From temporal network data to the dynamics of social relationships

Gelardi, V., Le Bail, D., Barrat, A., & Claidière, N. (2021). From temporal network data to the dynamics of social relationships. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 288(1959), 20211164. doi:10.1098/rspb.2021.1164

Abstract: Networks are well-established representations of social systems, and temporal networks are widely used to study their dynamics. However, going from temporal network data (i.e. a stream of interactions between individuals) to a representation of the social group’s evolution remains a challenge. Indeed, the temporal network at any specific time contains only the interactions taking place at that time and aggregating on successive time-windows also has important limitations. Here, we present a new framework to study the dynamic evolution of social networks based on the idea that social relationships are interdependent: as the time we can invest in social relationships is limited, reinforcing a relationship with someone is done at the expense of our relationships with others. We implement this interdependence in a parsimonious two-parameter model and apply it to several human and non-human primates’ datasets to demonstrate that this model detects even small and short perturbations of the networks that cannot be detected using the standard technique of successive aggregated networks. Our model solves a long-standing problem by providing a simple and natural way to describe the dynamic evolution of social networks, with far-reaching consequences for the study of social networks and social evolution.