Clickstreams: the flow of collective attention on the Web

The real-world complex systems are often maintained by “flow”. Food webs are supplied by energy flow and the world-wide trading network grows at the expense of cash flow. Then what does the Web live on? Attention flow.

The fundamental behavior of users in the virtual world is clicking.  A individual clickstream is composed of a series of clicked urls, denoting a flow of attention from a information resource to another. At every second, millions are clicking in the virtual world, leading to an attention-flow network with information resources as nodes and the flow of attentions as edges.

   

Figure 1. A individual clickstream (left) and a collective clickstream network on Digg.

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