Think locally, act locally: Detection of small, medium-sized, and large communities in large networks

Lucas G. S. Jeub, Prakash Balachandran, Mason A. Porter, Peter J. Mucha, Michael W. Mahoney
2015 Physical Review E  
It is common in the study of networks to investigate meso-scale features to try to gain an understanding of network structure and function. For example, numerous algorithms have been developed to try to identify "communities," which are typically construed as sets of nodes with denser connections internally than with the remainder of a network. In this paper, we adopt a complementary perspective that "communities" are associated with bottlenecks of locally-biased dynamical processes that begin
more » ... t seed sets of nodes, and we employ several different community-identification procedures (using diffusion-based and geodesic-based dynamics) to investigate community quality as a function of community size. Using several empirical and synthetic networks, we identify several distinct scenarios for "size-resolved community structure" that can arise in real (and realistic) networks. Depending on which scenario holds, one may or may not be able to successfully identify "good" communities in a given network, the manner in which different small communities fit together to form meso-scale network structures can be very different, and processes such as viral propagation and information diffusion can exhibit very different dynamics.In addition, our results suggest that, for many large realistic networks, the output of locally-biased methods that focus on communities that are centered around a given seed node might have better conceptual grounding and greater practical utility than the output of global community-detection methods. They also illustrate subtler structural properties that are important to consider in the development of better benchmark networks to test methods for community detection. [Note: Because of space limitations in the arXiv's abstract field, this is an abridged version of the paper's abstract.]
doi:10.1103/physreve.91.012821 pmid:25679670 pmcid:PMC5125638 fatcat:vid5nqvwavgpvnpzpswjzecaf4