|Contact||Courses||Professional||Study Aids||Glossaries||Key Links||Purpose|
|DEGREES OF INTERACTION|
|informal communication of ideas between colleagues||formal collaboration on projects, tasks, courses, etc.|
B. A Preliminary Model of Interdisciplinary Interaction: Participant, Project and Process
On the basis of our working definition or concept articulated above, we may identify three essential components of interdisciplinary interaction: the participant, project, and process.
B.1 The Interdisciplinary Participant: A Typological Profile
Klein presents a suggestive profile of the interdisciplinary individual based on the current literature. She articulates the interdisciplinary individual according to the following schema: character traits, behavioral types, and acquired skills (Klein: 182-3).
a) Character traits
Klein’s summarization of literature: “…reliability, flexibility, patience, resilience, sensitivity to others, risk-taking, a thick skin, and a preference for diversity and new social roles.”
Forrest Armstrong: The ideal person for interdisciplinary work would be characterized by a high degree of ego strength, a tolerance for ambiguity, considerable initiative and assertiveness, a broad education, and a sense of dissatisfaction with monodisciplinary constraints.
b) Behavioral types
Irvin White: “divergent thinkers,” as opposed to convergent thinkers
Margaret Mead: “analogic thinkers,” as opposed to digital thinkers
Swora and Morrison: “academic intellectuals” (vitally interested in questions of personal and societal importance, accompanied by a sense of accountability to a wider public audience.
c) Acquired skills
General capacity: ability and interest in looking at things from different perspectives
Specific skills: differentiating, comparing, contrasting, relating, clarifying, reconciling, synthesizing, and a knowledge of how to learn (knowing what information to ask for; knowing how to acquire a working knowledge of the language, concepts, information, and analytical skills pertinent to a given problem, process, or phenomenon; etc.).
B.2 The Interdisciplinary Project: Objectives, Questions, and Types
a) Range of Interdisciplinary Objectives (Klein:11):
b) Types of Questions at the Basis of
What is X?
Why did X happen? Why is X happening?
How can we solve problem X?
How can we integrate or synthesize our dispersed knowledge of X?
How can we inquire into “reality” or “history” in its concrete complexity?
c) Examples? Construct your own list below:
d) Project Types
1. Instrumental interdisciplinarity: Adopts a pragmatic approach that focuses on interdisciplinarity as a problem-solving activity that does not seek a synthesis or fusion of different perspectives (disciplinary, methodological, thematic, theoretical, etc.).
2. Conceptual interdisciplinarity: Strives for a synthesis of knowledge as a theoretical, primarily epistemological, enterprise involving internal coherence, the development of new conceptual categories, methodological unification, and long-term research and exploration.
B.3 The Interdisciplinary Process: Models of Integration (Klein: 191-2)
1) Hursh, Hass, and Moore: They articulate the process of interdisciplinary inquiry in terms of two sequential methodological levels:
a) Level of Clarification: Focuses on developing an understanding of both the salient concepts and skills to be used in evaluating those concepts. Example: The concept of “power” permeates all the social sciences; each discipline, however, has its own distinctive definition(s) of the concept. The skill of conceptual clarification consists, preliminarily, in contrasting the assumptions and ambiguities of these disciplinary definitions. One can then proceed methodically, on this basis, to construct a higher-order, or more abstract, composite meaning consistent with the participating disciplines.
b) Level of Resolution: Focuses on a more thorough and systematic integration of the different perspectives identified by definitions of “salient concepts” in the participating disciplines.
2) DeWachter: He proposes a more complex model of the interdisciplinary process, which ideally consists of five phases. DeWachter’s model accords a pivotal function to methodical epochē, a philosophical technique* for the temporary suspension of knowledge claims and disciplinary methods. Its purpose is to open up the possibility of achieving an interdisciplinary way of stating a global question.
1. Klein, Julie Thompson. Interdisciplinarity: History, Theory, and Practice. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1990.
2. Lattuca, Lisa R. Creating Interdisciplinarity. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 2000
*Cf. ancient Pyrrhonian skepticism, the modern rationalism of Descartes, and Husserl’s 20th-century phenomenology.