We have submitted Detection and Evaluation of Clusters within Sequential Data, and it is currently under review. This is joint work between Alexander Van Werde, Albert Senen-Cerda, Gianluca Kosmella, and myself. A preprint is available on arXiv.
Motivated by theoretical advancements in dimensionality reduction techniques we use a recent model, called Block Markov Chains, to conduct a practical study of clustering in real-world sequential data. Clustering algorithms for Block Markov Chains possess theoretical optimality guarantees and can be deployed in sparse data regimes. Despite these favorable theoretical properties, a thorough evaluation of these algorithms in realistic settings has been lacking.
We address this issue and investigate the suitability of these clustering algorithms in exploratory data analysis of real-world sequential data. In particular, our sequential data is derived from human DNA, written text, animal movement data and financial markets. In order to evaluate the determined clusters, and the associated Block Markov Chain model, we further develop a set of evaluation tools. These tools include benchmarking, spectral noise analysis and statistical model selection tools. An efficient implementation of the clustering algorithm and the new evaluation tools is made available together with this paper.
Practical challenges associated to real-world data are encountered and discussed. It is ultimately found that the Block Markov Chain model assumption, together with the tools developed here, can indeed produce meaningful insights in exploratory data analyses despite the complexity and sparsity of real-world data.