The University of Southampton
University of Southampton Institutional Repository

Stability in flux: group dynamics in evolving networks (Abstract)

Geard, Nicholas, Bryden, John, Funk, Sebastian, Jansen, Vincent and Bullock, Seth (2010) Stability in flux: group dynamics in evolving networks (Abstract) At Artificial Life XII: 12th International Conference on the Synthesis and Simulation of Living Systems, Denmark. 19 - 23 Aug 2010.

Record type: Conference or Workshop Item (Other)


From Facebook groups and online gaming clans, to social movements and terrorist cells, groups of individuals aligned by interest, values or background are of increasing interest to social network researchers. In particular, understanding the structural and dynamic factors that influence the evolution of these groups remains an open challenge. Why do some groups persist and succeed, while others fail to do so? Three features characterise real social networks. They are inherently dynamic: explaining the structure of social networks requires us to understand how this structure is created, modified and maintained. They are co-evolutionary, exhibiting a reflexive relationship between topology and state. For example, individuals often interact preferentially with others who are similar to themselves, thus state affects topology; at the same time, neighbouring individuals tend to influence one another and hence become more similar, thus topology affects state. Finally, interactions between individuals are not distributed uniformly across a network: rather, we can detect community structure, in which subsets of individuals are more densely linked to each other than to the rest of the population. Analysis of telephone and collaboration data by Palla and colleagues (2007, Nature 446, 664) has demonstrated some of the ways in which social groups evolve over time, but there is more to be done in understanding the multi-level relationship between individual and group dynamics. Here, we address two questions: How do stable macro-level structures and behaviours emerge and persist as a consequence of simple micro-level processes? How can we characterise the dynamics of meso-level structures such as groups and communities? We introduce a simple model of a co-evolving network in which the state of an individual represents the group to which it is currently (and exclusively) affiliated. Four processes govern network evolution: individuals can create new groups, influence neighbours to switch affiliation to their group, replace an out-group edge with an in-group edge, or replace edges at random. Using this model, we explore the parameter space defined by the relative rates of each process, revealing a region in which networks exhibit connected community structure reminiscent of observed social networks. We demonstrate how macro-level properties of the network (e.g., state and degree distribution, modularity, clustering coefficient and path length) stabilise, while underlying micro- and meso-level properties remain dynamic; that is, individuals continue to update their neighbours and states, and groups are born, grow, shrink and die. Finally, we report findings on the behaviour of groups: at equilibrium, there is a stable rank-distribution of group sizes; however, the identities of the groups occupying each rank change over time. Furthermore, the distribution of group lifespans is bimodal, reflecting two possible group trajectories: After being introduced into a population, a group either thrives, or struggles. Interestingly, the probability of these two events appears to be almost entirely stochastic, and is independent of factors that one might expect play a role, such as the location of group foundation. While our model is undoubtedly simple, we believe it provides a useful baseline for further studies, and a helpful tool for understanding the multi-level dynamic interactions that underlying the complex behaviour of more complicated models.

PDF alife12-abstract-geard.pdf - Accepted Manuscript
Download (1MB)

More information

Published date: August 2010
Additional Information: Event Dates: 19-23 August, 2010
Venue - Dates: Artificial Life XII: 12th International Conference on the Synthesis and Simulation of Living Systems, Denmark, 2010-08-19 - 2010-08-23
Keywords: social networks, group dynamics, simulation models
Organisations: Agents, Interactions & Complexity


Local EPrints ID: 271081
ISBN: 9780262290753
PURE UUID: 90000c01-c17b-431b-a6db-5d9c524f4a78

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 13 May 2010 16:24
Last modified: 18 Jul 2017 06:47

Export record


Author: Nicholas Geard
Author: John Bryden
Author: Sebastian Funk
Author: Vincent Jansen
Author: Seth Bullock

University divisions

Download statistics

Downloads from ePrints over the past year. Other digital versions may also be available to download e.g. from the publisher's website.

View more statistics

Atom RSS 1.0 RSS 2.0

Contact ePrints Soton:

ePrints Soton supports OAI 2.0 with a base URL of

This repository has been built using EPrints software, developed at the University of Southampton, but available to everyone to use.

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive cookies on the University of Southampton website.