Records of time-stamped social interactions between pairs of individuals (e.g. face-to-face conversations, e-mail exchanges and phone calls) constitute a so-called temporal network. A remarkable difference between temporal networks and conventional static networks is that time-stamped events rather than links are the unit elements generating the collective behavior of nodes. We propose an importance measure for single interaction events. By generalizing the concept of the advance of events proposed by Kossinets et al (2008 Proc. 14th ACM SIGKDD Int. Conf. on Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining p 435), we propose that an event is central when it carries new information about others to the two nodes involved in the event. We find that the proposed measure properly quantifies the importance of events in connecting nodes along time-ordered paths. Because of strong heterogeneity in the importance of events present in real data, a small fraction of highly important events is necessary and sufficient to sustain the connectivity of temporal networks. Nevertheless, in contrast to the behavior of scale-free networks against link removal, this property mainly results from bursty activity patterns and not heterogeneous degree distributions.
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