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Bottcher, L., Montealegre, P., Goles, E., & Gersbach, H. (2020). Competing activists-Political polarization. Physica A, 545, 13 pp.
Abstract: Recent empirical findings suggest that societies have become more polarized in various countries. That is, the median voter of today represents a smaller fraction of society compared to two decades ago and yet, the mechanisms underlying this phenomenon are not fully understood. Since interactions between influential actors ("activists'') and voters play a major role in opinion formation, e.g. through social media, we develop a macroscopic opinion model in which competing activists spread their political ideas in specific groups of society. These ideas spread further to other groups in declining strength. While unilateral spreading shifts the opinion distribution, competition of activists leads to additional phenomena: Small heterogeneities among competing activists cause them to target different groups in society, which amplifies polarization. For moderate heterogeneities, we obtain target cycles and further amplification of polarization. In such cycles, the stronger activist differentiates himself from the weaker one, while the latter aims to imitate the stronger activist. (C) 2019 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Bottcher, L., Woolley-Meza, O., Goles, E., Helbing, D., & Herrmann, H. J. (2016). Connectivity disruption sparks explosive epidemic spreading. Phys. Rev. E, 93(4), 8 pp.
Abstract: We investigate the spread of an infection or other malfunction of cascading nature when a system component can recover only if it remains reachable from a functioning central component. We consider the susceptible-infected-susceptible model, typical of mathematical epidemiology, on a network. Infection spreads from infected to healthy nodes, with the addition that infected nodes can only recover when they remain connected to a predefined central node, through a path that contains only healthy nodes. In this system, clusters of infected nodes will absorb their noninfected interior because no path exists between the central node and encapsulated nodes. This gives rise to the simultaneous infection of multiple nodes. Interestingly, the system converges to only one of two stationary states: either the whole population is healthy or it becomes completely infected. This simultaneous cluster infection can give rise to discontinuous jumps of different sizes in the number of failed nodes. Larger jumps emerge at lower infection rates. The network topology has an important effect on the nature of the transition: we observed hysteresis for networks with dominating local interactions. Our model shows how local spread can abruptly turn uncontrollable when it disrupts connectivity at a larger spatial scale.