A new method for extracting the backbone of networked social interactions. Scientists have developed a new method for identifying individuals that have essential connections between them, what they call 'significant ties'.
The SocioPatterns project has made public the data set of contact records of individual pairs collected by RFID devices. However, since the RFID data sets contain any kind of contacts between individuals, they can include non-essential contacts that are observed merely by chance, as opposed to intentional events such as conversation among close friends.
The team developed a new method for identifying individuals that have essential connections between them, what they call "significant ties.” They needed to distinguish between the contact events that could happen by chance and the events that would not happen without a significant relationship between two individuals.
The total number of contacts recorded will be larger for those who are socially very active than for those who are shy. This means that counting the numbers of bilateral interactions is not enough to find "friends" in social networks. The new method proposed here allows one to control for the difference in individuals' activity levels.
An advantage of this method is that it can be applied to any kind of dynamic networks formed by bilateral temporal interactions.
According to the researchers, this method is expected to capture the evolution of various complex networks from inter-bank markets to a flock of cows. If it's implemented on a face-to-face network of students, for instance, one may be able to detect signs of bullying and/or ostracism.