Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization -- Department for Nonlinear Dynamics and Network Dynamics Group
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MPI Kolloquium

Wednesday, 12.02.2014 14:15 s.t.

Quantifying Information Overload in Social Media and its Impact on Social Contagions

by Ph.D. Krishna P. Gummadi
from Max-Planck Institute for Software Systems, Head, Networked Systems Research Group, Saarbrücken

Contact person: Jan Nagler


MPI DS seminar room (0.77/0.79)


Information overload has become an ubiquitous problem in modern society. Social media users and microbloggers receive an endless flow of information, often at a rate far higher than their cognitive abilities to process the information. In this talk, I will describe a large scale quantitative study of information overload and evaluate its impact on information dissemination in the Twitter social media site. We model social media users as information processing systems that queue incoming information according to some unknown policies, process information from the queue at some unknown rates and decide to forward some of the incoming information to other users. I will show how timestamped data about tweets received and forwarded by users can be used to reverse engineer their queueing policies and estimate their information processing rates and limits. Such an understanding of users’ information processing behaviors allows us to infer whether and to what extent users suffer from information overload. We find that the rate at which users receive information impacts their processing behavior, including how they prioritize information from different sources, how much information they process, and how quickly they process information. We show that the susceptibility of a social media user to social contagions depends crucially on the rate at which she receives information. We argue that incorporating the effects of information overload into existing models for information and influence propagation models offers an alternative explanation for why most information cascades have limited sizes, while a few have prolonged lifetimes.

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