ECON 2040/INFO 2040/CS 2850 (Fall 2021): Course Outline
Almost no knowledge of specific mathematical content is assumed, other than
some basic probability (random variables, expectation, independence, and
conditional probability), which we will briefly review when it first
The main goal of the course will be to build mathematical models of the
processes that take place in networks. As such, students will be expected to
interpret and work with mathematical models as they come up the course; at
the same time, students should also think about how to relate these models
to phenomena at a qualitative level.
Outline of Topics
(1) Graph Theory and Social Networks
(2) Game Theory
(3) Markets and Strategic Interaction on Networks
The interactions among participants in a market can naturally be
viewed as a phenomenon taking place in a network, and in fact
network models provide valuable insights into how an individual's
position in the network structure can translate into economic outcomes.
This provides a natural illustration of how
graph theory and game theory can come together in the development of
models for network behavior.
Our discussion in this part of the course also builds on
a large body of sociological work using human-subject
experiments to study negotiation and power in networked settings.
(4) Information Networks and the World-Wide Web
The Internet and the Web of course are central to the argument
that computing and information is becoming increasingly networked.
Building on the earlier course topics, we describe why it is
useful to model the Web as a network, discussing how search engines
make use of link information for ranking, how they
use ideas related to power and centrality in social networks,
and how they have implemented network-based matching markets for
(5) Network Dynamics: Population Models
Networks are powerful conduits for the flow of
information, opinions, beliefs, innovations, and technologies.
We begin by considering how these processes operate at
the level of populations, when we can't necessarily observe
the network itself, but only its effects on aggregate behavior.
As part of this, we consider phenomena including information
cascades, "tipping points" in the success of products with network effects,
and the distribution of popularity.
- Chapter 7, Chapters 16-18, and Chapter 22.
(6) Network Dynamics: Structural Models
(7) Institutions and Aggregate Behavior
Finally, a perspective based on networks can provide novel insights
into the structure of social institutions, and
into basic policy questions in many areas.
We illustrate this theme with examples based on markets, voting theory,
and property rights.