Posts Tagged ‘language’

$n-disciplinary: meaning(lessness) and competing terms

I stumbled across some blurb that included the word ‘transdisciplinary’ today. I’d already been thinking about the meaning of ‘interdisciplinary’ as opposed to ‘multidisciplinary’. In a typical “dear lazywebs” moment, I posed the question to Twitter: what is the difference?

Max Wilson was good enough to respond, remarking that to him, ‘inter’ is a point of union between disciplines, and ‘multi’ presumes many disciplines. So far, so good: interdisciplinary refers to the intertwingling of disciplines, multidisciplinary means drawing on techniques and views from multiple fields.

And transdisciplinary? I’m still not sure. Max pointed me to this PDF that provides definitions:

  • Multidisciplinary: relating to, or making use of several disciplines at once
  • Cross-disciplinary: coordinated effort involving two or more academic disciplines
  • Transdisciplinary: approaches that transcend boundaries of conventional disciplines
  • Interdisciplinary: combining two or more disciplines, fields of study or professions

I’m not convinced. I see multi and I see trans. But how is the above definition of cross-disciplinary meaningfully different from that of multidisciplinary? What does it mean to ‘transcend boundaries’ of conventional disciplines? How do people make these arbitrary decisions about which words to hyphenate, and have I repeated ‘disciplinary’ enough in this post that the word is beginning to lose meaning?


More post-conference thoughts: the Dutch, speaking Dutch, and oh-so-many ideas

I could keep writing and writing about WebSci’11, but I’ll try to hold off from too many posts! A few more observations, slightly more personal:

As someone who recently moved to the Netherlands, I was really impressed by the strong presence of Dutch institutions: my presentation followed talks from TU Delft and the University of Amsterdam, for instance! This was perhaps predictable based on the high proportion of submissions from the Netherlands, but still struck me. My job in Eindhoven isn’t directly affiliated with a WebSci initiative, so when I arrived in this country I had no idea WebSci was so big here.

Besides my predisposition to noticing the Dutch community, another consequence of living in the Netherlands for the last half year concerns my language. I used to have some limited German, such that back in 2005 I could at least order in a restaurant and discuss the cost of goods in a market. It turns out that learning Dutch has basically wiped that clear: I spent much of last week stumbling through a mishmash of half-Dutch, half-German… only to spend my first half-week back in the Netherlands speaking poor German to the locals. Whoops!

On a more work-oriented note, I am absolutely brimming with ideas after the two conferences. My current list includes giving consideration to:

  • a ‘Strange Hypertext Festival’ (as per the Narrative and Hypertext workshop)
  • some geocaching fun
  • some narrative hypertext fun
  • workshops for negative results (this idea was mentioned in both conferences)
  • Interesting Things with Spatial Hypertext

I opened this post with a promise to try and refrain from over-blogging WebSci’11. Cards on the table: I have two more posts to make, one on WebSci curricula and one on industrial-academic collaboration. Watch this space 😉