№ 363/2008 from Nov 13, 2008
The 98th Dahlem Workshop of Dahlem Konferenzen® (Dahlem Conferences), to be held December 14 – 19, 2008, at Freie Universität Berlin, will address the issue of the mathematics of social entities. Mathematicians and social scientists from around the world have been invited to attend the workshop under the theme “Is there a mathematics of social entities?” to examine this topic more closely. The final discussions on Friday, December 19, are open to individuals with an interest in this area.
In England they drive on the left side of the road, in Germany on the right; the Japanese greet each other by bowing, the Europeans by shaking hands. Companies, criminal gangs, families, and lovers have their conventions as well. At first glance these seem as random as they are essential. What is it that determines which conventions become widespread and which ones disappear? Duels have gone out of style, but war has not. Mathematicians have begun to model the development of conventions within maze-like social networks of varying sizes. How promising are such models? What are the initial insights, the exciting issues to investigate?
Within the framework of the renowned Dahlem Conferences, a platform steeped in tradition, top mathematicians and social scientists from around the world will spend an entire week discussing these types of questions. From December 14th through the 19th it will be our not insignificant task to attempt to discover to what extent mathematics and social sciences can work together to describe and investigate pressing social phenomena.
The workshop will look into these questions based on concrete social networks. For example, is it possible to understand the financial crisis, which has sent shockwaves through the world financial markets since the collapse of the American mortgage market, without examining the networks of stock brokers, computer programs for automatic stock trades, banks and hedge funds etc.? A second example that the workshop will be considering is the role of social networks in spreading and fighting crime. The disparate levels of safety among different cities and districts within cities cannot be grasped without taking social networks into account. The workshop will also explore as a third example the phenomenon of innovative regions, which have succeeded in achieving an amazing competitive advantage within the globalized economy. These regions include Silicon Valley in the development of software, as well as Baden Württemberg in the machine-building industry. Starting with these three examples, the workshop will look at existing results on the spread of conventions within social networks and stimulate new, promising directions for the research to take.
The Dahlem Konferenzen® [Dahlem Conferences] have been taking place for 34 years now. Their success is based on the concept of providing a forum for discussion between the scientific disciplines and enabling new approaches to research. Only by first braving a look beyond the frontiers of one’s own discipline is it possible to achieve new, trend-setting research outcomes. There are few such opportunities in Berlin for this caliber of penetrating work into the network of international science.