Purdue University Graduate School
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Dynamic Network Modeling from Temporal Motifs and Attributed Node Activity

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posted on 2023-07-26, 19:32 authored by Giselle ZenoGiselle Zeno

The most important networks from different domains—such as Computing, Organization, Economic, Social, Academic, and Biology—are networks that change over time. For example, in an organization there are email and collaboration networks (e.g., different people or teams working on a document). Apart from the connectivity of the networks changing over time, they can contain attributes such as the topic of an email or message, contents of a document, or the interests of a person in an academic citation or a social network. Analyzing these dynamic networks can be critical in decision-making processes. For instance, in an organization, getting insight into how people from different teams collaborate, provides important information that can be used to optimize workflows.

Network generative models provide a way to study and analyze networks. For example, benchmarking model performance and generalization in tasks like node classification, can be done by evaluating models on synthetic networks generated with varying structure and attribute correlation. In this work, we begin by presenting our systemic study of the impact that graph structure and attribute auto-correlation on the task of node classification using collective inference. This is the first time such an extensive study has been done. We take advantage of a recently developed method that samples attributed networks—although static—with varying network structure jointly with correlated attributes. We find that the graph connectivity that contributes to the network auto-correlation (i.e., the local relationships of nodes) and density have the highest impact on the performance of collective inference methods.

Most of the literature to date has focused on static representations of networks, partially due to the difficulty of finding readily-available datasets of dynamic networks. Dynamic network generative models can bridge this gap by generating synthetic graphs similar to observed real-world networks. Given that motifs have been established as building blocks for the structure of real-world networks, modeling them can help to generate the graph structure seen and capture correlations in node connections and activity. Therefore, we continue with a study of motif evolution in dynamic temporal graphs. Our key insight is that motifs rarely change configurations in fast-changing dynamic networks (e.g. wedges intotriangles, and vice-versa), but rather keep reappearing at different times while keeping the same configuration. This finding motivates the generative process of our proposed models, using temporal motifs as building blocks, that generates dynamic graphs with links that appear and disappear over time.

Our first proposed model generates dynamic networks based on motif-activity and the roles that nodes play in a motif. For example, a wedge is sampled based on the likelihood of one node having the role of hub with the two other nodes being the spokes. Our model learns all parameters from observed data, with the goal of producing synthetic graphs with similar graph structure and node behavior. We find that using motifs and node roles helps our model generate the more complex structures and the temporal node behavior seen in real-world dynamic networks.

After observing that using motif node-roles helps to capture the changing local structure and behavior of nodes, we extend our work to also consider the attributes generated by nodes’ activities. We propose a second generative model for attributed dynamic networks that (i) captures network structure dynamics through temporal motifs, and (ii) extends the structural roles of nodes in motifs to roles that generate content embeddings. Our new proposed model is the first to generate synthetic dynamic networks and sample content embeddings based on motif node roles. To the best of our knowledge, it is the only attributed dynamic network model that can generate new content embeddings—not observed in the input graph, but still similar to that of the input graph. Our results show that modeling the network attributes with higher-order structures (e.g., motifs) improves the quality of the networks generated.

The generative models proposed address the difficulty of finding readily-available datasets of dynamic networks—attributed or not. This work will also allow others to: (i) generate networks that they can share without divulging individual’s private data, (ii) benchmark model performance, and (iii) explore model generalization on a broader range of conditions, among other uses. Finally, the evaluation measures proposed will elucidate models, allowing fellow researchers to push forward in these domains.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Computer Science

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Jennifer Neville

Additional Committee Member 2

Clifton Bingham

Additional Committee Member 3

Bruno Ribeiro

Additional Committee Member 4

Bharat Bhargava