Homeomorphisms of surfaces: a new approach
Despite their straightforward definition, the homeomorphism groups of surfaces are far from straightforward. Basic algebraic and dynamical problems are wide open for these groups, which is a far cry from the closely related and much better understood mapping class groups of surfaces. With Jonathan Bowden and Sebastian Hensel, we introduced the fine curve graph as a tool to study homeomorphism groups. Like its mapping class group counterpart, it is Gromov hyperbolic, and can shed light on algebraic properties such as scl, via geometric group theoretic techniques. This brings us to the enticing question of how much of Thurston's theory (e.g. Nielsen--Thurston classification, invariant foliations, etc.) for mapping class groups carries over to the homeomorphism groups. We will describe new phenomena which are not encountered in the mapping class group setting, and meet some new connections with topological dynamics, which is joint work with Bowden, Hensel, Kathryn Mann and Emmanuel Militon. I will survey what's known, describe some of the new and interesting problems that arise with this theory, and give an idea of what's next.