Interdisciplinearity LO22575

tabeles (
Fri, 03 Sep 1999 17:43:10 -0400

Replying to LO22546 --

"Dr. Steve Eskow" wrote, in part:

> Tom and all concerned with the stubborn resistance to
> "interdisciplinearity."
> I, for one, can not keep in mind the problem for which
> "interdisciplinearity" is the solution.
> There is poetry, essay, novel, and drama: why integrate them into one
> literary genre?
> Kenneth Burke once said, "A way of seeing is also a way of not seeing."
> A "discipline" is a way of seeing, a way of focusing on certain elements
> of the world and its possibilities, and the power of that way of seeing
> comes from what it leaves out of its field of vision as well as what it
> includes.
> Perhaps, then, those resisting the cry for interdisciplinearity are
> struggling to preserve something of great value.

Let's try to unwrap this a bit

1) Stephenson has written a prescient novel, Snow Crash where a "master"
is attempting to unit all under one language, reversing the fate humans
suffered when trying to build Babel Tower. We all recognize the danger of
this homogenious possibility if it falls into the hands of a small group.
a powerful vision easily spread like a virus throughout the system.

Thus there is an advantage to a diverse ecosystem at many levels where it
helps to have a dynamic tension because the eyes see the world
differently. Thus one could make, as Eskow suggests, an eloquent case for
diversity in all organizations and at many levels.

But this does not preclude the need for polymaths and persons who are
multilingual in the broadest sense of individuals who can bridge various
categories of knowledge from the traditional academic disciplines to the
functions within an organization. There are many examples in positions
from pure research to management. Some have greater breadth than depth and
others are the reverse. Yet all cross knowledge barriers bringing ideas
across the "cylinders" of the time.

Of course, this is one of the underlying dreams of those in the knowledge
management area- to devise a search engine that "understands" the needs of
the human at the "key board" but with the speed and flexibility to walk
across these cylinders and integrate the proper knowledge from many areas.

Thus, Steve is right in one aspect. We need persons who have solid mastery
of selected knowledge. But we also need philosophers who can build the
larger vision and pull these specialties into proper perspective and to
take the proper measure of each to meld together.

But we must tread with care, here and not accept The Academy's definition
and justification of disciplinarity which can and has, in many instances,
become self serving. Disciplinarity, when in a reductionist mode can be
just as destructive and banal as the promotion of interdisciplinarity to
the sublime.


tom abeles


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