GEOG 479
Spatial Data Science for Cyber and Human Social Networks

GEOG 479 Course Syllabus: Spatial Data Science for Cyber and Human Social Networks


GEOG 479 Course Syllabus: Spatial Data Science for Cyber and Human Social Networks Spring 2022

This syllabus is divided into several sections. You can read it sequentially by scrolling down the length of the document. It is essential that you read the entire document as well as material covered in the Course Orientation. Together, these serve as our course "contract." 


Dr. Panagiotis Giannakis: Assistant Teaching Professor, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, is the lead instructor for GEOG 479.

  • Course e-mail: Please use the course e-mail system (see the Inbox tab in Canvas).
  • Office phone: Direct dialing to my office 334-953-6621.
  • Course e-mail: Please use the course e-mail system (see the Inbox tab in Canvas).
  • Personal e-mail:
  • Availability: I check e-mail daily and am available for a live chat on an appointment basis.

E-mail: Please contact your instructors through the course e-mail system in Canvas (see the Inbox tab). Always send correspondence to All in Teachers to ensure that any course assistants also receive the note.

Course Overview

Description: Concepts of network data, and their application on GEOINT.
Prerequisites: Acceptance into the Geospatial Intelligence Program or by approval.

What is GEOG 479?

This course teaches students the fundamentals of network analysis, and how its products can be beneficial for more informed decision making in the field of Geospatial Intelligence. The course will be taught over 10 weeks, and activities will include mostly individual work.

This course will teach students the following concepts:

  • How real-world entities and relationships can be viewed and analyzed as a network
  • the role and use of Geospatial Intelligence in the cyber domain ranging from cyberwarfare to cyberterrorism, disaster response, and humanitarian relief
  • the impact of increased flow of information across the world and the risks associated with that increase
  • the degree and impact of Internet censorship in various parts of the world and how it is commonly measured

What will be expected of you?

This course requires a minimum of 8-12 hours of student activity each week, depending on the speed at which you work. Included in the 8-12 hours each week is time to complete projects and related activities. Some weeks, you may spend less time than that, so keep this in mind in the tougher weeks (when you'll be making up the difference!). You'll be glad to know that you don't have to show up for class at a certain time! All you need to do is complete each project and a quiz before the published deadline at the end of the week.

You will need to check out the course discussion forums regularly. That's where students and the instructors share comments, pose questions, and suggest answers. I strongly encourage you to get in the habit of logging in to the course website every day to check in on the class. With only occasional exceptions, I check message boards six (and usually seven) days a week. You can be sure that I will read, but not necessarily respond to, every single message. If I anticipate not logging in for more than a day, I will let you know and also clearly state when you can next expect to hear from me.

My colleagues and I have worked hard to make this the most effective and convenient educational experience possible. How much and how well you learn is ultimately up to you. You will succeed if you are diligent about keeping up with the class schedule and if you take advantage of opportunities to communicate with me as well as with your fellow students.

Course Goals and Outcomes

At the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • apply the fundamentals and principles of cyber geography
  • classify the spatial aspects of information;
  • interpret/uncover cyber events using the relationship to location on the earth where the start, end, and content of the interactions provide meaning;
  • compare expectations and rights of individuals and governments related to the use of geolocation technologies, data, and privacy from various perspectives;
  • describe ways to model and visualize the increase of information resources;
  • discuss ways the Intelligence Community collects and analyzes cyber information;
  • demonstrate the application of geospatial intelligence to cyberspace operations;
  • evaluate potential technology paths to mitigate Intelligence blind spots;
  • perform social media network analysis using application software to create analytic products.

Required Course Materials

Required Textbooks

This course requires the following textbook.

Hansen, Derek L., Shneiderman, Ben, and Smith Mark A., "Analyzing Social Media Networks with NodeXL", Morgan Kaufmann Publishers, Copyright 2020 Second edition, Paperback, ISBN 978-0-12-817756-3.

The book is freely available through the Penn State library. It is also available on sites such as Amazon.

Required Software

Some version of Excel, 2007 or later is required. The software used in the course is compatible with these versions only. Versions of Excel prior to 2007 are not compatible at this time.

NodeXL Pro is available for download at a cost of $39 for a one-year license. You can download NodeXL through the Social Media Research Foundation website.

All other materials needed for this course are presented online through our course website and in Canvas. In order to access all materials, you need to have an active Penn State Access Account user ID and password (used to access the online course resources). If you have any questions about obtaining or activating your Penn State Access Account, please contact the Outreach Helpdesk (for World Campus students) or the IT Service Desk (for students at all other campus locations).

Assistance with Textbooks:

Penn State honors and values the socioeconomic diversity of our students. If you require assistance with the costs of textbooks for this course, contact the Office of Student Care and Advocacy, 120 Boucke Building, 863-4926. For additional needs related to socioeconomic status please visit Project Cahir.

Using the Library

Just like on-campus students, as a Penn State student, you have a wealth of library resources available to you!

As a registered user of Penn State Libraries, you can...

