Quantifying and tracing information cascades in swarms

X. Rosalind Wang, Jennifer M. Miller, Joseph T. Lizier, Mikhail Prokopenko, Louis F. Rossi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

61 Citations (Scopus)


We propose a novel, information-theoretic, characterisation of cascades within the spatiotemporal dynamics of swarms, explicitly measuring the extent of collective communications. This is complemented by dynamic tracing of collective memory, as another element of distributed computation, which represents capacity for swarm coherence. The approach deals with both global and local information dynamics, ultimately discovering diverse ways in which an individual's spatial position is related to its information processing role. It also allows us to contrast cascades that propagate conflicting information with waves of coordinated motion. Most importantly, our simulation experiments provide the first direct information-theoretic evidence (verified in a simulation setting) for the long-held conjecture that the information cascades occur in waves rippling through the swarm. Our experiments also exemplify how features of swarm dynamics, such as cascades' wavefronts, can be filtered and predicted. We observed that maximal information transfer tends to follow the stage with maximal collective memory, and principles like this may be generalised in wider biological and social contexts.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere40084
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jul 2012
Externally publishedYes

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    Wang, X. R., Miller, J. M., Lizier, J. T., Prokopenko, M., & Rossi, L. F. (2012). Quantifying and tracing information cascades in swarms. PLoS ONE, 7(7), 1-7. [e40084]. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0040084