Numerous real-world systems can be modeled as networks. To date, most network studies have been conducted assuming stationary network characteristics. Many systems, however, undergo topological changes over time. Temporal networks, which incorporate time into conventional network models, are therefore more accurate representations of such dynamic systems. Here, we introduce a novel generalized analytical framework for temporal networks, which enables 1) robust evaluation of the efficiency of temporal information exchange using two new network metrics and 2) quantitative inspection of the temporal small-worldness. Specifically, we define new robust temporal network efficiency measures by incorporating the time dependency of temporal distance. We propose a temporal regular network model, and based on this plus the redefined temporal efficiency metrics and widely used temporal random network models, we introduce a quantitative approach for identifying temporal small-world architectures (featuring high temporal network efficiency both globally and locally). In addition, within this framework, we can uncover network-specific dynamic structures. Applications to brain networks, international trade networks, and social networks reveal prominent temporal small-world properties with distinct dynamic network structures. We believe that the framework can provide further insight into dynamic changes in the network topology of various real-world systems and significantly promote research on temporal networks.
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