Scott Kim has been in the rain more than anyone else I know. He’s suffered the thunderbolts and slings of outraged groups.
He persevered, but he also thrived and earned his interdisciplinarian PhD. He has written a concise summary of the issues with graphic marginalia.
Curiously, interdisciplinarity is only an adjective. There are disciplines but not interdisciplines. It’s as if interdisciplinarity is a constant wandering thing. When I thought about the nature and purpose of interdisciplinarity, I discovered that there are many meanings to the word “interdisciplinary”.
Castles. Schools are private, walled kingdoms that sit on hills nearby. Sometimes, bilingual messengers transport news from one kingdom into another. The walls were built originally to protect territories. Today, kingdoms reluctantly agree that they must coexist.
Cracks. The universe of knowledge is broken down into categories. In a chaotic world, categories bring order and stability. Some people aren’t able to fit into the categories but fall somewhere in between. We create a new category for them: people who cannot be classified.
Bridge-builder. Disciplines are separated by the seaof ignorance. Interdisciplinarity allows people to build bridges between islands in order for others to cross. It is hard to cross islands without such bridges. Perhaps one day all islands will be connected.
Fence-sitter. Borders between disciplines are marked with fences. We would not be able to tell who owns what territory without fences. Each person must choose where they belong. Interdisciplinarious people can sit on the fence and never decide which side they will take.
Hats. We all have many roles throughout the day: teacher, parent, student, worker and friend. Each role has its own hat. Multidisciplinary people can wear multiple hats simultaneously. Balancing is difficult when there are too many hats.
Viewpoint. My project was named “Viewpoint” to remind me of the subjective nature and power of perception. There is only one way to see the world. Different frames can lead to different interpretations. Interdisciplinarial people can switch points of views.
There are many different perspectives, not just within one discipline but across all disciplines. A programmer sees digital circuitry as a method of creating an algorithm. In computer science, programming is viewed as a way to tell a computer what it should do. A production artist sees a design as a way to figure out how to use tools. A graphic designer considers tools and techniques ways of implementing a design.