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Date: 10. 10. 2019, 12:00
Room: 52

Today we find ourselves in the world of fake news, targeted advertising, pronounced manipulation attempts and comprehensive disinformation campaigns, all reinforcing the growing polarization of public opinion within societies. This has a detrimental effect of disrupting political processes necessary for each body politic to commit to and pursue its own agenda. Such nefarious methods are not at all new; however, the present problem is significantly exacerbated by the ubiquitous reach of social media, allowing the specifically tailored messages to reach their target audiences quite effectively. Hence, contemporary disruption is a fairly sophisticated endeavour based on structural intricacies of social networks. Any attempt to counter it must be based on an equally exact foundation. This talk will shed light on some recent models from engineering sciences that go towards elucidating such complex processes on social networks and also suggest compelling directions of future research. 
Even though exact descriptions of social networks, initiated first by Jacob Moreno with his sociograms in the 1930s, have been around for a while, it was not until recently that dynamics on graphs attracted considerable interest of mathematicians and engineers. At first, their attention was mainly focused on agreement of protagonistic actors; only later was it recognized that disagreement of antagonistic actors is just another aspect of the same phenomenon. What seems to be crucial for this equivalence is the property of structural balance. Structural balance thus supports permanent disagreement in social networks. 
In contrast, when structural balance is broken, a neutral consensus is achieved; all actors agree in a manner of compromise and polarization vanishes. This breaking of structural balance, however, involves actors that do not subscribe to the notion that ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ and ‘the friend of my enemy is my enemy’. Such actors, justifiably considered as mediators, maintain protagonistic ties to mutually antagonistic actors, allowing for dialogue.
Depending on a precise way these mediators break structural balance a social network achieves compromise agreement at a different pace. Most compellingly, if a social network is already polarized, strategically placing potential mediators may help reduce this polarization over time. There are good guesses available as to where in the network it may be most advantageous to place such influential nodes to expedite agreement. Applying these insights to the civil society, with its NGOs as actors, it may be possible to appeal to antagonistic actors, bring them closer together, bridge the gap and thereby significantly reduce the overall polarization of public opinion. Furthermore, this could provide a social network with a measure of much needed resilience to an outside interference by swiftly reducing its polarizing effects. 

Kristian Hengster-Movric

foto: ČVUT

Kristian Hengster-Movric was born in Zagreb, Croatia, in 1986. Elementary and High School education was received in Zagreb. He enrolled in the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing at The University of Zagreb in 2004 and received his M.S. degree in the field of Automatics in 2009. During the time in college he also worked on various projects that resulted in publications.
Shortly before graduation he was awarded the 2009 Rector’s Prize for excellence in research for his work on multi-agent potential field control. In 2009 Kristian was accepted to the University of Texas at Arlington, Electrical Engineering department for a PhD under the supervision of dr. Frank Lewis. In
2010 Kristian was inducted into The Golden Key Honor Society, for academic achievement. In 2013 he was awarded second place prize, N.M. Stelmakh Outstanding Student Research Award, for excellence of research conducted while in the PhD program. He was also awarded the Dean’s Fellowship for summer semester 2013. Kristian successfully defended his doctoral dissertation in summer 2013, thus completing the PhD program at the University of Texas at Arlington.
Currently, Kristian Hengster-Movric is an assistant professor whose focus within his affiliation with AA4CC group is on mathematical theory of distributed control, consensus problems and optimal control. At the Czech Technical University in Prague (CTU) he is currently giving lectures within a graduate course on dynamics and control of networks and a doctoral course on distributed control. He supervises a few doctoral and master students. He also serves as an administrator of the CTU participation in the double-degree (Erasmus Mundus) Spacemaster program.
Research interests include, but are not limited to, dynamical systems and control theory applied to complex, multi-agent systems, differential geometry, topology, qualitative analysis of dynamical systems, control of physical systems, systems with distributed parameters. Recent work addressed distributed control of multi-agent systems, applied to synchronization and consensus.

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