Hierarchical community structure in networks

15 Sep 2020  ·  Michael T. Schaub, Jiaze Li, Leto Peel ·

Modular and hierarchical community structures are pervasive in real-world complex systems. A great deal of effort has gone into trying to detect and study these structures. Important theoretical advances in the detection of modular have included identifying fundamental limits of detectability by formally defining community structure using probabilistic generative models. Detecting hierarchical community structure introduces additional challenges alongside those inherited from community detection. Here we present a theoretical study on hierarchical community structure in networks, which has thus far not received the same rigorous attention. We address the following questions: 1) How should we define a hierarchy of communities? 2) How do we determine if there is sufficient evidence of a hierarchical structure in a network? and 3) How can we detect hierarchical structure efficiently? We approach these questions by introducing a definition of hierarchy based on the concept of stochastic externally equitable partitions and their relation to probabilistic models, such as the popular stochastic block model. We enumerate the challenges involved in detecting hierarchies and, by studying the spectral properties of hierarchical structure, present an efficient and principled method for detecting them.

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