Social Networks in which Users are not Small Circles

Sabah Al-Fedaghi, Heba AlMeshari
Informing Science: The International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline  •  Volume 18  •  2015  •  pp. 205-224
Understanding of social network structure and user behavior has important implications for site design, applications (e.g., ad placement policies), accurate modeling for social studies, and design of next-generation infrastructure and content distribution systems. Currently, characterizations of social networks have been dominated by topological studies in which graph representations are analyzed in terms of connectivity using techniques such as degree distribution, diameter, average degree, clustering coefficient, average path length, and cycles. The problem is that these parameters are not completely satisfactory in the sense that they cannot account for individual events and have only limited use, since one can produce a set of synthetic graphs that have the exact same metrics or statistics but exhibit fundamentally different connectivity structures. In such an approach, a node drawn as a small circle represents an individual. A small circle reflects a black box model in which the interior of the node is blocked from view. This paper focuses on the node level by considering the structural interiority of a node to provide a more fine-grained understanding of social networks. Node interiors are modeled by use of six generic stages: creation, release, transfer, arrival, acceptance, and processing of the artifacts that flow among and within nodes. The resulting description portrays nodes as comprising mostly creators (e.g., of data), receivers/senders (e.g., bus boys), and processors (re-formatters). Two sample online social networks are analyzed according to these features of nodes. This examination points to the viability of the representational method for characterization of social networks.
Social network, network structure, user behaviors, node interior, conceptual representation
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