Building on the work of the Humanities Research Center in Planetary Ethics and Artificial Intelligence (PETAL) and Digital Humanities, the HumanSpace+ Research Group, investigates the goals, values and practices of interdisciplinary integration in the production of knowledge. In so doing it proposes to investigate and innovate alternatives to the modern architectures of knowledge that are commonly practiced in academic institutions.
The modern architectures of knowledge divide knowledge into traditional divisions—natural science, social science, humanities, and creative arts—which are themselves divided into subdivisions (e.g. physics, chemistry, and biology). At the same time, while purporting simply to describe discrete domains of knowledge, this modern taxonomy also supports an implicit hierarchy of knowledge, in which “hard science” is seen as the gold standard, followed by the social science, humanities, and creative arts. Within each division of knowledge, there is often an implicit hierarchy of disciplines.
These architectures, as well as the paradigms, systems of logic and conventional knowledge organizations which they entail, influence not only academic discourse, but impact all the areas of human life which education targets and serves. The dominant architectures of knowledge that may well have served the needs of 19th century European society, are sorely in need of restructuring in the present dynamically changing world, and the increasingly cross-cultural contexts which humans are embedded. The need for such a restructuring is evident in the fact that every university in the world now prides itself on interdisciplinarity and nearly every discipline in the humanities has striven to reformulate itself for a global context. But what is less clear is how alternative knowledge structures should be designed, and what institutional reform is required to support alternative knowledge structures. This is the research question that HumanSpace+ will answer.
To answer such a large question, the HumanSpace+ Research Group will conduct a number of research projects that are both theoretical and practical in nature. They are theoretical in the sense that they are aimed at answering fundamental questions about the structures of knowledge in human society, culture and cognition. They are practical in that they are designed to support the work of students whose work is explicitly interdisciplinary in nature. That is to say, the projects both investigate the meanings and purposes of interdisciplinary integration, and also the methods by which individuals and teams can practically integrate knowledge in creative and productive ways. In so doing the Research Group can serve as a support to all the efforts across the university that employ an interdisciplinary method. At the same time, by implementing interdisciplinary integration in its own research practice, and by reflecting on this practice, the HumanSpace+ Research Group will function both as method and data for itself.
Examples of projects that will be implemented are as follows:
- A cultural critique of knowledge disciplines. How and why have different cultures across the world devised and instituted fundamental taxonomies of knowledge, and what conditions have they set or assumed for access to that knowledge?
- Comparative analysis and visualization of knowledge structures. How can we use computers to analyze and visualize the semantic relationships among concepts in key problematics of the contemporary world? Do these align with the curricular goals of academic institutions?
- Theory and practice of interdisciplinary integration. What theoretical aims does interdisciplinary integration practically serve, and what methods and practices can best support individuals or teams who are working on such research projects?
- A transformative interdisciplinary pedagogy. How may learners navigate between the divisions of knowledge to augment their own learning experience and creativity? How can we provide tools, experiences and methodologies which allow learners to explore and navigate the differences between cultural, institutional and academic maps of knowledge with their personal education, curiosity and experience?
For more information, contact James Miller, Associate Dean of Interdisciplinary Strategy, at DKU.