Hidden network evolution

19 January 2021
Max Falkenberg

Networks are an imperfect representation of a dataset, yet often there is little consideration for how these imperfections may affect network evolution and structure.

In this talk, I want to discuss a simple set of generative network models in which the mechanism of network growth is decomposed into two layers. The first layer represents the “observed” network, corresponding to our conventional understanding of a network. Here I want to consider the scenario in which the network you observe is not self-contained, but is driven by a second hidden network, comprised of the same nodes but different edge structure. I will show how a range of different network growth models can be constructed such that the observed and hidden networks can be causally decoupled, coupled only in one direction, or coupled in both directions.

One consequence of such models is the emergence of abrupt transitions in observed network topology – one example results in scale-free degree distributions which are robust up to an arbitrarily long threshold time, but which naturally break down as the network grows larger. I will argue that such examples illustrate why we should be wary of an overreliance on static networks (measured at only one point in time), and will discuss other possible implications for prediction on networks.

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