What is the resource that most companies are desperate to get their share of: oil, food, human power? Well, did you ever think of our own minds? Our minds are nowadays solicited by tons of information. We cannot pay attention to all of them. Consumer products, politics, activists and media want desperately to get their “mindshare”, without mentioning the attention sought by our friends and family. Mindshare is a limited and highly valued resource, its negotiation is the object of a new economy, the Mind Economy.
If you are, let’s say, a teenager, and want to become influential, how can you compete in this increasingly competitive environment? This is what Alexy Khrabrov and George Cybenko attempted to answer at the ECCS 2010 conference in Lisbon. Here is an introduction that I have slightly edited to make it more accessible.
“Mind Economy: Modeling Influence in Communication Networks with Social Capital.”
Social scientists, businesses, and governments are interested in summarizing the ongoing social network activity to identify the most influential players capable of creating and maintaining high-impact group behaviours. We would like to have metrics of influence in dynamic systems, and generative models which can explain how this influence is accumulated and maintained. Having identified the “stars” or high-influence individuals, we look at the ways they achieve and maintain their influence, comparing their tweeting behaviour to social capital exchange in proportion to the fans ‘contributions. We propose a family of generative models where social capital is exchanged and generated during interactions, reflecting the players‘utilities – such as self-centred or maximizing group benefit. Using our social capital model, we let a system evolve to accumulate most of the capital in those nodes which can be considered influential. We compare those capital-rich nodes with other metrics of influence and show that our model confirms and explains influence of many important types of players, and reveals the behaviours leading to sustained influence. We model recently uncovered Twitter phenomena such as Justin Bieber‘s ecosystem and other high-intensity processes, showing how efficient star behaviour and group preferences lead to various mind economies in social networks.
Even the seemingly chaotic activity of a teenager can be modelled using economic models. Trends on social networks such as twitter and facebook still seem rather unpredictable. But the interests at play in a mind economy are too big to let it go that way. Complex systems theory will undoubtedly be used in an attempt to better target influencers, and shift our attention to a particular subject. The same theory might on the other hand help us making sure that social networks maintain a certain level of social fairness in the mind economy, and diversity in mindshare.