Boston University (BU) researchers have developed a method for studying and identifying hubs within social networks. The approach emphasizes the location of the individual within the network as opposed to the number of connections. “In contrast to common belief, the most influential spreaders in a social network do not correspond to the best connected people or the most central people,” says BU’s Maksim Kitsak. The researchers found that if a hub exists at the end of a branch it will have a minimal impact on the core of the network. However, a less connected person strategically placed in the core of a network can have significant effects that lead to dissemination through a large fraction of the population, Kitsak says. By studying a quantity called the network’s k-shell decomposition, researchers can locate these specially placed individuals, which is the key to understanding the dynamics of a network.
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