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 Cluster prototypes can also be used for data compres- sion. In particular, a table is created that consists of the prototypes for each clusterl i.e., each prototype is assigned an integer value that is its position (index) in the table. Each object is represented by the index of the prototype associated with its cluster. This type of compression is known as vector quantization and is often applied to image, sound, and video data, where (1) many of the data objects are highly similar to one another, (2) some loss of information is acceptable, and (3) a substantial reduction in the data size is desired.

o Efficiently Finding Nearest Neighbors. Finding nearest neighbors can require computing the pairwise distance between all points. Often clusters and their cluster prototypes can be found much more efficiently. Ifobjects are relatively close to the prototype oftheir cluster, then we can use the prototypes to reduce the number of distance computations that are necessary to find the nearest neighbors of an object. Intuitively, if two cluster prototypes are far apart, then the objects in the corresponding clusters cannot be nearest neighbors of each other. Consequently, to find an object’s nearest neighbors it is only necessary to compute the distance to objects in nearby clusters, where the nearness of two clusters is measured by the distance between their prototypes. This idea is made more precise in Exercise 25 on page 94.

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Cluster prototypes can also be used for data compres- sion. In particular, a table is created that consists of the prototypes for each clusterl i
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This chapter provides an introduction to cluster analysis. We begin with a high-level overview of clustering, including a discussion of the various ap- proaches to dividing objects into sets of clusters and the different types of clusters. We then describe three specific clustering techniques that represent



49O Chapter 8 Cluster Analysis: Basic Concepts and Algorithms

broad categories of algorithms and illustrate a variety of concepts: K-means, agglomerative hierarchical clustering, and DBSCAN. The final section of this chapter is devoted to cluster validity-methods for evaluating the goodness of the clusters produced by a clustering algorithm. More advanced clustering concepts and algorithms will be discussed in Chapter 9. Whenever possible, we discuss the strengths and weaknesses of different schemes. In addition, the bibliographic notes provide references to relevant books and papers that explore cluster analysis in greater depth.

8.1 Overview

Before discussing specific clustering techniques, we provide some necessary background. First, we further define cluster analysis, illustrating why it is difficult and explaining its relationship to other techniques that group data. Then we explore two important topics: (1) different ways to group a set of objects into a set of clusters, and (2) types of clusters.

8.1.1 What Is Cluster Analysis?

Cluster analysis groups data objects based only on information found in the data that describes the objects and their relationships. The goal is that the objects within a group be similar (or related) to one another and different from (or unrelated to) the objects in other groups. The greater the similarity (or homogeneity) within a group and the greater the difference between groups, the better or more distinct the clustering.

In many applications, the notion of a cluster is not well defined. To better understand the difficulty of deciding what constitutes a cluster, consider Figure 8.1, which shows twenty points and three different ways of dividing them into clusters. The shapes of the markers indicate cluster membership. Figures 8.1(b) and 8.1(d) divide the data into two and six parts, respectively. However, the apparent division of each of the two larger clusters into three subclusters may simply be an artifact of the human visual system. AIso, it may not be unreasonable to say that the points form four clusters, as shown in Figure 8.1(c). This figure illustrates that the definition of a cluster is imprecise and that the best definition depends on the nature of data and the desired results.

Cluster analysis is related to other techniques that are used to divide data objects into groups. For instance, clustering can be regarded as a form of classification in that it creates a labeling of objects with class (cluster) labels. However, it derives these labels only from the data. In contrast, classification



8 .1 Overview 491

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in the sense of Chapter 4 is supervised classification; i.e., new, unlabeled objects are assigned a class label using a model developed from objects with known class labels. For this reason, cluster analysis is sometimes referred to as unsupervised classification. When the term classification is used without any qualification within data mining, it typically refers to supervised classification.

Also, while the terms segmentation and partitioning are sometimes used as synonyms for clustering, these terms are frequently used for approaches outside the traditional bounds of cluster analysis. For example, the term partitioning is often used in connection with techniques that divide graphs into subgraphs and that are not strongly connected to clustering. Segmentation often refers to the division of data into groups using simple techniques; e.9., an image can be split into segments based only on pixel intensity and color, or people can be divided into groups based on their income. Nonetheless, some work in graph partitioning and in image and market segmentation is related to cluster analysis.

8.1.2 Different Types of Clusterings

An entire collection of clusters is commonly referred to as a clustering, and in this section, we distinguish various types of clusterings: hierarchical (nested) versus partitional (unnested), exclusive versus overlapping versus finzy, and complete versus partial.

Hierarchical versus Partitional The most commonly discussed distinc- tion among different types of clusterings is whether the set of clusters is nested



492 Chapter 8 Cluster Analysis: Basic Concepts and Algorithms

or unnested, or in more traditional terminology, hierarchical or partitional. A partitional clustering is simply a division of the set of data objects into non-overlapping subsets (clusters) such that each data object is in exactly one subset. Taken individually, each collection of clusters in Figures 8.1 (b-d) is a partitional clustering.

If we permit clusters to have subclusters, then we obtain a hierarchical clustering, which is a set of nested clusters that are organized as a tree. Each node (cluster) in the tree (except for the leaf nodes) is the union of its children (subclusters), and the root ofthe tree is the cluster containing all the objects. Often, but not always, the leaves of the tree are singleton clusters of individual data objects. If we allow clusters to be nested, then one interpretation of Figure 8.1(a) is that it has two subclusters (Figure 8.1(b)), each of which, in turn, has three subclusters (Figure 8.1(d)). The clusters shown in Figures 8.1 (u-d), when taken in that order, also form a hierarchical (nested) clustering with, respectively, I, 2, 4, and 6 clusters on each level. Finally, note that a hierarchical clustering can be viewed as a sequence of partitional ciusterings and a partitional clustering can be obtained by taking any member of that sequence; i.e., by cutting the hierarchical tree at a particular level.

