Local Interactions and the Emergence of a Twitter Small-World Network


The small-world phenomenon is found in many self-organising systems. Systems configured in small-world networks spread information more easily than in random or regular lattice-type networks. Whilst it is a known fact that small-world networks have short average path length and high clustering coefficient in self-organising systems, the ego centralities that maintain the cohesiveness of small-world network have not been formally defined. Here we show that instantaneous events such as the release of news items via Twitter, coupled with active community arguments related to the news item form a particular type of small-world network. Analysis of the centralities in the network reveals that community arguments maintain the small-world network whilst ac-tively maintaining the cohesiveness and boundary of the group. The results demonstrate how an active Twitter community unconsciously forms a small-world network whilst interacting locally with a bordering community. Over time, such local interactions brought about the global emergence of the small-world network, connecting media channels with human activities. Understanding the small-world phenomenon in relation to online social or civic movement is important, as evident in the spate of online activists that tipped the power of governments for the better or worst in recent times. The support, or removal of high centrality nodes in such networks has important ramifications in the self-expression of society and civic discourses. The presentation in this article anticipates further exploration of man-made self-organising systems where a larger cluster of adhoc and active community maintains the overall cohesiveness of the network.

Share and Cite:

Ch’ng, E. (2015) Local Interactions and the Emergence of a Twitter Small-World Network. Social Networking, 4, 33-40. doi: 10.4236/sn.2015.42004.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Bollobás, B. (1998) Random Graphs. Springer. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4612-0619-4_7
[2] Watts, D.J. (1999) Small Worlds: The Dynamics of Networks between Order and Randomness. Princeton University Press, Princeton.
[3] Schneider, E.D. and Kay, J.J. (1995) Order from Disorder: The Thermodynamics of Complexity in Biology. In: Murphy, M.P. and O’Neill, L.A.J., Eds., What Is Life Next Fifty Years Reflections. Reflections on the Future of Biology, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 161-172.
[4] Mitchell, M. (2009) Complexity: A Guided Tour. Oxford University Press, New York.
[5] Holland, P.W. and Leinhardt, S. (1971) Transitivity in Structural Models of Small Groups. Small Group Research, 2, 107-124.
[6] Watts, D.J. and Strogatz, S.H. (1998) Collective Dynamics of “Small-World” Networks. Nature, 393, 440-442. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/30918
[7] Cohen, J.E., Pimm, S.L., Yodzis, P. and Saldaña, J. (1993) Body Sizes of Animal Predators and Animal Prey in Food Webs. Journal of Animal Ecology, 62, 67-78. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/5483
[8] Albert, R., Jeong, H. and Barabási, A.-L. (1999) Internet: Diameter of the World-Wide Web. Nature, 401, 130-131. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/43601
[9] Wasserman, S. (1994) Social Network Analysis: Methods and Applications. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511815478
[10] Wilhite, A. (2001) Bilateral Trade and “Small-World” Networks. Computational Economics, 18, 49-64.
[11] Nelson, S.C. (2013) #FreeJahar: Boston Bombings Suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s Teenage Fans Insist He’s “Too Beautiful to Be a Terrorist”. Huffingt Post.
[12] DailyMail (2013) Boston Suspect Becomes Teen Hearthrob: Thousands of Girls Express Their Love for Bomber in Worrying Online Forums. DailyMail Online. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2323342/Dzhokhar-Tsarnaev-The-teen-girls-crush-Boston-bomber.html
[13] Bartkewicz, A. (2012) Meet the “Holmies”: Accused “Dark Knight” Shooter Has a Weird Online Fan Club Read More. http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/meet-holmies-accused-dark-knight-shooter-weird-online-fan-club-article-1.1126496#ixzz2atYQMPH4; New York Daily News.
[14] Souppouris, A. (2013) Sympathy for the Devil: #freejahar Spreads across Twitter as Boston Bombing Suspect Charged.
[15] Adi, M.-M. (2014) The Usage of Social Media in the Arab Spring. LIT Verlag, Münster.
[16] Ghannam, J. (2011) Social Media in the Arab World: Leading up to the Uprisings of 2011. Center for International Media Assistance 3.
[17] Ch’ng, E. (2014) The Value of Using Big Data Technology in Computational Social Science. The 3rd ASE Big Data Science 2014, Tsinghua University 4-7 August. Association for Science and Engineering, Beijing.
[18] Newman, M.E.J. and Girvan, M. (2004) Finding and Evaluating Community Structure in Networks. Physical Review E, 69, 026113. http://dx.doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevE.69.026113
[19] Blondel, V.D., Guillaume, J.-L., Lambiotte, R. and Lefebvre, E. (2008) Fast Unfolding of Communities in Large Networks. Journal of Statistical Mechanics: Theory and Experiment, 2008, Article ID: P10008.
[20] Leavitt, H.J. (1951) Some Effects of Certain Communication Patterns on Group Performance. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 46, 38-50. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/h0057189
[21] Moody, J. and White, D.R. (2003) Structural Cohesion and Embeddedness: A Hierarchical Concept of Social Groups. American Sociological Review, 68, 103-127. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/3088904
[22] Travers, J. and Milgram, S. (1969) An Experimental Study of the Small World Problem. Sociometry, 32, 425-443. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/2786545
[23] Milgram, S. (1967) The Small World Problem. Psychology Today, 2, 60-67.
[24] De Sola Pool, I. and Kochen, M. (1979) Contacts and Influence. Social Networks, 1, 5-51.

Copyright © 2023 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.