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Week of June 6, 2011

Ford School conference speakers 
to explore social, political networks

Networks have become an increasingly popular concept among social scientists in determining how systems affect individual behavior, an Australian researcher says.

Garry Robins, an associate professor at the University of Melbourne, will discuss theory and analysis for networked social systems during his keynote address at 5 p.m. June 16, part of the Fourth Annual Political Networks Conference and Workshops at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

Political networks are the relationships between citizens, lawmakers, agencies and institutions.

The event, hosted by the Ford School, features workshops (June 14-16) that are intended to provide training to scholars at various levels, and academic panel presentations (June 17-18).

More than 150 participants are expected for the five-day event, which includes a 4:30 p.m. June 17 plenary address — “Epidemics, Influence, and Kevin Bacon: Social Networks meet Network Theory” — given by U-M researcher Mark Newman.

Both addresses are at the Annenberg Auditorium and are free and open to the public.

Newman, the Paul Dirac Collegiate Professor of Physics, will talk about the growing interest in network science, which spans social networks, communications and the Internet, among other things. This field involves researchers from various areas, including sociologists, mathematicians, computer scientists, physicists and political scientists. 

“I’ll bring together ideas from a lot of these areas and explain how they can help us understand social and political networks,” he says, noting he will discuss one of his favorite topics: how people’s networks influence their ideas and opinions.

Michael Heaney, conference chair and an assistant professor of organizational studies and political science, says U-M is ideal for the conference because it is recognized internationally as an interdisciplinary institution.

“We have scholars from many units who work in various areas of network analysis, and this conference is a great opportunity to build bridges both within the University of Michigan and also around the world,” says Philip B. K. Potter, conference co-chair and an assistant professor of public policy and political science.

Other research that will be presented during the conference includes measuring political discussion among 100 million in a social network, the climate change movement connecting people and organizations through the Internet, and how groups of corporations collectively affect government and political change.



Glenn Bugala, marketing coordinator, Stephen M. Ross School of Business, on his time doing theatre: “I’ve done over 100 shows, and I hope to do 100 more.”


Gifts of Art presents The Gratitude Steel Band, noon-1 p.m. June 16, University Hospital Courtyard

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