# (B)ut this is blog maths and we're free to make up conventions as we go along: Polymath1 and the Modalities of Mathematics in the Open

**Track**: Open Collaboration Track

**Authors**: Michael J. Barany

**Abstract**

In February, 2009, an international group comprising mathematicians ranging from amateurs to elite professionals converged on the WordPress blog of Cambridge mathematician Timothy Gowers in order to attempt to prove a mathematical theorem|a project Gowers called Polymath1. Their results surprised even the project's most optimistic participants. In six weeks, the group had managed to combinatorially prove the density Hales-Jewett theorem, yielding in the process a host of new mathematical insights. This paper explores how the mathematicians of Polymath1 worked within and adapted the WordPress blog environment to their uses. I examine from a qualitative sociological perspective how procedural and technical questions interacted in a mathematics research setting as the project moved from its nebulous beginnings toward completion. The paper thus indirectly considers the ways in which such meta-mathematical questions are inscribed in research environments, and opens up several methodological questions for the sociology of mathematics and the Internet. Between the mathematical and meta-mathematical negotiations of the Polymath1 project, there emerges a rich virtual site for the study of collaboration in mathematics and related disciplines.

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1 | 6 | polymathtalk.pdf | made with LaTeX beamer | Fri 09 of July, 2010 05:57 EDT by barany | 589.26 Kb | 780 |