Effects of time window size and placement on the structure of an aggregated communication network
ICTEAM Institute, Université catholique de Louvain, Avenue Georges Lemaître, 4, 1348, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium
2 Department of Biomedical Engineering and Computational Science, Aalto University School of Science, P.O. Box 12200, FI-00076, Aalto, Finland
3 Swedish Defence Research Agency, SE-147 25, Tumba, Sweden
Accepted: 18 May 2012
Published online: 18 May 2012
Complex networks are often constructed by aggregating empirical data over time, such that a link represents the existence of interactions between the endpoint nodes and the link weight represents the intensity of such interactions within the aggregation time window. The resulting networks are then often considered static. More often than not, the aggregation time window is dictated by the availability of data, and the effects of its length on the resulting networks are rarely considered. Here, we address this question by studying the structural features of networks emerging from aggregating empirical data over different time intervals, focussing on networks derived from time-stamped, anonymized mobile telephone call records. Our results show that short aggregation intervals yield networks where strong links associated with dense clusters dominate; the seeds of such clusters or communities become already visible for intervals of around one week. The degree and weight distributions are seen to become stationary around a few days and a few weeks, respectively. An aggregation interval of around 30 days results in the stablest similar networks when consecutive windows are compared. For longer intervals, the effects of weak or random links become increasingly stronger, and the average degree of the network keeps growing even for intervals up to 180 days. The placement of the time window is also seen to affect the outcome: for short windows, different behavioural patterns play a role during weekends and weekdays, and for longer windows it is seen that networks aggregated during holiday periods are significantly different.
© The Author(s), 2012