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Empirical temporal networks of face-to-face human interactions

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  • The Dynamics OF Networks: General Theory
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The ever increasing adoption of mobile technologies and ubiquitous services allows to sense human behavior at unprecedented level of details and scale. Wearable sensors, in particular, open up a new window on human mobility and proximity in a variety of indoor environments. Here we review stylized facts on the structural and dynamical properties of empirical networks of human face-to-face proximity, measured in three different real-world contexts: an academic conference, a hospital ward, and a museum exhibition. First, we discuss the structure of the aggregated contact networks, that project out the detailed ordering of contact events while preserving temporal heterogeneities in their weights. We show that the structural properties of aggregated networks highlight important differences and unexpected similarities across contexts, and discuss the additional complexity that arises from attributes that are typically associated with nodes in real-world interaction networks, such as role classes in hospitals. We then consider the empirical data at the finest level of detail, i.e., we consider time-dependent networks of face-to-face proximity between individuals. To gain insights on the effects that causal constraints have on spreading processes, we simulate the dynamics of a simple susceptible-infected model over the empirical time-resolved contact data. We show that the spreading pathways for the epidemic process are strongly affected by the temporal structure of the network data, and that the mere knowledge of static aggregated networks leads to erroneous conclusions about the transmission paths on the corresponding dynamical networks.

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Barrat, A., Cattuto, C., Colizza, V. et al. Empirical temporal networks of face-to-face human interactions. Eur. Phys. J. Spec. Top. 222, 1295–1309 (2013).

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