Title

Measuring and Modeling Information Flow on Social Networks

Date of Award

2020

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Mathematics

First Advisor

James P. Bagrow

Abstract

With the rise of social media, researchers have become increasingly interested in understanding how individuals inform, influence, and interact with others in their social network and how the network mediates the flow of information. Previous research on information flow has primarily used models of contagion to study the adoption of a technology, propagation of purchase recommendations, or virality of online activity. Social (or "complex") contagions spread differently than biological ("simple") contagions. A limitation when researchers validate contagion models is that they neglect much of the massive amounts of data now available through online social networks. Here we model a recently proposed information-theoretic approach to measuring the flow of written information in data. We use an idealized generative model for text data -- the quoter model -- which naturally incorporates this measure. We investigate how network structure impacts information flow and find that the quoter model exhibits interesting features similar to those of complex contagion. Finally, we offer an analytical treatment of the quoter model: we derive approximate calculations and show dependence on model parameters. This thesis gives rise to new hypotheses about the role of the social network in facilitating information flow, which future research can investigate using real-world data.

Language

en

Number of Pages

81 p.

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