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(1) What are some good references for homotopy colimits?

(2) Where can I find a reference for the following concrete construction of a homotopy colimit? Start with a partial ordering, which I will think of as a category and also as a directed graph (objects = vertices, morphisms = edges). Assume we have a functor $F$ from the graph into (say) chain complexes. We will construct a big chain complex (the homotopy colimit) in stages.

Stage 0: direct sum over all vertices $v$ of $F(v)$

Stage 1: direct sum over all edges $e$ of the mapping cylinder of $F(e)$, with the ends of the mapping cylinder identified with the appropriate parts of stage 0.

Stage 2: direct sum over all pairs of composable edges $(e_1, e_2)$ of a higher order mapping cylinder, with appropriate identifications to parts of stage 1. This implements a relation between the three stage 1 mapping cylinders corresponding to $e_1, e_2$ and $e_1*e_2$.

Stage 3: direct sum over all triples of composable edges $(e_1, e_2, e_3) \dots$

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8 Answers 8

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I'm way late on this one, but for the record I'll point out that a nice answer to question 2 can be found in Hatcher's Algebraic Topology book, Section 4.G.

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Dan Dugger wrote the following intended for grad students (just a draft - not on the arxiv yet): http://www.uoregon.edu/~ddugger/hocolim.pdf

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(1) I happen to like this paper, but of course I'm biased. (I hope self-citation isn't forbidden here...) However, I started writing that paper mainly because I couldn't find an existing reference/introduction that I liked. So if someone has another reference to suggest I would love to hear about it.

(2) This sounds like the simplicial bar construction, which is the one I used in my paper above. I think I included some other references in the bibliography.

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That's helpful -- thanks! –  Kevin Walker Oct 13 '09 at 21:40

Chris Douglas has a nice short discussion of homotopy limits, derived limits, and corrected homotopy limits and their relation to each other in his text “Sheaves in homotopy theory”: http://math.berkeley.edu/~cdouglas/douglas-sheaves.pdf

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A good (if kind of old) reference is Vogt's "Homotopy Limits and Colimits". I can't find a free reference for it, but if you can't access it, I could email a pdf (if that's allowed here).

Also, in the IMA's video library there's a video of Gunnar Carlsson giving a talk on homotopy limits & colimits. http://www.ima.umn.edu/videos/?id=870

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"I could email a pdf (if that's allowed here)." Yes, that is fine. –  David Zureick-Brown Oct 14 '09 at 21:50

I found the following exposition by emily riehl very useful:


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Some useful information is in

Chacholski, Scherer, Homotopy theory of diagrams, arxiv math/0110316

This and further references with useful material are listed in the reference section at nLab: homotopy limit.

(By immediate dualization this applies to homotopy colimits, of course).

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My answer may be a bit late, but E. E. Floyd and W. J. Floyd: Actions of Classical Small Categories has helped me understand some of these concepts.

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