Who are the most influential spreaders of information on a network? That’s a question that marketers, bloggers, news services and even governments would like answered. Not least because the answer could provide ways to promote products quickly, to boost the popularity of political parties above their rivals and to seed the rapid spread of news and opinions.
So it’s not surprising that network theorists have spent some time thinking about how best to identify these people and to check how the information they receive might spread around a network. Indeed, they’ve found a number of measures that spot so-called superspreaders, people who spread information, ideas or even disease more efficiently than anybody else.
But there’s a problem. Social networks are so complex that network scientists have never been able to test their ideas in the real world—it has always been too difficult to reconstruct the exact structure of Twitter or Facebook networks, for example. Instead, they’ve created models that mimic real networks in certain ways and tested their ideas on these instead.
But there is growing evidence that information does not spread through real networks in the same way as it does through these idealised ones. People tend to pass on information only when they are interested in a topic and when they are active, factors that are hard to take into account in a purely topological model of a network.
All systems in nature have one thing in common: they process information. Information is registered in the state of a system and its elements, implicitly and invisibly. As elements interact, information is transferred and modified. Indeed, bits of information about the state of one element will travel—imperfectly—to the state of the other element, forming its new state. This storage, transfer, and modification of information, possibly between levels of a multi level system, is imperfect due to randomness or noise. From this viewpoint, a system can be formalized as a collection of bits that is organized according to its rules of dynamics and its topology of interactions. Mapping out exactly how these bits of information percolate through the system could reveal new fundamental insights in how the parts orchestrate to produce the properties of the system. A theory of information processing would be capable of defining a set of universal properties of dynamical multi level complex systems, which describe and compare the dynamics of diverse complex systems ranging from social interaction to brain networks, from financial markets to biomedicine. Each possible combination of rules of dynamics and topology of interactions, with disparate semantics, would reduce to a single language of information processing.
Guest Editor: Dr. Rick Quax
Deadline for manuscript submissions: 28 February 2015
Cell communication: Stop the microbial chatter Nature.com To undermine the microbes' language, scientists first need to work out what they are saying. Bacteria use chemical signals to synchronize behaviour across a population.
Next up in this transformation series is the seventh enabler: Collective Intelligence. One of the key themes throughout this transformation series is the clear movement from an enterprise entity to an extended enterprise of stakeholders. This extended enterprise – or what I alternatively call value ecosystem – increases complexity and requires a new management approach to be effective. I use the term collective intelligence as an umbrella phrase that combines the critical need for both collaboration and analytic excellence. This includes other forces like crowd computing, crowdsourcing, co-creation, and wisdom of the crowd – all of which stem from the connectedness of our world, and the growing realization that value creation requires a broader community.
Over the course of human history, thousands of languages have developed from what was once a much smaller number. How did we end up with so many? And how do we keep track of them all? Alex Gendler explains how linguists group languages into language families, demonstrating how these linguistic trees give us crucial insights into the past.
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