Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Computer Science and Engineering

Major Professor

Lawrence O. Hall, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Dmitry Goldgof, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Rangachar Kasturi, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Changhyun Kwon, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Brendan T. Nagle, Ph.D.


Evolutionary Game Theory, Graph Theory, Dynamical Systems, Spectral Sparsification


Recently dominant sets, a generalization of the notion of the maximal clique to edge-weighted graphs, have proven to be an effective tool for unsupervised learning and have found applications in different domains. Although, they were initially established using optimization and graph theory concepts, recent work has shown fascinating connections with evolutionary game theory, that leads to the clustering game framework. However, considering size of today's data sets, existing methods need to be modified in order to handle massive data. Hence, in this research work, first we address the limitations of the clustering game framework for large data sets theoretically. We propose a new important question for the clustering community ``How can a cluster of a subset of a dataset be a cluster of the entire dataset?''. We show that, this problem is a coNP-hard problem in a clustering game framework. Thus, we modify the definition of a cluster from a stable concept to a non-stable but optimal one (Nash equilibrium). By experiments we show that this relaxation does not change the qualities of the clusters practically.

Following this alteration and the fact that equilibriums are generally compact subsets of vertices, we design an effective strategy to find equilibriums representing well distributed clusters. After finding such equilibriums, a linear game theoretic relation is proposed to assign vertices to the clusters and partition the graph. However, the method inherits a space complexity issue, that is the similarities between every pair of objects are required which proves practically intractable for large data sets. To overcome this limitation, after establishing necessary theoretical tools for a special type of graphs that we call vertex-repeated graphs, we propose the scalable clustering game framework. This approach divides a data set into disjoint tractable size chunks. Then, the exact clusters of the entire data are approximated by the clusters of the chunks. In fact, the exact equilibriums of the entire graph is approximated by the equilibriums of the subsets of the graph. We show theorems that enable significantly improved time complexity for the model. The applications include, but are not limited to, the maximum weight clique problem, large data clustering and image segmentation. Experiments have been done on random graphs and the DIMACS benchmark for the maximum weight clique problem and on magnetic resonance images (MRI) of the human brain consisting of about 4 million examples for large data clustering. Also, on the Berkeley Segmentation Dataset, the proposed method achieves results comparable to the state of the art, providing a parallel framework for image segmentation and without any training phase. The results show the effectiveness and efficiency of our approach.

In another part of this research work, we generalize the clustering game method to cluster uncertain data where the similarities between the data points are not exactly known, that leads to the uncertain clustering game framework. Here, contrary to the ensemble clustering approaches, where the results of different similarity matrices are combined, we focus on the average utilities of an uncertain game. We show that the game theoretical solutions provide stable clusters even in the presence of severe uncertainties. In addition, based on this framework, we propose a novel concept in uncertain data clustering so that every subset of objects can have a ''cluster degree''. Extensive experiments on real world data sets, as well as on the Berkeley image segmentation dataset, confirm the performance of the proposed method.

And finally, instead of dividing a graph into chunks to make the clustering scalable, we study the effect of the spectral sparsification method based on sampling by effective resistance on the clustering outputs. Through experimental and theoretical observations, we show that the clustering results obtained from sparsified graphs are very similar to the results of the original non-sparsified graphs. The rand index is always at about 0.9 to 0.99 in our experiments even when lots of sparsification is done.