Interdisciplinary Cultures

Strand 1 of the project focusses on researching interdisciplinary cultures.

To capture and map the main epistemic features and mechanisms that characterise interdisciplinary knowledge work, expertise, teaching and learning, this project seeks to address the following guiding questions:

  • How do interdisciplinary experts describe the nature of interdisciplinary knowledge work, expertise and learning?
  • What kinds of epistemic infrastructures, epistemic tools and epistemic games are critical for carrying out interdisciplinary work and enabling productive learning?
  •  How are interdisciplinary work environments configured to support team and individual work and learning?
  • How do the aspects above change over time?

Understanding the formation of interdisciplinary expertise requires building on the intersection of three theoretical ideas:

  • Epistemic cultures [1],
  • Epistemic infrastructures and epistemic tools [2, 3, 4], and
  • Epistemic games [5].

Knorr-Cetina [1] describes epistemic cultures as cultures of knowledge creating settings. These settings produce knowledge and also instrumental arrangements and practices for constructing new knowledge. Taken together, instrumental arrangements and epistemic practices constitute the epistemic culture of a particular field. To capture instrumental arrangements and epistemic practices, we must move inside the settings within which experts construct knowledge. The key challenge is to capture arrangements in a way that acknowledges the heterogeneity and contingency of situated knowledge work—vital characteristics of interdisciplinary work [6, 7]—while simultaneously revealing how they combine to form an epistemic culture. In our earlier studies of professional learning, we developed ways of capturing such instrumental arrangements by identifying epistemic infrastructures and epistemic tools [8]. Epistemic infrastructures are basic, shared conceptual, material and organisational arrangements that underpin and provide the backbone for the broadly distributed and diverse knowledge practices within a given field (e.g. standards).

Epistemic tools are specific conceptual, symbolic and material devices (e.g. rules, software, physical instruments) that professionals use to conduct inquiries and solve problems. We also developed ways of capturing key features of epistemic practices by identifying characteristic strategies—patterns of thinking and action—used by professional communities to conduct inquiries and construct actionable knowledge (epistemic games). We will now extend and test this approach in interdisciplinary R&D settings.

Read more about Strand 2, Strand 3 and Strand 4.

  1. Knorr-Cetina, K, Epistemic cultures: How the sciences make knowledge. 1999, Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
  2. Nersessian, NJ, The cognitive-cultural systems of the research laboratory. Org Studies, 2006. 27(1): 125-145.
  3. Ludvigsen, S, et al., eds. Learning across sites: New tools, infrastructures and practices. 2011, Oxon: Routledge.
  4. Star, SL & K Ruhleder, Steps toward an ecology of infrastructure: Design and access for large information spaces. Information Systems Research, 1996. 7(1): 111-134.
  5. Collins, A & W Ferguson, Epistemic forms and epistemic games: Structures and strategies to guide inquiry. Educational Psychologist, 1993. 28: 25-42.
  6. Frickel, S, M Albert, & B Prainsack, eds. Investigating interdisciplinary collaboration: Theory and practice across disciplines. 2017, New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.
  7. Graff, HJ, Undisciplining knowledge: Interdisciplinarity in the twentieth century. 2015, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
  8. Markauskaite, L & P Goodyear, Epistemic fluency and professional education: Innovation, knowledgeable action and actionable knowledge. 2017, Dordrecht: Springer.
%d bloggers like this: