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04 Centrality Indices

04 Centrality Indices

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3 Centrality Indices
Dirk Kosch¨ utzki,
Katharina Anna Lehmann,
Leon Peeters, Stefan Richter,Dagmar Tenfelde-Podehl,
and Oliver Zlotowski 
Centrality indices are to quantify an intuitive feeling that in most networks somevertices or edges are more central than others. Many vertex centrality indiceswere introduced for the first time in the 1950s: e.g., the Bavelas index [50, 51],degree centrality [483] or a first feedback centrality, introduced by Seeley [510].These early centralities raised a rush of research in which manifold applicationswere found. However,not every centrality index was suitable to every application,so with time, dozens of new centrality indices were published. This chapter willpresent some of the more influential, ‘classiccentrality indices. We do not strivefor completeness, but hope to give a catalog of basic centrality indices with someof their main applications.In Section 3.1 we will begin with two simple examples to show how centralityindices can help to analyze networks and the situation these networks represent.In Section 3.2 we discuss the properties that are minimally required for a real-valued function on the set of vertices or edges of a graph to be a centrality indexfor vertices and edges, respectively.In subsequent Sections 3.3–3.9, various families of vertex and edge centrali-ties are presented. First, centrality indices based on distance and neighborhoodare discussed in Section 3.3. Additionally, this section presents in detail someinstances of facility location problems as a possible application for centralityindices. Next we discuss the centrality indices based on shortest paths in Sec-tion 3.4. These are naturally defined for both, vertices and edges. We decided topresent both, vertex and edge centrality indices, in one chapter together sincemany families of centrality indices are naturally defined for both and many in-dices can be easily transformed from a vertex centrality to an edge centrality, andvice versa. Up to date there have been proposed many more centrality indices forvertices than for edges. Therefore, we discuss general methods to derive an edgecentrality out of the definition of a vertex centrality in Section 3.5. The generalapproach of vitality measures is also applicable to edges and vertices. We willdescribe this family in Section 3.6. In Section 3.7, a family of centrality indicesis presented that is derived from a certain analogy between information flowand current flow. In Section 3.8 centrality indices based on random processesare presented. In Section 3.9 we present some of the more prominent feedbackcentralities that evaluate the importance of a vertex by evaluating the centralityof its surrounding vertices.
Lead authors
U. Brandes and T. Erlebach (Eds.): Network Analysis, LNCS 3418, pp. 16–61, 2005.c
Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2005
3 Centrality Indices 17
For many centrality indices it is required that the network at hand be con-nected. If this is not the case, computing these centralities might be a problem.As an example, shortest paths based centralities encounter the problem thatcertain vertices are not reachable from vertices in a different component of thenetwork. This yields infinite distances for closeness centrality, and zero shortest-path counts for betweenness centrality. Section 3.10 of this chapter discusses howto deal with these problems in disconnected graphs.Before we close the chapter we want to discuss a topic that spans the bridgebetween the analysis of networks on the level of elements and the level of thewhole graph. In Section 3.11, we propose a very general method with whicha structural index for vertices can be transformed into a structural index forgraphs. This is helpful, e.g., in the design of new centrality indices which will beexplained on a simple example. We close this chapter with some remarks on thehistory of centrality indices in Section 3.12.
3.1 Introductory Examples
Election of a leader is a frequent event in many social groups and intuitively,some persons in such an event are more important or ‘central’ than others, e.g.the candidates. The question is now how centrality indices can help to derive ameasure of this intuitive observation. On this first example we want to illustratethat different kind of networks can be abstracted from such a social interactionand we want to show how network analysis with centrality indices may help toidentify important vertices of these networks. A second example illustrates howthe application of an edge centrality index may help to figure out important edgesin a network. Both illustrations underline that there is no centrality index thatfits all applications and that the same network may be meaningfully analyzedwith different centrality indices depending on the question to be answered.Before we begin the discussion on the examples, it should be noted that theterm ‘centrality’ is by no means clearly defined. What is it that makes a vertexcentral and another vertex peripheral? In the course of time there have beendifferent answers to this question. Each of them serves another intuition aboutthe notion of centrality. Centrality can be interpreted as - among other things- ‘influence’, as ‘prestige’ or as ‘control’. For example, a vertex can be regardedas central if it is heavily required for the transport of information within thenetwork or if it is connected to other important vertices. These few examplesfrom a set of dozens other possibilities show that the interpretation of ‘centrality’is heavily dependent on the context.We will demonstrate the application of three different interpretations on thefollowing example: A school class of 30 students has to elect a class representativeand every student is allowed to vote for one other student. We can derive differentgraph abstractions from this situation that can later be analyzed with differentcentrality indices. We will first look at a network that represents the votingresults directly. In this network vertices represent students and an edge fromstudent
to student
is established if 
has voted for
. In such a situation
18 D. Kosch¨utzki et al.
a student could be said to be the more ‘central’ the more people have votedfor him or her. This kind of centrality is directly represented by the number of edges pointing to the corresponding vertex. The so called ‘in-degree centrality’is presented in Section 3.3.1.Another view on the same situation results in another network: In this net-work an edge between
represents that student
has convinced student
to vote for his or her favorite candidate. We will call this network an ‘influencenetwork’. Let us assume that the class is mainly split into two big groups X andY. Let some person have social relationships to members from both groups. If this person has a favorite candidate from group X and convinces a big part of group Y to vote for this candidate, he or she is ‘central’ because he or she me-diates the most information between both groups. With this argument we cansay that a vertex in the given influence network is the more central the moreit is needed to transport the opinion of others. A family of centrality indicesthat tries to capture this intuition of ‘being between groups’ is the family of betweenness centrality indices, presented in Sections 3.4.2, 3.6.1 and 3.8.2.In yet another perspective we could view the general social network of theclass: Who is friends with whom? Someone who is a friend of an importantperson could be regarded as more important than someone having friends withlow social prestige. The centrality of a vertex in this kind of network is thereforegiven by the centrality of adjacent vertices. This kind of ‘feedback centrality’ iscaptured by many centrality indices that are presented in Section 3.9.In analogy to the centrality of vertices, some of the edges in a network canbe viewed as being more important than others. We will illustrate this on acommonly used network, the Internet. Looking at the backbone of the Internetit is clear that the cables between servers on different continents are few andthus very important for the functionality of the system. This importance stemsfrom the enormous data flow through the intercontinental cables that had tobe redirected if one of these cables was out of service. There are mainly twodifferent approaches to measure the centrality of an edge in a network: Thefirst counts the number of substructures like traversal sets or the set of shortestpaths in the graph on which an edge participates. An example for this approachis the betweenness centrality of edges, presented in Section 3.4.2. The secondapproach is based on the idea of measuring how much a certain network param-eter is changed if the edge is removed. An example for this approach is the flowbetweenness vitality, presented in Section 3.6.1.We have shown for two examples that very different ideas of centrality canlead to centrality indices that help to analyze the situation represented by thegiven network. It is important to note that none of these measures is superior tothe others. Every one is appropriate for some but not all questions in networkanalysis.

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