Dynamics of cascades on burstiness-controlled temporal networks

Samuel Unicomb, Gerardo Iñiguez, James P. Gleeson & Márton Karsai
Nature Communications volume 12, Article number: 133 (2021)

Burstiness, the tendency of interaction events to be heterogeneously distributed in time, is critical to information diffusion in physical and social systems. However, an analytical framework capturing the effect of burstiness on generic dynamics is lacking. Here we develop a master equation formalism to study cascades on temporal networks with burstiness modelled by renewal processes. Supported by numerical and data-driven simulations, we describe the interplay between heterogeneous temporal interactions and models of threshold-driven and epidemic spreading. We find that increasing interevent time variance can both accelerate and decelerate spreading for threshold models, but can only decelerate epidemic spreading. When accounting for the skewness of different interevent time distributions, spreading times collapse onto a universal curve. Our framework uncovers a deep yet subtle connection between generic diffusion mechanisms and underlying temporal network structures that impacts a broad class of networked phenomena, from spin interactions to epidemic contagion and language dynamics.

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