Measuring and Propagating Influence in Networks

When: Monday, December 10, 2012 at 2:00 pm
Where: DA 5th fl
Speaker: Sinan Aral
Organization: Assistant Professor and Microsoft Faculty Fellow
Sponsor: CCNR

Measuring influence and finding influential people in social networks is now all the rage. But, true estimates of influence are fraught with statistical difficulties which naïve scoring methods cannot address. So, how can we robustly measure influence and identify influentials in networks? Whether in the spread of disease, the diffusion of information, the propagation of social contagions, the effectiveness of viral marketing, or the magnitude of peer effects in a variety of settings, a key problem is understanding whether and when the statistical relationships we observe can be interpreted causally. Sinan will review what we know and where work might go with respect to identifying causal peer influence in social networks and the importance of causal inference for understanding the spread of products, political views and public health behaviors through society. He will provide examples from large scale observational and experimental studies in online social media networks and organizational email networks, and describe a new project to spread HIV testing using peer to peer influence and mobile messaging in South Africa, the subject of which is the basis for a new documentary film entitled “The Social Cure.”