User Effort and Network Structure Mediate Access to Information in Networks


  • Jeon-Hyung Kang University of Southern California / Information Sciences Institute
  • Kristina Lerman University of Southern California / Information Sciences Institute



Diverse Information Access in Social Media, Probabilistic Model, User Effort, Network Structure


Individuals' access to information in a social network depends on its distributed and where in the network individuals position themselves. However, individuals have limited capacity to manage their social connections and process information. In this work, we study how this limited capacity and network structure interact to affect the diversity of information social media users receive. Previous studies of the role of networks in information access were limited in their ability to measure the diversity of information. We address this problem by learning the topics of interest to social media users by observing messages they share online with their followers. We present a probabilistic model that incorporates human cognitive constraints in a generative model of information sharing. We then use the topics learned by the model to measure the diversity of information users receive from their social media contacts.We confirm that users in structurally diverse network positions, which bridge otherwise disconnected regions of the follower graph, are exposed to more diverse information. In addition, we identify user effort as an important variable that mediates access to diverse information in social media.Users who invest more effort into their activity on the site not only place themselves in more structurally diverse positions within the network than the less engaged users, but they also receive more diverse information when located in similar network positions.These findings indicate that the relationship between network structure and access to information in networks is more nuanced than previously thought.




How to Cite

Kang, J.-H., & Lerman, K. (2021). User Effort and Network Structure Mediate Access to Information in Networks. Proceedings of the International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media, 9(1), 198-207.