Classifying emergent communitites through diffusion

Publication Type:

Conference Paper


Sunbelt International Social Networks Conference XXIII, Cancun, Mexico (2003)




As society progresses towards a state of networked individualism, well-defined communities with explicit membership and easily observable participation are being replaced by groups emerging from networks of informal ties. Weblogs are a rapidly growing Internet communication medium that exhibits this phenomenon, consisting of frequently updated personal websites containing the interests and opinions of the authors on topics of current events.
Webloggers are connected by an explicit social network of readership, enabling the diffusion of ideas and stories to interested individuals. We maintain a system that tracks the diffusion of website references through this network, collecting over 4 million examples per year. Each reference (e.g. a news story, magazine article, etc.) represents a community of interest around the given topic.
This paper presents an approach to finding and labeling communities embedded within informal social networks. Many distinct communities exist within these social ties, but without any central organization, finding these groups or their members is an insurmountable task. We posit that larger, more inclusive groups are supersets of the individual communities created by the diffusion of a given topic. By automatically clustering these smaller groups, we arrive at more sizeable communities that members can identify with.