Thursday, September 25, 2003

On interdisciplinarity multidisciplinarity and leakage

In comments to this post, Joe recommended Lars Erik Holmquist's The PLAY Research Group: Entertainment and Innovation in Sweden (pdf). (For those of you who follow my research, you will know I am a big fan of the work that comes out of PLAY, the Interactive Institute and the Future Applications Lab.)

But here's the relevant bit:

Alan Kay once remarked that he was attracted to the MIT Media Lab because of the..."attempt to collide technology with the arts, rather than [to] collide technologists with artists," and continued "You're always better getting people who have already had that collision in themselves." In PLAY, rather than composing a multi-disciplinary group, we try to have a group of multi-disciplinary people ... No group member specializes in only one topic. A typical member has a degree in a relevant field such as computer science, informatics or fine arts, but a strong interest in several other fields such as electrical engineering, linguistics, literature, film, or music. Whether accompanied by academic degrees or not, a wide range of interests is seen as a vital factor in the composition of the group.

This reminds me of disciplinary heretics - those beautifully voluptuous people whose excesses leak out of their own disciplinary (and other) confines, those people who have the audacity to curve when everything else is straight.

And let's not kid ourselves - you can put together an interdisciplinary (or multidisciplinary) group, and if the people themselves aren't that way, voluptuousness will never prevail. They will hold themselves inside the lines, and will expect it of others.

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