Background: Complex networks are found in many domains and the control of these networks is a research topic that continues to draw increasing attention. This paper proposes a method of network control that attempts to maintain a specified target distribution of the network state. In contrast to many existing network control research works, which focus exclusively on structural analysis of the network, this paper also accounts for user actions/behaviours within the network control problem. Methods: This paper proposes and makes use of a novel distribution-based control method. The control approach is applied within a simulation of the real-valued voter model, which could have applications in problems such as the avoidance of consensus or extremism. The network control problem under consideration is investigated using various theoretical network types, including scale free, random, and small world. Results: It is argued that a distribution-based control approach may be more appropriate for several types of social control problems, in which the exact state of the system is of less interest than the overall system behaviour. The preliminary results presented in this paper demonstrate that a standard reinforcement learning approach is capable of learning a control signal selection policy to prevent the network state distribution from straying far from a specified target distribution. Conclusions: In summary, the results presented in this paper demonstrate the feasibility of a distribution-based control solution within the simulated problem. Additionally, several interesting questions arise from these results and are discussed as potential future work.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Control, Multi-agent systems, Network control, Opinions
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1186/s40649-018-0052-z
Journal Computational Social Networks
Citation
McKenney, D. (Dave), & White, A. (2018). Towards distribution-based control of social networks. Computational Social Networks, 5(1). doi:10.1186/s40649-018-0052-z