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Entropy and the Predictability of Online Life

Center for Complex Networks Research and Physics Department, Northeastern University, 110 Forsyth Street, Boston, MA 02115, USA
Senseable City Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Entropy 2014, 16(1), 543-556;
Received: 1 December 2013 / Revised: 16 December 2013 / Accepted: 30 December 2013 / Published: 16 January 2014
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Complex Systems)
PDF [271 KB, uploaded 24 February 2015]


Using mobile phone records and information theory measures, our daily lives have been recently shown to follow strict statistical regularities, and our movement patterns are, to a large extent, predictable. Here, we apply entropy and predictability measures to two datasets of the behavioral actions and the mobility of a large number of players in the virtual universe of a massive multiplayer online game. We find that movements in virtual human lives follow the same high levels of predictability as offline mobility, where future movements can, to some extent, be predicted well if the temporal correlations of visited places are accounted for. Time series of behavioral actions show similar high levels of predictability, even when temporal correlations are neglected. Entropy conditional on specific behavioral actions reveals that in terms of predictability, negative behavior has a wider variety than positive actions. The actions that contain the information to best predict an individual’s subsequent action are negative, such as attacks or enemy markings, while the positive actions of friendship marking, trade and communication contain the least amount of predictive information. These observations show that predicting behavioral actions requires less information than predicting the mobility patterns of humans for which the additional knowledge of past visited locations is crucial and that the type and sign of a social relation has an essential impact on the ability to determine future behavior. View Full-Text
Keywords: human behavior; mobility; computational social science; online games; time-series analysis; social dynamics human behavior; mobility; computational social science; online games; time-series analysis; social dynamics
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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Sinatra, R.; Szell, M. Entropy and the Predictability of Online Life. Entropy 2014, 16, 543-556.

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