Maths are part of the equation
I HAVE BEEN TEACHING social networking at third level since 2007 and I'm still trying to work out the maths. After chatting with fellow lecturer, Pamela O'Brien, I'm convinced maths are part of a well-rounded study of what we do online.
I'm not trying to comb applied mathematics textbooks to find equations that I can snap into place. No--I believe it is better to fit a mathematical model to the real world than to find a mathematical equation I understand and then attempting to shoehorn data into that equation. John Maynard Smith, the esteemed biologist who applied game theory to the study of evolution, once scathingly described such models as "theories looking for a question to answer."
But I do have a little maths envy when I see clever formulas used behind the scenes with Universal Analytics. Some of those formulas are very predictive and they help identify leading indicators for important metrics such as footfall. I rambled on about this kind of thought process in an Audioboo audio clip I've attached.
We teach creative multimedia to aspiring developers who learn to understand how code works, without relying on the output from software packages to produce the code for user interfaces, mobile games or social media analytics. We know if an incoming student lacks a firm foundation in mathematics, they will only see chaos behind the code they attempt to write for an interactive multimedia program.
In my study of social media, I've seen the need to upskill in probability and statistics. Effective social media for business involves time-based processes and behaviour over measured intervals. In that kind of study, differential equations fit in quite well.
After working with two-dimensional data sets, students start to develop a well-grounded feel (an authentic intuition) for calculations themselves. That's what pianist Jeremy Denk suggested in an article he wrote for The New Yorker. He pointed out the paradox for musicians because a pianist can only make beautiful music after years of practising putting their thumbs into ugly, strange, and awkward positions. In a similar way, you can only trust your intuition about the real world beaviour of virtual visitors after putting in the hours seeing how those behaviours can be predicted by differential equations. In this modern era, the truly brilliant succeed in their endeavours with a firm mathematical background.