Uncovering Hierarchical and Overlapping Communities with a Local-First Approach

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TitleUncovering Hierarchical and Overlapping Communities with a Local-First Approach
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsCoscia, M, Rossetti, G, Giannotti, F, Pedreschi, D
AbstractCommunity discovery in complex networks is the task of organizing a network’s structure by grouping together nodes related to each other. Traditional approaches are based on the assumption that there is a global-level organization in the network. However, in many scenarios, each node is the bearer of complex information and cannot be classified in disjoint clusters. The top-down global view of the partition approach is not designed for this. Here, we represent this complex information as multiple latent labels, and we postulate that edges in the networks are created among nodes carrying similar labels. The latent labels are the communities a node belongs to and we discover them with a simple local-first approach to community discovery. This is achieved by democratically letting each node vote for the communities it sees surrounding it in its limited view of the global system, its ego neighborhood, using a label propagation algorithm, assuming that each node is aware of the label it shares with each of its connections. The local communities are merged hierarchically, unveiling the modular organization of the network at the global level and identifying overlapping groups and groups of groups. We tested this intuition against the state-of-the-art overlapping community discovery and found that our new method advances in the chosen scenarios in the quality of the obtained communities. We perform a test on benchmark and on real-world networks, evaluating the quality of the community coverage by using the extracted communities to predict the metadata attached to the nodes, which we consider external information about the latent labels. We also provide an explanation about why real-world networks contain overlapping communities and how our logic is able to capture them. Finally, we show how our method is deterministic, is incremental, and has a limited time complexity, so that it can be used on real-world scale networks.