Exclusive versus Overlapping versus Ftzzy The clusterings shown in Figure 8.1 are all exclusive, as they assign each object to a single cluster. There are many situations in which a point could reasonably be placed in more than one cluster, and these situations are better addressed by non-exclusive clustering. In the most general sense, an overlapping or non-exclusive clustering is used to reflect the fact that an object can si,multaneously belong to more than one group (class). For instance, a person at a university can be both an enrolled student and an employee of the university. A non-exclusive clustering is also often used when, for example, an object is “between” two or more clusters and could reasonably be assigned to any of these clusters. Imagine a point halfway between two of the clusters of Figure 8.1. Rather than make a somewhat arbitrary assignment of the object to a single cluster, it is placed in all of the “equally good” clusters.

In a fizzy clustering, every object belongs to every cluster with a mem- bership weight that is between 0 (absolutely doesn’t belong) and 1 (absolutely belongs). In other words, clusters are treated as finzy sets. (Mathematically, a fizzy set is one in which an object belongs to any set with a weight that is between 0 and t. In fiizzy clustering, we often impose the additional con- straint that the sum of the weights for each object must equal 1.) Similarly, probabilistic clustering techniques compute the probability with which each



8 . 1 Overview 493

point belongs to each cluster, and these probabilities must also sum to 1. Be- cause the membership weights or probabilities for any object sum to 1, a finzy or probabilistic clustering does not address true multiclass situations, such as the case of a student employee, where an object belongs to multiple classes. Instead, these approaches are most appropriate for avoiding the arbitrariness of assigning an object to only one cluster when it may be close to several. In practice, a htzzy or probabilistic clustering is often converted to an exclusive clustering by assigning each object to the cluster in which its membership weight or probability is highest.

Complete versus Partial A complete clustering assigns every object to a cluster, whereas a partial clustering does not. The motivation for a partial clustering is that some objects in a data set may not belong to well-defined groups. Many times objects in the data set may represent noise, outliers, or “uninteresting background.” For example, some newspaper stories may share a common theme, such as global warming, while other stories are more generic or one-of-a-kind. Thus, to find the important topics in last month’s stories, we may want to search only for clusters of documents that are tightly related by a common theme. In other cases, a complete clustering of the objects is desired. For example, an application that uses clustering to organize documents for browsing needs to guarantee that all documents can be browsed.

8.1.3 Different Types of Clusters

Clustering aims to find useful groups of objects (clusters), where usefulness is defined by the goals of the data analysis. Not surprisingly, there are several different notions of a cluster that prove useful in practice. In order to visually illustrate the differences among these types of clusters, we use two-dimensional points, as shown in Figure 8.2, as our data objects. We stress, however, that the types of clusters described here are equally valid for other kinds of data.

Well-Separated A cluster is a set of objects in which each object is closer (or more similar) to every other object in the cluster than to any object not in the cluster. Sometimes a threshold is used to specify that all the objects in a cluster must be sufficiently close (or similar) to one another. This idealistic definition of a cluster is satisfied only when the data contains natural clusters that are quite far from each other. Figure 8.2(a) gives an example of well- separated clusters that consists of two groups of points in a two-dimensional space. The distance between any two points in different groups is larger than



494 Chapter 8 Cluster Analysis: Basic Concepts and Algorithms

the distance between any two points within a group. Well-separated clusters do not need to be globular, but can have any shape.

Prototype-Based A cluster is a set of objects in which each object is closer (more similar) to the prototype that defines the cluster than to the prototype of any other cluster. For data with continuous attributes, the prototype of a cluster is often a centroid, i.e., the average (mean) of all the points in the clus- ter. When a centroid is not meaningful, such as when the data has categorical attributes, the prototype is often a medoid, i.e., the most representative point of a cluster. For many types of data, the prototype can be regarded as the most central point, and in such instances, we commonly refer to prototype- based clusters as center-based clusters. Not surprisingly, such clusters tend to be globular. Figure 8.2(b) shows an example of center-based clusters.

Graph-Based If the data is represented as a graph, where the nodes are objects and the links represent connections among objects (see Section 2.7.2), then a cluster can be defined as a connected component; i.e., a group of objects that are connected to one another, but that have no connection to objects outside the group. An important example of graph-based clusters are contiguity-based clusters, where two objects are connected only if they are within a specified distance of each other. This implies that each object in a contiguity-based cluster is closer to some other object in the cluster than to any point in a different cluster. Figure 8.2(c) shows an example of such clusters for two-dimensional points. This definition of a cluster is useful when clusters are irregular or intertwined, but can have trouble when noise is present since, as illustrated by the two spherical clusters of Figure 8.2(c), a small bridge of points can merge two distinct clusters.

Other types of graph-based clusters are also possible. One such approach (Section 8.3.2) defines a cluster as a cliquel i.e., a set of nodes in a graph that are completely connected to each other. Specifically, if we add connections between objects in the order of their distance from one another, a cluster is formed when a set of objects forms a clique. Like prototype-based clusters, such clusters tend to be elobular.

Density-Based A cluster is a dense region of objects that is surrounded by a region of low density. Figure 8.2(d) shows some density-based clusters for data created by adding noise to the data of Figure 8.2(c). The two circular clusters are not merged, as in Figure 8.2(c), because the bridge between them fades into the noise. Likewise, the curve that is present in Figure 8.2(c) also



8 . 1 Overview 495

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