  • search for journal articles (many are even immediately available in full-text);
  • request articles that aren't available in full-text and have them delivered electronically;
  • borrow books and other materials and have them delivered to your doorstep;
  • access materials that your instructor has put on Electronic Reserve;
  • talk to reference librarians in real time using chat, phone, and e-mail;
  • ...and much more!

To learn more see the Library Information for Off-Campus Users.

Assignments and Grading

The course is separated in to three sections. The first section contains 4 chapters, in which the fundamentals of social network analysis are presented. The second section consists of four case studies and projects. The third part is a final project that you will have to prepare during the last two weeks of the course.

There are 1000 points in this course, with a few opportunities for extra credit. The allocation of the points for each assignment/project is:

Point Allocation per Assignment
Assignment Points
Assignments 1 - 7 7 x 50 points = 350 points
Case Studies 1 - 4 4 x 87.5 points = 350 points
Project Proposal 100 points
Final Project 200 points
TOTAL 1000 points

The readings are critical to successfully complete this course. The instructor will provide a brief outline at the beginning of each lesson to help the student discover key concepts and make the reading more proactive.


Letter grades will be based on the following percentages (percentages refer to the proportion of all possible points earned by the student):

Letter Grades and Percentages
Grade Percent
A 92.5 - 100%
A- 89.5 - 92.4%
B+ 86.5 – 89.4%
B 82.5 – 86.4%
B- 79.5 – 82.4%
C+ 76.5 – 79.4%
C 69.5 – 76.4%
D 60.0 – 69.4%
F < 60.0%

GEOG 479 Course Schedule

image Printable Schedule

As the schedule may change, please be sure to check it often! If you have a question about when something is due, ask your instructors! NOTE: If at any time you cannot get a reading, e-mail an instructor immediately, and we can send a pdf. We prefer to link to the readings, but links change all the time.

Introduction to Networks
Date: Week 1
  • What is a social network?
  • Common Networks
  • Types of Networks
  • Network Representations
  • Chapter 1 from "Analyzing Social Media Networks with Node XL"
  • Chapter 3.1 - 3.3 from "Analyzing Social Media Networks with Node XL"
  • Chapter 4. from "Analyzing Social Media Networks with Node XL"
  • Assignment 1 - Download and install NodeXL
  • Assignment 2 – Draw a network graph. Write a report with some preliminary conclusions

Geographic Dependent Networks
Date: Week 2
  • Social Network Dependencies
  • Nodes/Points on the map – how to build a network
  • Geography as Edges
  • (Optional) Chapter 2 from "Analyzing Social Media Networks with Node XL"
  • Papers included in Canvas
  • Assignment 3: Construct a spatially dependent network. Present your arguments about your approach.
  • Assignment 4: Spatial considerations on senate co-voting network

Network Metrics and Characteristics
Date: Week 3
  • Centrality
  • Transitivity
  • Clustering
  • Reciprocity
  • Similarity
  • Homophily
  • Chapters 3.4 – 3.12 from "Analyzing Social Media Networks with Node XL" 
  • Chapter 5 from "Analyzing Social Media Networks with Node XL" 
  • Papers included in Canvas 
  • Assignment 5: Re-analyze the network from assignment 1 using network statistics. Write a post in the forum with your report. 
  • Assignment 6: Analyze the social network of “Les Misérables”.  

Network Structure
Date: Week 4
  • Paths
  • Components
  • Degree Distributions 
  • Small World Phenomenon 
  • Chapter 6 in "Analyzing Social Media Networks with Node XL" 
  • Chapter 7 in "Analyzing Social Media Networks with Node XL" 
  • Papers included in Canvas 
  • Assignment 7 – Is this a small world after all?

Case Study 1
Date: Weeks 5
  • Use NodeXL to evaluate the behavior of an extreme political party 
  • Chapter 10 in "Analyzing Social Media Networks with Node XL" 
  • Papers included in Canvas 
  • Project 1: Analyze the twitter network and create a map with the most “central” actors  

Case Study 2
Date: Weeks 6
  • Terrorist network analysis (NodeXL and TEVUS database) 
  • Papers included in Canvas 
  •  Project 2: Analyze a bimodal terrorist network. Find the central actors and map their activity locations 

Case Study 3
Date: Week 7
  • Power grid structure stability 
  • Papers included in Canvas 
  • Project 3: Perform a stability analysis of a power grid network 

Case Study 4
Date: Week 8
  • Emergency preparedness network planning 
  • Papers included in Canvas 
  • Project 4: Create an emergency respond network and provide solutions to emergency scenarios 
  • Submit your project proposal 

Final Project
Date: Week 9-10
  • Finish your project, record and upload your video.


If you have a question regarding an activity due at 11:55 one evening, I must receive your question via Canvas e-mail no later than noon, Eastern Time, on that day. Queries sent after noon, Eastern Time, on the day an assignment is due may not be responded to, so please don't procrastinate!

Course Policies

Late Policy

Late homework is accepted under the following circumstances: (1) if prearranged with the instructor; (2) if the result of a documented emergency; or (3) if documented illness (see Participation and Attendance section below). The exam will be a zero unless these conditions are met. Other excuses are not valid.

Citation and Reference Style

Academic Integrity and Citation Style Guide