Issues in Interdisciplinary Studies Volume 19 (2001)

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    Reply to the Respondents to "A Theory of Interdisciplinary Studies"
    (Association for Interdisciplinary Studies, 2001) Wentworth, Jay; Sebberson, David
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    Integrative Praxes: Learning from Mulitple Knowledge Formations
    (Association for Interdisciplinary Studies, 2001) Wentworth, Jay; Sebberson, David
    After adopting and extending the “test of truth as effective action” that Newell proposes in “A Theory of Interdisciplinary Studies,” this article proposes “living well” as the goal of knowledge processes. With this in mind, it explores disciplinarity—the unspoken assumption underlying Newell’s argument. Disciplinarity is discovered to be an historical and cultural phenomenon, demonstrating the partial and situated character of all knowledge formations, rather than a privileged site of especially valid knowing. Alternatives are offered to the notions of interdisciplinarity and discipline. Integrative praxes (the alternative to interdisciplinarity) are practices, informed by theory and differentiated by existential situation, aimed at living well. Knowledge formations (the alternative to disciplines) are both bodies of knowledge and processes of coming to know that contain within themselves dynamic patterns from which they have been generated and by which they will be transformed. They are ecological, developing in relation with other developing entities and composed in part of material and structures taken from them. The proposal is that living well is best served by seeking integrative praxes that learn from multiple knowledge formations and fostering ongoing conversation among these praxes.
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    Putting Social Structure in Its Place Schematically
    (Association for Interdisciplinary Studies, 2001) Wentworth, Jay; Sebberson, David
    I apply the schema I developed in a recent Issues in Integrative Studies (IIS) paper (consisting of a hierarchically organized list of the phenomena of interest to human scientists, and the causal links or influences among these) to the case of social structure, which is defined in terms of the subgroups into which societies are divided. I discuss causal links in both directions between elements of social structure and phenomena in each of the nine other categories in my schema. This illustrates the validity of my schema, by showing that diverse causal links can be placed within it. I also illustrate the value of the schema as an organizing device for the study of social structure (or other phenomena). I draw several lessons for the future study of social structure.
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    The Practice of Interdisciplinarity: Complex Conditions and the Potential of Interdisciplinary Theory
    (Association for Interdisciplinary Studies, 2001) Wentworth, Jay; Sebberson, David
    This article illustrates the formulation of interdisciplinary process presented in Bill Newell’s article, “A Theory of Interdisciplinary Studies,” by examining a “self-organized” community effort. This effort shows the power of interdisciplinary process, whether consciously or unconsciously applied, in a social setting. It also guides our understanding of the potential strengths and limits of the interdisciplinary process, especially in complex social systems.
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    The Columbia Basin as a Metaphor for an Interdisciplinary Approach
    (Association for Interdisciplinary Studies, 2001) Wentworth, Jay; Sebberson, David
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    Applying More Integrative Potentials for IDS Program Planning and Development
    (Association for Interdisciplinary Studies, 2001) Wentworth, Jay; Sebberson, David
    "The continuing development and success of IDS (Interdisciplinary Studies) programs in higher education depend on the quality of processes associated with their planning, implementation, and review. Underlying and often taken-for-granted assumptions influencing IDSplanning processes are important to uncover and critically examine in dialogues involving IDS and institutional stakeholders. Potential integrating approaches and methods for IDS planning initiatives are explored, based on the author’s background in the applied social sciences and the fields of management and organization studies. These integrative potentials from the fields of strategic management and organizational development/change should empower more stakeholder voices and create alternative forms of dialogical inquiry to fit particular institutional cultures. Challenges remain for faculty and administrators in recognizing these integrative approaches and having facilitative resources to increase their potential for success."
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    Contending with Complexity: A Response to William H. Newell's "A Theory of Interdisciplinary Studies"
    (Association for Interdisciplinary Studies, 2001) Wentworth, Jay; Sebberson, David
    "Newell has mounted a large, interesting, and deeply insistent argument to the effect that complexity theory should be adopted as both a rationale for interdisciplinary studies and a guide for its instructional, investigative, and interpretive activities and applications. I agree with him that those who take seriously the practice of interdisciplinary studies need theory, and that complexity theory has value in this regard. But I disagree with four crucial points in his argument: I. I do not think, as he implies, that our need of theory is rooted in any lack of candidates capable of providing a rationale for interdisciplinary studies and of guiding its activities, including integration. II. I do not think, as he suggests, that there is a collectivity of interdisciplinarians whose professional callings can all be usefully described as “necessitated by complexity.” III. I do not think, as he insists, that complexity makes interdisciplinarity necessary, or that interdisciplinarity is not required when complexity is absent. IV. I do not think his analogy between complexity theory and interdisciplinary process justifies his claim that the former is an adequate rationale and guide for the latter. These disagreements grow out of a basic difference of view about what makes interdisciplinary study necessary: For Newell, interdisciplinarity is required by the complexity of its subject matter. For me, interdisciplinarity is made necessary by the tendency of specialized inquiry to produce knowledge about parts that is too often used as if it were about wholes."
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    Interdisciplinarity and the Prospect of Complexity: The Tests of Theory
    (Association for Interdisciplinary Studies, 2001) Wentworth, Jay; Sebberson, David
    "William Newell’s theory of interdisciplinary studies is a timely proposal since complexity is a keyword in contemporary descriptions of interdisciplinarity. Like any other theory, it is subject to a series of questions: (1) Is the theory generalizable, and is it reductive? (2) What relationship does it have to prior theories? (3) Does the theory drive practice, or vice versa? and (4) Is it fruitful? A weighing of these and related questions indicates that complex systems theory has heuristic value for conceptualizing interdisciplinary tasks and affirms crucial elements in the integrative process. However, the technical restrictions cannot account for all phenomena that constitute interdisciplinarity, and the relationship to other theories needs to be assessed."
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    Another Approach to Interdisciplinary Studies
    (Association for Interdisciplinary Studies, 2001) Wentworth, Jay; Sebberson, David
    "Newell’s “A Theory of Interdisciplinary Studies” is criticized for its undefined and inadequate borrowing of the term nonlinear from chaos theory and the repeated use of this term as a deus ex machina to explain emergent or self-organizing behavior. His theory is unable to model complex behavior or to distinguish, as he wants to do, his definition of complexity from the complexity generated by chaos theory or neo-evolutionary biology. His theory does not clearly distinguish systems and processes that produce phenomena and the system and process that produces knowledge of phenomena. His theory, it is argued, paints an unrealistic picture of what the interdisciplinary scholar does. An approach to interdisciplinarity that contrasts with Newell’s is then put forward. The incremental nature of scholarly work combined with the system and process of knowledge production is shown to be analogous to the process of iteration through nonlinear equations of chaos theory and fractal mathematics. Interdisciplinary scholarship is viewed as similar to discipline scholarship, but too often, interdisciplinary scholarship does not become part of an iterative, ongoing system and process."
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    A Theory of Interdisciplinary Studies
    (Association for Interdisciplinary Studies, 2001) Wentworth, Jay; Sebberson, David
    "Interdisciplinarity is necessitated by complexity, specifically by the structure and behavior of complex systems. The nature of complex systems provides a rationale for interdisciplinary study. An examination of complex systems yields new insights into the practice of interdisciplinary study and confirms widely accepted principles for the conduct of interdisciplinary inquiry. Complex systems also unify the apparently divergent approaches to the interdisciplinary study of the humanities and sciences. Most importantly, the distinguishing but elusive characteristic of interdisciplinary studies—synthesis or integration—is at last explained in terms of the unique self-organizing pattern of a complex system."