Featured Project: The Mathematics of Direct Democracy

Like everyone I have been fascinated with the Occupy Wall Street movement. Will it succeed? How does it work? Can it achieve its goals, and how? While we have some precedence for similar movements in the past, there is something wholly new here.

Lee Worden, a mathematician and political scientist, is taking an incredibly fascinating approach to understanding this movement and how it works. His project, The Mathematics of Direct Democracy is attempting to model the best way for moments like OWS to function. To do this, he’s reaching into the worlds of psychology, political science, and history, mixing it up with mathematical approaches to complex systems.

Worden’s approach is breathtaking – both in its scope and utility. And also its heart.

As an academic, I’ve sat back and wondered, ‘What can I do?’ with respect to OWS and related protests. With the exception of digging in on local campus actions and the like, there’s not much in my marine ecological world that ties into OWS.

Lee wants to do something as well – to take his skills and apply it in a useful way for the movement. He’s circumspect in saying that he’s not going to come up with a magical formula, but if we’ve learned anything from mathematical modeling, its that it often yields insights into pieces of a larger picture that are thought unimportant. Even small things can have large rippling effects, but it is often through the models that we understand what these small pieces are going to be.

And, honestly, what more appropriate project to crowdfund in the current American political climate than one that is trying to understand the dynamics of crowds working for positive social change. So head on over and #SciFund Worden’s work!