage knowledge of the underlying network structure to make applications such as Google search possible. Depending on the background of the students we will do a small amount of programming to understand and visualize network data.

Albert-Laszlo Barabasi is a physicist who has made numerous contributions to the theory of networks and for this seminar we will read his 2002 book “Linked: How Everything is Connected to Everything Else and What it Means for Business, Science, and Everyday Life.” While the book is showing its age, Barabasi is a lively, playful writer and the book is a fun and informal introduction to this exciting new field. I’ll supplement the textbook with 2-3 research papers and a few articles from the popular press.

Someone recently pointed me to NodeXL, a Microsoft Excel add-on for analyzing and visualizing network data. Since many of you have easy access to Excel, I intend to try this out for “data analysis” assignments in class. You might want to download and install NodeXL before you get too busy this semester.

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