The effect of temporal aggregation level in social network monitoring


Social networks have become ubiquitous in modern society, which makes social network monitoring a research area of significant practical importance. Social network data consist of social interactions between pairs of individuals that are temporally aggregated over a certain interval of time, and the level of such temporal aggregation can have substantial impact on social network monitoring. There have been several studies on the effect of temporal aggregation in the process monitoring literature, but no studies on the effect of temporal aggregation in social network monitoring. We use the degree corrected stochastic block model (DCSBM) to simulate social networks and network anomalies and analyze these networks in the context of both count and binary network data. In conjunction with this model, we use the Priebe scan method as the monitoring method. We demonstrate that temporal aggregation at high levels leads to a considerable decrease in the ability to detect an anomaly within a specified time period. Moreover, converting social network communication data from counts to binary indicators can result in a significant loss of information, hindering detection performance. Aggregation at an appropriate level with count data, however, can amplify the anomalous signal generated by network anomalies and improve detection performance. Our results provide both insights on the practical effects of temporal aggregation and a framework for the study of other combinations of network models, surveillance methods, and types of anomalies.

Zhao MJ, Driscoll AR, Sengupta S, Stevens NT, Fricker RD Jr., Woodall WH (2018) The effect of temporal aggregation level in social network monitoring. PLoS ONE 13(12): e0209075.