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In order to discuss the quote “Thefields of study of academic disciplines can overlap, but adoptinginterdisciplinary approaches to the production of knowledge only leads toconfusion”, one needs to first know what is interdisciplinarity and how it is appliedin production of knowledge. Interdisciplinarity is an action involving two ormore academic, scientific, or artistic disciplines1. The three things that joininterdisciplinary scientists are the study, the methods, and the purpose. What is confusion?The first knowledgequestion that needs to be considered is howcan different disciplines overlap? To find the answer, it is important tokeep in mind that each problem can be approached from a number of differentsides. For example, a study is to be made about how human behavior depends ondifferent areas of, for example comparing a beach in Florida and an urbanenvironment of New York City.
This problem can be approached by a number ofdifferent scientists from with different points of view. For instance, ahistorian can evaluate the events that took place in that area that could’veaffected their behavior, both positively and negatively. Negative ones couldinclude events such as natural disasters or wars, and positive ones couldinclude people protesting for their rights or a new scientific breakthrough. Onthe other hand, this issue could also be approached by a psychologist who couldevaluate the people’s mental states, possible disorders, and make a conclusionon how their brain functioning affects their behavior.
A psycholinguist couldexamine the language that group of people uses and neurological conditions of their speech production. Looking for theanswer to the research question using all these different approaches has strongand weak aspects. It is beneficial to better understanding as there is morethan one factor affecting the answer, in this case being changes in human behavior,and therefore in order to get a well-rounded answer. However, this approach mayalso lead to a degree of confusion as each person does not have a fullunderstanding of parts of the method involving other disciplines. Nonetheless,even with a degree of confusion, it is more productive to have specialists fromdifferent disciplines work together to produce new knowledge than isolate themin their specific areas of expertise. How can the interdisciplinary approach be used in everyday life?While this approach isoften times used in scientific studies, it can also be applied in personal,educational, or historical circumstances. A personal example, I’ve had to moveto a different country before, and my parents had to take a number of factorsinto consideration. Firstly, they had to look at the costs of living in a givenarea and calculate if it’s affordable.
This alone had to take intoconsideration the price of the house, as well as the distance from work orschool, showing that each problem can be broken down further and further intosmall and specific aspects of knowledge, such as an economic and ergonometric approach in this particularexample. Secondly, they had to pick a house based on it’s location regardingthe people who live around it, seeing if they’re in the right age group andwith a similar background to minimize culture shock. Thirdly, they had to seeif the are offers good education for their children and if the climate suitsthem so have a long-term positive effect on the entire family. Overall, thiswas an interdisciplinary approach as they had to look at the move and evaluatethe costs and benefits from an economic, logistical, cultural, and social pointof view. How can the interdisciplinary approach be used in an educational environment?Furthermore, example ofinterdisciplinarity in a school environment can be found in every traditionalcore subject. Learning a language involves literature, but also socialinteractions and psychology. Geography has to be taught involving history,economics, and biology. The list goes on as every subject uses knowledge from adifferent one to improve and broaden it’s perspective.
Lastly, a perfect example of interdisciplinarity inhistory is the evaluation of the history of knowledge itself, as it involvesaspects such as literature, psychology, anthropology, geography, and art. Thehistory of humankind is so wide, long, and intricate, that it’s impossibleto not look at it from all thosedifferent points of view as each one affects the other. People’s place in theworld can affect their brain functioning which affects their socialinteraction, which affects how they express themselves in a from of writing orart, and so on.
These fields of study do not exist in a vacuum, theycommonalities between one another and therefore influence and gain newperspectives from each other, meaning that interdisciplinarity in this caseleads actually to better understanding, not confusion. How and when does interdisciplinarity lead to confusion?Interdisciplinarity is the most unbeneficial when it comes to majoring in interdisciplinarystudies instead of specializing in one field. One of the most important partsof receiving a higher education is the ability of students, professors andadvisors to cooperate. In usual departments, all the students and teachers worktowards a common goal, focus on the same areas of knowledge, and have similar ideas.However when students chose to have a personalized track with a mix of classesfrom different disciplines, they lose a sense of community and the ability tograsp the full knowledge of each subject as often times the human brain has a restrictedcapacity which can limit people from specializing in more than one discipline. Furthermore,if those students pick and chose only certain aspects of different disciplines,they will never be able to truly specialize in either one of them as they willlack the full core knowledge. Unless they master in the different subjectsseparately, they will become jacks of all trades but masters of none. With that in mind, the next questionof knowledge one might want to ask themselves is to what extent is an interdisciplinary relationship between twosubjects beneficial? The most common source of confusion in the interdisciplinaryapproach is, given the multiple disciplinary perspectives, an effective methodto resolve the conflicts and achieve coherence is lacking.
While theInterdisciplinary approach involves confusion and difficulty , cultivatinginterdisciplinarity is possible and essential to production of knowledge.Because of these issues of synthesis, some interdisciplinarity areas ofknowledge become their own discipline such as neuroscience or biomedicalengineering. The interdisciplinary level of success can be measured by the’distance’ between the two disciplines. There are some subjects that areclosely correlated, such as psychology and history where theinterdisciplinarity is very simple as their approach to knowledge is almost thesame. However, if two disciplines who are further apart collaboratesuccessfully, their result will be much more meaningful.
For example, in High-Gtraining where an astronaut is tested on the amount of levels of accelerationhe can withstand without losing consciousness. Psychologists and physicistshave to collaborate on these types of projects. The aim of their study is thesame as they both want to see how much the astronaut can withstand beforetheir mind loses consciousness. However, they’re both responsible for differentareas of the method. The physicist has to make and control the machine thatcontrols the g-forces while the psychologist has to evaluate the astronautsconsciousness and mental stability during the test. In what circumstances can interdisciplinary research even with confusionbe beneficial in any way? The interdisciplinary focus provides increased chances of makingdiscoveries since consolidated knowledge can lead to new insights.
Sometimesthe traditional disciplines are unable or unwilling to address an importantissue or concern. For example, social science disciplines suchas anthropology and sociology paid little attention to thesocial analysis of technology throughout most of the twentiethcentury. There may also be new developments such as nanotechnology whichrequires combining the approaches of two or more disciplines. Furthermoresustainable development requires analysis across economic, social andenvironmental spheres, as well as a great knowledge about geography.
As webegin to face more difficult changes in the world such as global warming, wildspreads of untreatable diseases, or sustainable and ecofriendly development, inorder to broaden our scopes on those issues and speed up the process ofproduction of knowledge and therefore finding a realizing a solution, insteadof focusing solely on their expertise, specialists in many differentdisciplines will need to find a way to collaborate with the common aim ofresolving these upcoming global issues.1 Source: Merriam-Webster Dictionary