Bridges lecture: Dancing the math of complex systems

Friday, March 13, 2015 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm EDT (GMT -04:00)

Speakers: Sarah Tolmie, PhD, and Dawn Parker, PhD

A video of the lecture can be found below or on the SJU St. Jerome’s University’s YouTube page.


Bridges lectures aim to overcome the gap between mathematics and the arts. Join Sarah Tolmie (English) and Dawn Cassandra Parker (complex systems) for “Dancing the math of complex systems.”

The Raw Nerve Research Group (RNRG) is an interdisciplinary collective based at University of Waterloo that specializes in “thinking with our feet,” using dance and game-like movement to explore research questions, and as an alternate means of data presentation. It was founded by Sarah Tolmie in 2011 and Dawn Parker has just joined. We are going to use our “embodied cognition pedagogy” to explain some key concepts in Dawn’s area of research, the mathematics of complex systems. We will walk the audience through a definition of a complex system and introduce deterministic and stochastic theories of how emergent data patterns form, showing diverse examples: how plants grow, how people distribute themselves in a city, how improv performers interact. In an agent-based model we will ask audience members to join us in a walking demonstration of preferential attachment, one principle that generates common emergent forms such as fractals or power law distributions.

Please visit the SJU website for more information about the event.

Presenters' bios

Sarah Tolmie

Sarah Tolmie is an associate professor of English at UWaterloo, trained as a medievalist at Cambridge. She is the author of the novel The Stone Boatmen, the short fiction collection NoFood and the poetry collections Sonnet in a Blue Dress and Other Poems and Trio. She is a contact improvisation dancer, co-founder of the Raw Nerve Research Group, and has performed with various ensembles across southern Ontario. She teaches British literature and creative writing.

Dawn Parker

Dawn Parker is associate professor, School of Planning, University of Waterloo. In her first career, she danced as an apprentice and company member with Milwaukee Ballet, Omaha Ballet, Ballet Met, and Ballet Oregon. Currently, she competes and performs in American and international ballroom styles. In her real job, she builds andanalyzes mathematical outcomes of computational simulation models of complex socio-ecological systems and directs the Waterloo Institute for Complexity and Innovation, which supports the use of movement and dance to visualize and understand complex systems.

Remote video URL