Abstract. We consider two operations on an edge of an embedded graph (or equivalently a ribbon graph): giving a half-twist to the edge, and taking the partial dual with respect to the edge. These two operations give rise to an action of S3 |E(G)|,theribbon group, onG. The action of the ribbon group on embedded graphs extends the concepts of duality, partial duality, and Petrie duality. We show that this ribbon group action gives a complete characterization of duality in that if G is any cellularly embedded graph with medial graph Gm, then the orbit of G under the group action is precisely the set of all graphs with medial graphs isomorphic (as abstract graphs) to Gm. We provide characterizations of special sets of twisted duals (such as the partial duals) of embedded graphs in terms of medial graphs, and we show how different kinds of graph isomorphism give rise to these various notions of duality. The ribbon group action then leads to a deeper understanding of the properties of, and relationships among, various graph polynomials via the generalized transition polynomial which interacts naturally with the ribbon group action. 1
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