The Social Machine of Mathematics
For centuries, the highest level of mathematics has been seen as an isolated creative activity, to produce a proof for review and acceptance by research peers. Mathematics is now at a remarkable inflexion point, with new technology radically extending the power and limits of individuals. "Crowdsourcing" pulls together diverse experts to solve problems; symbolic computation tackles huge routine calculations; and computers, using programs designed to verify hardware, check proofs that are just too long and complicated for any human to comprehend. Yet these techniques are currently used in stand-alone fashion, lacking integration with each other or with human creativity or fallibility.
"Social machines" are new paradigm, identified by Berners-Lee, for viewing a combination of people and computers as a single problem-solving entity. This project works towards a new vision, changing the way people do mathematics, and transforming the reach, pace, and impact of mathematics research, through creating a mathematics social machine --- a combination of people, computers, and archives to create and apply mathematics.
Phase 1, studying collaborating mathematicians
This phase of the project comprises a number of ethnographic studies of collaborating mathematicians, both on-line and face-to-face, working with collaborators Lorenzo Lane (Edinburgh), Donald Mackenzie (Edinburgh), Natasa Milic-Frayling (Microsoft Research) and Alison Pease (Dundee).