Representations of surface groups

March 19 to March 23, 2007

at the

American Institute of Mathematics, Palo Alto, California

organized by

Steven Bradlow, Oscar Garcia-Prada, William M. Goldman, and Anna Wienhard

This workshop, sponsored by AIM and the NSF, will bring together researchers studying representations of fundamental groups of Riemann surfaces into real semsimple Lie groups. Such representations form multi-component algebraic sets. Recent progress in understanding these components has come from quite different approaches:

The main goal of the workshop is to clarify the relations between these different approaches to initiate further research in this area. Two classes of Lie groups have so far been studied, namely:
  1. split $\mathbb{R}$-forms of semisimple groups;
  2. automorphism groups of Hermitian symmetric spaces.
In both cases, special components are distinguished by notions of positivity in the flag variety. For split groups, Hitchin found components containing Teichmuller space which are homemorphic to cells, whereas for groups of Hermitian type, there are components of maximal characteristic number (Toledo invariant) comprising certain equivalence classes of discrete Zariski-dense embeddings. Higgs bundle methods have successfully computed the homotopy type of the moduli spaces, whereas the other approaches have successfully identified the dynamical property of the corresponding representations.

A central focus of this workshop will be the real symplectic group $Sp(2n,\mathbb{R})$, which is the unique $\mathbb{R}$-split Lie group of Hermitian type. Specific topics to be addressed include:

  1. Relation of the different Lagrangian subbundles constructed using the harmonic map (in the Higgs bundle approach) and the boundary map;
  2. Coordinates and parametrizations of the Hitchin component and of the space of maximal representations.
  3. Structures on the moduli space: symplectic, holomorphic, Kahler;
  4. Mapping class group action and the energy function on Teichmuller space.

The workshop will differ from typical conferences in some regards. Participants will be invited to suggest open problems and questions before the workshop begins, and these will be posted on the workshop website. These include specific problems on which there is hope of making some progress during the workshop, as well as more ambitious problems which may influence the future activity of the field. Lectures at the workshop will be focused on familiarizing the participants with the background material leading up to specific problems, and the schedule will include discussion and parallel working sessions.

The deadline to apply for support to participate in this workshop has passed.

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