Data Mining and Knowledge Discovery

, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 224–240 | Cite as

A game-theoretic framework to identify overlapping communities in social networks

  • Wei ChenEmail author
  • Zhenming Liu
  • Xiaorui Sun
  • Yajun Wang


In this paper, we introduce a game-theoretic framework to address the community detection problem based on the structures of social networks. We formulate the dynamics of community formation as a strategic game called community formation game: Given an underlying social graph, we assume that each node is a selfish agent who selects communities to join or leave based on her own utility measurement. A community structure can be interpreted as an equilibrium of this game. We formulate the agents’ utility by the combination of a gain function and a loss function. We allow each agent to select multiple communities, which naturally captures the concept of “overlapping communities”. We propose a gain function based on the modularity concept introduced by Newman (Proc Natl Acad Sci 103(23):8577–8582, 2006), and a simple loss function that reflects the intrinsic costs incurred when people join the communities. We conduct extensive experiments under this framework, and our results show that our algorithm is effective in identifying overlapping communities, and are often better then other algorithms we evaluated especially when many people belong to multiple communities. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time the community detection problem is addressed by a game-theoretic framework that considers community formation as the result of individual agents’ rational behaviors.


Overlapping communities Community discovery Social network analysis 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wei Chen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Zhenming Liu
    • 2
  • Xiaorui Sun
    • 3
  • Yajun Wang
    • 1
  1. 1.Microsoft Research AsiaBeijingChina
  2. 2.Harvard School of Engineering and Applied SciencesCambridgeUSA
  3. 3.Department of Computer ScienceShanghai Jiao Tong UniversityShanghaiChina

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