Propagating phenomena in networks have received significant amount of attention within various domains, ranging from contagion in epidemiology, to diffusion of innovations and social influence on behavior and communication. Often these studies attempt to model propagation processes in networks to create interventions that steer propagation dynamics towards desired or away from undesired outcomes. Traditionally, studies have used relatively simple models of the propagation mechanism. In most propagation models this mechanism is described as a monolithic process and a single parameter for the infection rate. Such a description of the propagation mechanism is a severe simplification of mechanisms described in various theoretical exchange theories and phenomena found in real world settings, and largely fails to capture the nuances present in such descriptions. Recent work has suggested that such a simplification may not be sufficient to explain observed propagation dynamics, as nuances of the mechanism of propagation can have a severe impact on its dynamics. This suggests a better understanding of the role of the propagation mechanism is desired. In this paper we put forward a novel framework and model for propagation, the RTR framework. This framework, based on communication theory, decomposes the propagation mechanism into three sub-processes; Radiation, Transmission and Reception (RTR). We show that the RTR framework provides a more detailed way for specifying and conceptually thinking about the process of propagation, aligns better with existing real world interventions, and allows for gaining new insights into effective intervention strategies. By decomposing the propagation mechanism, we show that the specifications of this mechanism can have significant impact on the effectiveness of network interventions. We show that for the same composite single-parameter specification, different decompositions in Radiation, Transmission and Reception yield very different effectiveness estimates for the same network intervention, from 30% less effective to 70% more effective. We find that the appropriate choice for intervention depends strongly on the decomposition of the propagation mechanism. Our findings highlight that a correct decomposition of the mechanism is a prerequisite for developing effective network intervention strategies, and that the use of monolithic models, which oversimplify the mechanism, can be problematic of supporting decisions related to network interventions. In contrast, by allowing more detailed specification of the propagation mechanism and enabling this mechanism to be linked to existing interventions, the RTR framework provides a valuable tool for those designing interventions and implementing interventions strategies.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)