Measuring the Response of a Social System
published: July 10, 2009, recorded: June 2009, views: 2631
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We study the relaxation response of a social system after endogenous and exogenous bursts of activity using the time series of daily views for nearly 5 million videos on YouTube. We find that most activity can be described accurately as a Poisson process. However, we also find hundreds of thousands of examples in which a burst of activity is followed by an ubiquitous power-law relaxation governing the timing of views. We find that these relaxation exponents cluster into three distinct classes and allow for the classification of collective human dynamics. This is consistent with an epidemic model on a social network containing two ingredients: a power-law distribution of waiting times between cause and action and an epidemic cascade of actions becoming the cause of future actions. This work is a conceptual extension of the fluctuation dissipation theorem to social systems and provides a unique framework for the investigation of timing in complex systems.
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