1.2. Disciplines as cultures

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The ‘Silo problem’ is a way of describing the self-defining and self-justifying quality of disciplinary formations. It also draws our attention to the inaccessibility of the spaces between the silos.

Disciplines are not absolute, they are historically contingent, they arise and decay. The existence of Interdisciplinarity is a symptom of disciplinarity (and their lacunae). Disciplines emerge out of interdisciplinary initiatives. Examples in recent decades include women’s studies and gender studies; science and technology studies, media studies, game studies, software studies, computer science and informatics. We can also see interdisciplinarity as historically prior. The Greeks worked with geometry, physics, biology, in an interdisciplinary and applied way. Disciplines are platonic ideal types, which support increased specialisation and abstraction but also detach research from worldly questions.

Methodologies which are standard in one discipline are often unknown in another. For instance, Grounded Theory, Discourse Analysis, qualitative interview, methodologies from social science are not taken seriously in ‘harder’ sciences, even in economic studies.

Knowledge and practices are discipline/domain specific. The very act of transferring ‘data’ or ideas from one discipline to another often results simplistic interpretations due to the shift in disciplinary cultural references. An example might be the use of J. J. Gibson’s notion of Affordance in Design and HCI. Of course, such ‘misinterpretations’ which occur as terms drift across epistemological territory are often themselves generative.