Why do groups of people act smart, dumb, kind, or cruel? People behave in strange ways, particularly when they are able to influence one another. Both good and bad things can happen when people interact and behave in network structures. On the bright side, you must be familiar with the wisdom of the crowd, where the aggregated knowledge of a group is more valuable than its sum? Ensemble algorithms – like random forest analysis – rely on this positive principle.

On the dark side, are you familiar with the phenomenon called the tragedy of the commons, where shared resource-systems collapse because individuals behave in their self-interest? Or psychological phenomena such as groupthink, where groups of people make irrational decisions due to social issues? The recent spread of fake news and misinformation is also stimulated by network interactions. In these cases, we could speak of the madness of the crowd.

Nicky Case made a great interactive walkthrough explaining why and when networks of people become wise or mad. You are tasked to change and simulate network interactions while Nicky explains concepts such as (complex) contagion, the majority illusion paradox, bonding and bridging, and small world networks. In the references, Nicky provides links to scientific papers explaining these concepts in more detail. I highly suggest you check out her website here.

 

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Screenshot of one of the explanations/simulations Nicky offers.