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Netgist: Learning to generate task-based network summaries

Abstract

Given a network, can we visualize it for any given task, highlighting the important characteristics? Networks are widespread, and hence summarizing and visualizing them is of primary interest for many applications such as viral marketing, extracting communities and immunization. Summaries can help in solving new problems in visualization, sense-making, and in many other goals. However, most prior work focuses on generic structural summarization techniques or on developing specific algorithms for specific tasks. This is both tedious and challenging. As a result, for several popular tasks, there do not exist readymade summarization methods. In this paper, we explore a promising alternative approach instead. We propose NetGist, a framework which automatically learns how to generate a summary for a given task on a given network. In addition to generating the required summary, this also allows us to reuse the learned process on other similar networks. We formulate a novel task-based graph summarization problem and leverage reinforcement learning to design a flexible framework for our solution. Via extensive experiments, we show that NetGist robustly and effectively learns meaningful summaries, and helps solve challenging problems, and aids in complex task-based sense-making of networks.

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