Clustering Techniques

Different approaches to clustering data can be described with the help of the hierarchy shown in Figure.

Clustering Techniques

At the top level, there is a distinction between hierarchical and partitional approaches (hierarchical methods produce a nested series of partitions, while partitional methods produce only one)

Agglomerative vs. divisive: This aspect relates to algorithmic structure and operation. An agglomerative approach begins with each pattern in a distinct (singleton) cluster, and successively merges clusters together until a stopping criterion is satisfied. A divisive method begins with all patterns in a single cluster and performs splitting until a stopping criterion is met.

Monothetic vs. polythetic: This aspect relates to the sequential or simultaneous use of features in the clustering process. Most algorithms are polythetic; that is, all features enter into the computation of distances between patterns, and decisions are based on those distances. A simple monothetic algorithm reported in (Anderberg M.R ,1973) considers features sequentially to divide the given collection of patterns.

Hard vs. fuzzy: A hard clustering algorithm allocates each pattern to a single cluster during its operation and in its output. A fuzzy clustering method assigns degrees of membership in several clusters to each input pattern. A fuzzy clustering can be converted to a hard clustering by assigning each pattern to the cluster with the largest measure of membership.

Deterministic vs. stochastic: This issue is most relevant to partitional approaches designed to optimize a squared error function. This optimization can be accomplished using traditional techniques or through a random search of the state space consisting of all possible labeling.

Incremental vs. non-incremental: This issue arises when the pattern set to be clustered is large, and constraints on execution time or memory space affect the architecture of the algorithm. The early history of clustering methodology does not contain many examples of clustering algorithms designed to work with large data sets, but the advent of data mining has fostered the development of clustering algorithms that minimize the number of scans through the pattern set, reduce the number of patterns examined during execution, or reduce the size of data structures used in the algorithm’s operations.

Partitional Clustering: A partitional clustering algorithm obtains a single partition of the data instead of a clustering structure, such as the dendrogram produced by a hierarchical technique. Partitional methods have advantages in applications involving large data sets for which the construction of a dendrogram is computationally prohibitive. A problem accompanying the use of a partitional algorithm is the choice of the number of desired output clusters.. The partitional techniques usually produce clusters by optimizing a criterion function defined either locally (on a subset of the patterns) or globally (defined over all of the patterns). Combinatorial search of the set of possible labelings for an optimum value of a criterion is clearly computationally prohibitive. In practice, therefore, the algorithm is typically run multiple times with different starting states, and the best configuration obtained from all of the runs is used as the output clustering.

Squared Error Clustering Method:

  • Select an initial partition of the patterns with a fixed number of clusters and cluster centers.
  • Assign each pattern to its closest cluster center and compute the new cluster centers as the centroids of the clusters. Repeat this step until convergence is achieved, i.e., until the cluster membership is stable.
  • Merge and split clusters based on some heuristic information, optionally repeating step 2.

K-Means Clustering Algorithm:

  • Choose k cluster centers to coincide with k randomly-chosen patterns or k randomly defined points inside the hypervolume containing the pattern set.
  • Assign each pattern to the closest cluster center.
  • Recompute the cluster centers using the current cluster memberships.
  • If a convergence criterion is not met, go to step 2. Typical convergence criteria are: no (or minimal) reassignment of patterns to new cluster centers, or minimal decrease in squared error.

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