Dynamic inference of social roles in information cascades

Sarvenaz Choobdar, Pedro Ribeiro, Srinivasan Parthasarathy and Fernando Silva



Nodes in complex networks inherently represent different kinds of functional or organizational roles. In the dynamic process of an information cascade, users play different roles in spreading the information: some act as seeds to initiate the process, some limit the propagation and others are in-between. Understanding the roles of users is crucial in modeling the cascades. Previous research mainly focuses on modeling users behavior based upon the dynamic exchange of information with neighbors. We argue however that the structural patterns in the neighborhood of nodes may already contain enough information to infer users' roles, independently from the information flow in itself. To approach this possibility, we examine how network characteristics of users affect their part in the cascade. We also advocate that temporal information is very important. With this in mind, we propose an unsupervised methodology based on ensemble clustering to classify users into their social roles in a network, using not only their current topological positions, but also considering their history over time. Our experiments on two social networks, Flickr and Digg, show that topological metrics indeed possess discriminatory power and that different structural patterns correspond to different parts in the process. We observe that user commitment in the neighborhood affects considerably the influence score of users. In addition, we discover that the cohesion of neighborhood is important in blocking behavior of users. With this we can construct topological fingerprints that can help us in identifying social roles, based solely on structural social ties, and independently from nodes activity and how information flows.


Information Cascade; Social Role; Ensemble Clustering; Complex Networks

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

doi 10.1007/s10618-015-0402-5

Publication in PDF format



Data Mining and Knowledge Discovery

Reference (text)

Sarvenaz Choobdar, Pedro Ribeiro, Srinivasan Parthasarathy and Fernando Silva. Dynamic inference of social roles in information cascades. In Data Mining and Knowledge Discovery, Vol. 29(5), pp. 1152-1177, Springer, 2015.


  author = {Sarvenaz Choobdar and  Pedro Ribeiro and  Srinivasan Parthasarathy and Fernando Silva},
  title = {Dynamic inference of social roles in information cascades},
  doi = {10.1007/s10618-015-0402-5},
  journal = {Data Mining and Knowledge Discovery},
  volume = {29},
  issue = {5},
  pages = {1152-1177},
  publisher = {Springer},
  year = {2015}