The Feral Interdisciplinarian

I find it hard to express quite how drawn I am to this conception offered by Robert Frodeman in Sustainable Knowledge, loc 665:

There is another model possible. It is where the interdisciplinarian goes feral, largely abandoning his or her disciplinary roots. It’s an entrepreneurial approach where one circulates among a changing roster of partners –not too quickly, for experience and trust must be built up –with only occasional visits back to one’s reference community to check in on new insights and to recruit fellow travelers.

He’s contrasting this to a model of interdisciplinarity in which these nascent experts collectively construct the trappings of a new discipline for themselves.

I’m struck by how readily social media affords such feral behaviour. The same medium and long term constraints operate, mediated through the mechanisms of career progression, but the short term ones have loosened profoundly as all manner of new opportunities have opened up.

Categories: Higher Education


2 replies »

  1. Mark,

    As someone with a PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies, your post struck a chord. The term I would use when someone “leaves disciplinary roots behind” is “transdisciplinary” although “feral” has a nicely wild connotation. See: for my take.

    From my view, we need to think bigger to address complex issues, and that means going beyond any single discipline, Its hard, even in the digital age, because our academic departments, professional associations, even journals focus within a specific discipline. Disciplines shape our world view, ways of thinking– and ways of doing research to create new knowledge. Truly integrating ways of thinking (interdisciplinary) or transcending boundaries to create new ways of thinking (transdisciplinary) involves going beyond simply dipping into one another’s conversations. Its not easy and we can feel a bit like homeless orphans at times!

    Love to chat with others who share this interest in bridging disciplines– especially as related to research and scholarship in the digital age. Find me @einterview.

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