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Strategic Networks: Content Production, Dissemination and Link Formation Among Self-interested Agents

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What
  • PhD Defenses
When May 21, 2013
from 01:00 PM to 04:00 PM
Where Engr. IV Bldg., Maxwell Room 57-124
Contact Name
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Yu Zhang

Advisor: Mihaela van der Schaar

 

Abstract

In my talk I will discuss the endogenous formation of networks by strategic, self-interested agents who benefit from producing, disseminating and collecting information. This is the first attempt to systematically and rigorously study this topic. My work departs from previous works on network formation which assumes that agents benefit only by acquiring information produced by other agents or that agents and their produced information are homogeneous. Instead, a central point of my analysis is the assumption that the strategic agents are heterogeneous (rather than homogeneous as in the existing literature) and that agents value this heterogeneity. The heterogeneity of agents and the ability of agents to strategically produce, disseminate or collect information have striking consequences. The analysis has implications for the topology that emerges endogenously. I first show that the network structure that emerges (at equilibrium) necessarily displays a core-periphery type: hub agents (at the core of the network) produce most of the information and also create and maintain links to the agents at the periphery, while spoke agents (at the periphery of the network) derive most of their information from hub agents, producing little of it themselves. As the population becomes larger, the number of hub agents and the total amount of information produced grow in proportion to the total population. I then show that the networks that emerge at equilibrium are frequently minimally connected and have short network diameters. These ‘scale-free’ conclusions had been conjectured for many networks – such as the 'small-world' phenomenon in the World-Wide-Web – but not derived in any formal framework, and are in stark contradiction to the ‘law of the few’ that had been established in previous work, under the assumption that agents solely benefit by forming links for information acquisition, while information is homogeneous and part of the endowment of agents, rather than heterogeneous and produced.

 

Biography

Yu Zhang is a final-year Ph.D. student in Electrical Engineering Department, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), working with Prof. Mihaela van der Schaar. He received his B.E. and M.S. Degree from Tsinghua University in 2006 and 2008, respectively, both in electrical engineering. In 2011, Yu was with IBM T. J. Watson Research Center where he worked on distributed online learning techniques for Big Data mining. Yu’s research interests include network economics, network science and algorithmic game theory. He has 18 journal and conference publications and one pending patent in his field. He also received the Dissertation Year Fellowship 2012-2013 from UCLA.

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