How Physical Proximity Shapes Complex Social Networks
Author(s)Stopczynski, Arkadiusz; Pentland, Alex; Lehmann, Sune
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Social interactions among humans create complex networks and – despite a recent increase of online communication – the interactions mediated through physical proximity remain a fundamental way for people to connect. A common way to quantify the nature of the links between individuals is to consider repeated interactions: frequently occurring interactions indicate strong ties, such as friendships, while ties with low weights can indicate random encounters. Here we focus on a different dimension: rather than the strength of links, we study physical distance between individuals when a link is activated. The findings presented here are based on a dataset of proximity events in a population of approximately 500 individuals. To quantify the impact of the physical proximity on the dynamic network, we use a simulated epidemic spreading processes in two distinct networks of physical proximity. We consider the network of short-range interactions defined as d ≲ ≲ 1 meter, and the long-range which includes all interactions d ≲ ≲ 10 meters. Since these two networks arise from the same set of underlying behavioral data, we are able to quantitatively measure how the specific definition of the proximity network – short-range versus long-range – impacts the resulting network structure as well as spreading dynamics in epidemic simulations. We find that the short-range network – consistent with the literature – is characterized by densely-connected neighborhoods bridged by weak ties. More surprisingly, however, we show that spreading in the long-range network is quite different, mainly shaped by spurious interactions.
Stopczynski, A., Pentland, A. & Lehmann, S. (2018). How physical proximity shapes complex social networks. Scientific reports, 8(1), 1-10.
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