The University of Sussex

Interdisciplinarity: an emergent or engineered process?

Yvonne Rogers, Mike Scaife, Antonio Rizzo

Interdisciplinarity - the integration of concepts and epistemologies from different disciplines - is often considered highly desirable as a way of gaining insight and furthering our understanding of a research problem. This is especially the case when an impasse is reached due the constraints of one's own discipline preventing any further progress. At the same time interdisciplinarity is very difficult to achieve: the positions adopted by the disparate disciplines are often incommensurable. We examine alternative ways of advancing understanding, from both interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approaches. We point out how many successful breakthroughs, in both theoretical and applied research, come about through approaches that modify and reappropriate existing frameworks and concepts within disciplines, rather than those that try to create new ones by mixing and matching concepts, selected from different disciplines. In our critique we examine what it takes to develop new inter-disciplines, theoretical frameworks and methods.

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