Internet + Ideology

At some point in 2010 or thereabouts as the Arab Spring unfolded with its revolutionary tide breaking across the shores of Mediterranean nations a thought struck me.

This unfolding was at the time attributed to (or at least said to be greatly enabled by) social media platforms – oh the internet, that great liberalizing force. I wasn’t falling for that simple narrative. (I try not to fall for overly simplistic just-so narratives.)

How will our digital landscape come to affect the spread of ideas and beliefs? Especially deeply held beliefs? A deeply important concern, I thought. Thus, Internet + Ideology was born.

A couple of years later I turned the ideas into a research proposal and submitted to UCD. The topic was accepted but I never pursued it because the acceptance did not come with a stipend.

I’m uploading this document here because I no longer want my ideas locked up inside my head. Go ahead, give it a read. As populist movements continue to roil Western nations I am drawn back to these thoughts. Another day I’ll expand on them.

Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.

Exodus, chapter 22 שְׁמוֹת

כ וְגֵר לֹא-תוֹנֶה, וְלֹא תִלְחָצֶנּוּ: כִּי-גֵרִים הֱיִיתֶם, בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם. 20
כא כָּל-אַלְמָנָה וְיָתוֹם, לֹא תְעַנּוּן. 21
כב אִם-עַנֵּה תְעַנֶּה, אֹתוֹ–כִּי אִם-צָעֹק יִצְעַק אֵלַי, שָׁמֹעַ אֶשְׁמַע צַעֲקָתוֹ. 22
כג וְחָרָה אַפִּי, וְהָרַגְתִּי אֶתְכֶם בֶּחָרֶב; וְהָיוּ נְשֵׁיכֶם אַלְמָנוֹת, וּבְנֵיכֶם יְתֹמִים. 23

Mathematical tools in a digital world

Greetings. Apologies for the delay between postings. I spent the summer revising my master’s thesis. It is called “Mathematical tools in a digital world” and it is archived on the university of Jyväskylä’s library website. The permanent web address for a brief description and download link is right here

I created it in LaTeX and have exported it to PDF. That is the format that is available from the archive and the download link is this

In truth the work did not take the shape I imagined it would but never mind. There are three main parts: one is an overview of copyright and copyleft, two is a description of mathematical tools in general and a survey of one open-source project — Sage — and its proprietary competitors, three is a hands-on look at how computers and the digital are affecting mathematics.

One. I talk about the origin of copyright in England and the original intention of the law. I am indebted to the great work of Lewis Hyde and Common as Air. From there I show how the free software movement (richard Stallman and the GPL) co-opted the idea of copyright to undergird and make enforceable free software licences. There’s a lot more meat in there but that gives you the general idea. If anyone knows of a brief pamphlet-sized text that provides a similar run through let me know.

Two. This was the original impetus for the work. I wanted to figure out why open-source mathematical tools have not reached the level (this depends on one’s criteria of course) of proprietary tools. The tool — Sage — seemed most advanced so I decided to compare Sage with its competitors. In the end it became obvious that for such a complex piece of software this is not practical so I designed a questionnaire to look at the “human interest” angle of people involved. The results are collected in the thesis.

Three. This section was in a way the most fun. I look at the implications for mathematics and mathematical tools as a consequence of the move to the digital realm. Computer-assisted proofs, advanced visualisations, not simply a speeding up of calculations but an opening up of previously unreachable vistas. Using LaTeX I was able to embed fractal imagery into the thesis itself putting the thesis itself out of reach of the pre-digital world. I also have explored how computational mathematics is affecting the production of art.

Granted, the whole lot is a bit of a mixed bag but I think lurking within this thesis is an approach to the digital arts and humanities that has seldom been taken: from the code up.

I am linking to it here not to glorify myself but as with my undergrad work in the hope that someone out there finds it of interest.

With that I bid you good day. Good day!