Estimating tie strength in social networks using temporal communication data
School of Science, Aalto University, Otakaari, Espoo, Finland
Accepted: 3 December 2020
Published online: 14 December 2020
Even though the concept of tie strength is central in social network analysis, it is difficult to quantify how strong social ties are. One typical way of estimating tie strength in data-driven studies has been to simply count the total number or duration of contacts between two people. This, however, disregards many features that can be extracted from the rich data sets used for social network reconstruction. Here, we focus on contact data with temporal information. We systematically study how features of the contact time series are related to topological features usually associated with tie strength. We focus on a large mobile-phone dataset and measure a number of properties of the contact time series for each tie and use these to predict the so-called neighbourhood overlap, a feature related to strong ties in the sociological literature. We observe a strong relationship between temporal features and the neighbourhood overlap, with many features outperforming simple contact counts. Features that stand out include the number of days with calls, number of bursty cascades, typical times of contacts, and temporal stability. These are also seen to correlate with the overlap in diverse smaller communication datasets studied for reference. Taken together, our results suggest that such temporal features could be useful for inferring social network structure from communication data.
Key words: Social networks / Tie Strength / Call Detail Records / Communication networks
© The Author(s) 2020
Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.