Math meets Myth

Faculty of Engineering, Computing and Environment

Project Lead: Ralph Kenna (Staff project funded in Round 1)

An interdisciplinary project wherein quantitative methods are applied to complex social systems embedded in cultural works such as national mythologies. It marries humanities and mathematics to investigate narrative sources like chronicles, myths and folktales across nations to deliver insight into their unifying and distinguishing characteristics and thereby how cultures spread and evolve. It leads to greater understanding of cultural inheritance and universal features that unite all of us.

In the past 6 years the project led to dozens pioneering publications opening a new genre in digital humanities. Research on Classical, Viking and Irish myths captured worldwide interest via international media and forms the basis for one of CU’s Impact Case Studies for REF2021. Recent work on Slavic and African myths opens up a timely opportunity to engage with Coventry’s diverse population. By linking universal cultural interests (mythology) to less accessible disciplines (mathematics) this project opens a conduit between the public and CU’s academics. This project involves public engagement activities which will:

  • Encourage communities in Coventry to share their own myths and examine how they change as a result of immigration by holding a series of public events, exhibitions and schools visits.
  • Raise aspiration in diverse communities in Coventry not least by highlighting that their heritage is valued and researched at Coventry University.
  • Bring the ground-breaking work taking place at Coventry University to life, encouraging potential students to think of science and humanities in a new way.

The team held three City of Culture open day events as part of the CU open days on Sept 28, Oct 19, and Nov 9 2019. They featured information on the MMM research, as well as family activities designed to help people think about their own cultural networks and to understand the link with maths.

This will be followed by a Maths Meets Myths event in Coventry’s Ukrainian Club on April 11, featuring lectures from Coventry and Ukrainian researchers in the morning designed to inspire young people to look at maths and Coventry with a different perspective, followed by family-friendly events in the afternoon including network creation workshops and cultural entertainment with musicians and artists from Coventry, Ukraine and Ireland.

A photography exhibition, featuring work from a Ukrainian photographer, has been curated – venue to be confirmed. The exhibition will feature information on City of Culture and Maths Meets Myths. The event was postponed due to COVID-19 so further updates will be available once the event has taken place.

A free schools workshop has been developed, helping students use their culture to model their own 3D network visualisation. The learning objectives of the workshops (which can be used in primary or secondary schools) are:

  1. To help students understand basic principles involved in network theory and how this relates to ‘real-world’ problems and their solutions.
  2. To encourage students to consider maths in new and exciting ways.
  3. To raise aspiration and ambition in schoolchildren to study maths and/or physics at Coventry University.

Engagement: This project will engage with Ukrainian, Irish and other cultural groups in Coventry and demonstrate the University’s interests in their culture and heritage. We have linked with local and international community and academic leaders and through these we are designing events to best suit the needs of individual cultures.

At the April event, members of the Irish and Ukrainian communities will be asked to share their stories, which showcase the cultural richness, diversity and commonalities of these communities.

Partnership: This project is building and strengthening n partnerships with Ukrainian and Irish community groups locally and nationally. Ultimately the stories gathered to will feed into Maths Meets Myths, which will ‘increase research outputs with a firm focus on the value of culture and the arts in enhancing lives, thus providing pathways to impact’.

Community Engagement, Events and Activities: This project is wholly focussed on community engagement, through events, exhibitions and school visits. This will generate greater engagement between the university and the communities of the city’, and ‘increase cultural access by diverse and ‘hard to reach’ sections of the city’.

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