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Book Sections Year : 2018

Service Adoption Spreading in Online Social Networks


The collective behaviour of people adopting an innovation, product or online service is commonly interpreted as a spreading phenomenon throughout the fabric of society. This process is arguably driven by social influence, social learning and by external effects like media. Observations of such processes date back to the seminal studies by Rogers and Bass, and their mathematical modelling has taken two directions: One paradigm, called simple contagion, identifies adoption spreading with an epidemic process. The other one, named complex contagion, is concerned with behavioural thresholds and successfully explains the emergence of large cascades of adoption resulting in a rapid spreading often seen in empirical data. The observation of real-world adoption processes has become easier lately due to the availability of large digital social network and behavioural datasets. This has allowed simultaneous study of network structures and dynamics of online service adoption, shedding light on the mechanisms and external effects that influence the temporal evolution of behavioural or innovation adoption. These advancements have induced the development of more realistic models of social spreading phenomena, which in turn have provided remarkably good predictions of various empirical adoption processes. In this chapter we review recent data-driven studies addressing real-world service adoption processes. Our studies provide the first detailed empirical evidence of a heterogeneous threshold distribution in adoption. We also describe the modelling of such phenomena with formal methods and data-driven simulations. Our objective is to understand the effects of identified social mechanisms on service adoption spreading, and to provide potential new directions and open questions for future research.

Dates and versions

hal-01952149 , version 1 (11-12-2018)



Gerardo Iñiguez, Zhongyuan Ruan, Kimmo Kaski, János Kertész, Màrton Karsai. Service Adoption Spreading in Online Social Networks. Complex Spreading Phenomena in Social Systems, pp.151-175, 2018, 978-3-319-77331-5. ⟨10.1007/978-3-319-77332-2_9⟩. ⟨hal-01952149⟩
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