nLab directed homotopy theory



Homotopy theory

homotopy theory, (∞,1)-category theory, homotopy type theory

flavors: stable, equivariant, rational, p-adic, proper, geometric, cohesive, directed

models: topological, simplicial, localic, …

see also algebraic topology



Paths and cylinders

Homotopy groups

Basic facts


Higher category theory

higher category theory

Basic concepts

Basic theorems





Universal constructions

Extra properties and structure

1-categorical presentations



Directed Homotopy Theory is a variant of homotopy theory which aims to study the properties of directed spaces.

Much of the impetus for the theory comes from work on modelling concurrent process. It can also be seen as a way of studying an ‘evolving’ space.

The following examples illustrate the sort of problems that arise:


The example uses two directed spaces that are slightly different and use a pospace, i.e. a space with a closed partial order. (Both these use a rectangle with order (x,y)(x,y)(x,y)\leq (x\prime, y\prime) if and only if |yy|xx|y\prime - y| \leq x\prime - x, so the future cone of any point is a cone symmetric about a horizontal line through the point and with edges at ±45\pm 45 degrees to that line.)

The two spaces are

image/svg+xml p' p


image/svg+xml b p'

In both the space is the rectangle with two smaller rectangles removed. The position of the upper left small rectangle is the same in both, but that of the righthand lower rectangle is shifted slightly to the right in the second picture. The directed homotopy classes of d-paths from pp to p p^\prime in the two cases are different. The crucial point is that in the second there is such a class that was impossible in the first example, yet the spaces are homeomorphic, so classically would be ‘the same’. The subtlety is in the order.


The first problem is to find a small model of such structures. The fundamental category would be a model, but unlike with the fundamental groupoid in the non-directed case, it is not sufficient to take a ‘base point’ in each connected component. That would ignore the order.

Related concepts


(See also under directed space.)

Foundational work was done by Eric Goubault and his collaborators.

Categorical aspects are looked at in

For more on this see also at Delta-generated space.

Applications to computer science are presented in

The fundamental category of a pospace is discussed in

and the possibility of an analogue of covering spaces in

  • Lisbeth Fajstrup, Dicovering spaces. Algebraic topological methods in computer science (Stanford, CA, 2001). Homology Homotopy Appl. 5 (2003), no. 2, 1-17


Philippe Gaucher (PPS, Paris) has introduced an interesting related model, namely that of ‘flows’. These are, approximately, topological categories without identity arrows. They are intended as another model of processes. One of his papers on this idea is at Arxiv, published as

  • Philippe Gaucher, A model category for the homotopy theory of concurrency, Homology Homotopy and Applications, vol. 5 (1):p.549-599, 2003.

Marco Grandis’ work on the area is listed amongst his publications at his (homepage). Such as

  • Marco Grandis, Directed homotopy theory. I, Cah. Topol. G eom. Di er. Cat eg. 44 (4) (2003) 281–316.

  • Marco Grandis, Directed homotopy theory. II. Homotopy constructs, Theory Appl. Categ. 10 (2002) No. 14, 369–391 (electronic).

  • Marco Grandis, The shape of a category up to directed homotopy, Theory Appl. Categ. 15 (2005/06) No. 4, 95–146 (electronic).

  • Marco Grandis, Modelling fundamental 2-categories for directed homotopy, Homology, Homotopy Appl. 8 (1) (2006) 31–70 (electronic)

  • Marco Grandis, Directed Algebraic Topology, Models of non-reversible worlds , Cambridge University Press, 2009.

A websearch will find others.

Another approach to model category structures in this area is by Kahl, who uses a Baues type fibration category approach.

  • Thomas Kahl, Relative directed homotopy theory of partially ordered spaces, Journal of Homotopy and Related Structures, Vol. 1(2006), No. 1, pp. 79-100,(JHRS).

Krzysztof Worytkiewicz and Peter Bubenik have given a model category structure for local pospaces:

  • P. Bubenik and K. Worytkiewicz, A model category structure for local po-spaces, Homology, Homotopy and Applications, Vol. 8 (2006), No. 1, pp.263-292. (HHA).

Further related references are

  • L. Fajstrup, Loops, ditopology and deadlocks, Math. Structures Comput. Sci. 10 (4) (2000) 459–480, geometry and concurrency.

  • L. Fajstrup, M. Raussen, E. Goubault, E. Haucourt, Components of the fundamental category, Appl. Categ. Structures 12 (1) (2004) 81–108, homotopy


  • L. Fajstrup, Dihomotopy classes of dipaths in the geometric realization of a cubical set: from discrete to continuous and back again, in: R. Kopperman, M. B. Smyth, D. Spreen, J. Webster (Eds.), Spatial Representation: Discrete vs. Continuous Computational Models, no. 04351 in Dagstuhl Seminar Proceedings, IBFI, Schloss Dagstuhl, Germany, 2005.

  • L. Fajstrup, Dipaths and dihomotopies in a cubical complex, Adv. in Appl.

    Math. 35 (2) (2005) 188–206.

  • M. Raussen, Deadlocks and dihomotopy in mutual exclusion models, in: R. Kopperman, M. B. Smyth, D. Spreen, J. Webster (Eds.), Spatial

    Representation: Discrete vs. Continuous Computational Models, no. 04351 in Dagstuhl Seminar Proceedings_, IBFI, Schloss Dagstuhl, Germany, 2005.

  • U. Fahrenberg, M. Raussen, Reparametrizations of continuous paths, available as preprint R-2006-22 (2006).

  • E. Goubault, E. Haucourt, Directed algebraic topology and concurrency, (web)


  • E. Goubault, E. Haucourt, Components of the fundamental category, II,

    technical reports, CEA, Saclay (2006).

  • M. Raussen, Invariants of directed spaces, available as preprint R-2006-28 (web)(2006).

Last revised on March 30, 2023 at 08:41:21. See the history of this page for a list of all contributions to it.