Monday, 4 February 2013

Small World Relationships

Hello everyone,

This posts looks at the correlation between geography and human relationships(friendship) and discusses applications of the same. 

Before social networks emerged, human relationships were constrained by many factors requiring time, energy and often money to maintain. The likelihood of maintaining friendships fell off as geographical distance between the respective friends increased. A non trivial observation is that the total number of friends decrease with increasing distance from the concerned individual even though the total number of people are increasing. In other words, the probability of knowing a person x miles away is decreasing faster than the total number of people x miles away is increasing[1]. These trends have been observed in studies conducted across colleges, new housing developments and projects for the elderly. 

The emergence of social network has broken the geographical constraints imposed earlier on social relationships. It has become very cheap(if not free) to stay in touch with people we know and to establish new relationships. 

Data from social networks brings new dimensions to the study of human relationships with respect to geography. First of all, the data collected from social networks is mammoth, allowing us to conduct our study at a scale(populations of several countries) that was not possible earlier. The analysis of human relationships with respect to geographical distance on social networks will allow us to either:
  1. Disrupt the established paradigm between relationship and distance.
  2. To introduce unprecedented data to validate these theories at the level of the entire human population.
In contrast to popular belief that social networks have broken geographical barriers between people, studies on US LiveJournal users[2] and MySpace users[3] reaffirm that the likelihood of friendship is inversely proportional to geographical distance distance between the users. However, at extremely long distance, the likelihood of friendship is constant irrespective of variation in distance. 

  1. Past studies have been concerned with measuring human relationships based on distances. A recent study conducted by Facebook[1], attempts to determine the location of a user based on the locations of his/her friends(i.e just the opposite of what was being done). The social network graph consists of approximately 3.5 million nodes and 30 million edges. Facebook's friendship based geo-location algorithm(85% accuracy) outperforms IP-based geo-location(59% accuracy)
  2. Propinquity and social structure are the keystones of research in small world routing.
  3. Location based services
  1. L. Backstrom, E. Sun and C. Marlow. Find Me If You Can: Improving Geographical Prediction with Social and Spatial Proximity
  2. D. Liben-Nowell, J. Novak, R. Kumar, P. Raghavan, 
  3. and A. Tomkins. Geographic routing in social 
  4. networks. Proceedings of the National Academy of S
  5. ciences, 102(33):11623, 2005.
  7. E. Gilbert, K. Karahalios, and C. Sandvig. The 
  8. network in the garden: an empirical analysis of social 
  9. media in rural life. In CHI '08: Proceeding of the 
  10. twenty-sixth annual SIGCHI conference on Human 
  11. factors in computing systems, pages 1603{1612, New
  12. York, NY, USA, 2008. ACM.

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