EMMA'S NOTES #34
Great music, but it's not about music.
|Emma Stoks||Feb 18|
To solve complex problems it helps if you make use of the knowledge of multiple discplines. Kind of logical, right? But what does incorporating multiple discplines really mean?
There are a lot of words to describe the notion of 'across disciplines:
Intradisciplinary, multidisciplinary, cross-disciplinary, interdisciplinary, and transdisciplinary. Not to forget words like generalist, polymath, Homo Universalis, serial specialist to describe people who work, think, and study across disciplines.
For a very long time specialism has been seen as the gateway to true understanding. Hence, the majority of our educational system is directed towards narrowing down. First areas of knowledge are divided into subjects, later you choose which subjects to graduate high school in and after that, you choose one subject to study in higher education.
There are schools that are doing it differently, though. As the American concept of a Liberal Arts and Sciences education made its way to European so-called 'university colleges' more students got a chance to explore many areas of studies before choosing their major to graduate in. Other schools are offering multidisciplinary studies, in which students are taught multiple subjects. Oxford, for example, is famous for its combination of Philosophy, Politics, and Economics.
I applaud the idea of being educated in more than one discipline. Although make-believe school assignments might lead you to think differently, real-life problems never follow the arbitrary borders of (academic) disciplines. It therefore only makes sense to learn more than one discipline, as it increases the chances of you having the necessary skills and knowledge to solve any problem.
It's a mistake however to think that just gaining knowledge from multiple domains is enough.
A lot of the people interested in the topic of interdisciplinarity appear to have a passion for or background in music. I'm not particularly gifted in the music department myself, but I can use it as a metaphor:
Working multidisciplinary is using multiple musical instruments at the same time. Sometimes this will result in beautiful music, other times it will just sound like an awful lot of noise.
Working interdisciplinary, however, is similar to how a great band or orchestra plays. There is either a conductor guiding the musicians, or each member of the group will pay attention to both their individual process of making music as well as the collective creative process.
To truly learn and work interdisciplinary we need either a conductor, or each person involved in the process has to be able to manage both their own increasing knowledge and skills as well as connect that to the collective learning/working process.
When it comes to being able to do the latter, as well as mastering the solo practice of interdisciplinarity, I think that these are thinks you should become awesome at:
Development of metacognition
Familiarization with mainstream mental concepts and biases
Understanding of various research methods
Knowledge of the principles underlying (academic) disciplines
Learning how to ask good questions
Getting good at listening.
Understanding the lingo and mores of different social groups and (academic) disciplines
Knowing how your own creativity works
Being able to inspire yourself or make sure you are surrounded by people that inspire you
Finding ways to express what happens inside your head
If you want to learn more about this topic, I suggest taking a look at these sources:
Alyson Stoner's podcast in which she interviews Ben Nelson, founder of an innovative undergraduate school called the Minerva Project.
This blogpost by Swedish music researcher Alexander Refsum Jensenius
A Synthesizing Mind by Howard Gardner
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