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Affinity Workshop: WiML Workshop 1

Strategic Clustering

Ana-Andreea Stoica · Christos Papadimitriou


We study the problem of clustering in the context of social networks, where people can have preferences and incentives over the groups that they may be a part of. As clustering is increasingly used for grouping large data that pertains to people, we ask how much does the quality of the clustering --- typically measured by the conductance, or by the number of edges cut, or the average distance to the centers --- deteriorate if the nodes are strategic and can change clusters? And among reasonable utilities for the nodes, which one hurts quality the least? We investigate these questions both theoretically, by studying the equilibria of hedonic games (simplified clustering games with unconstrained number of clusters), and experimentally, by measuring the quality of pure Nash equilibria of more realistic clustering games. We introduce a new utility function for the nodes which we call closeness, and which we believe is an attractive alternative to previously studied node utilities. We study the properties of the closeness utility theoretically and demonstrate experimentally its advantages over other established utilities such as the modified fractional utility. Finally, we present a polynomial-time algorithm which, given a clustering with optimal quality, finds another clustering with better average utility, and in fact the one that maximizes the ratio of the gain in average utility over the loss in quality.

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