Why transdisciplinary?

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For this entry I thought I would explain a bit about my background and in so doing ... hopefully... explain why I am so interested in Art-Science transdisciplinary projects.

I am what I like to call a baby artist. I have only worked in Art for two years now. In standard 6 in response to my first art project in highschool my teacher said:"don't worry dear.. you are so good at science...stick to that" And so my box was formed. Thats unfair. I can't blame her but this is the kind of thing people would say to me and so I dutifully took on that role. When I left school I took a gap year which was supposed to help me figure out what I wanted to do with my life but lets just say soul searching took a back seat to partying and so when I returned I went straight into Electrical Engineering with no idea as to why. Hey I was good at it and I could get in so why not?

I learned so much from my engineering degree and specialised in electronics and software design but I always felt unfulfilled and stifled. I needed creativity in a different form but by my final year had no idea how I was going to achieve this. Then I heard about a masters course run by the Digital Arts department of The Wits School of Arts. This course accepted people with art or science honours and offered a masters degree in "Interactive Media Design". To tell you the truth I really didn't think I would get in or would be able to do the course but I was determined to try. Turns out I got in and loved it!! Finally I had the type of creative freedom I was craving but was still able to use my technical ability. And then I hit the next barrier. Now that I was creating "art" my engineering colleagues didn't take my work seriously anymore and some artists looked down on my use of tech in my pieces.

I was stuck in the middle between two supposedly dichotomous fields. The more I thought about this position I now found myself in the more I realised that I wouldn't have it any other way. I just was not able to be an artist or a scientist.. i was both. This sparked my curiosity about interdisciplinary work but I just didn't think that interdisciplinary truly described how I wanted to work. Then I can across the term transdisciplinary. To me this truly described how I wanted to work and opened up a whole new world to me. Working between, across and beyond disciplines!!!


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transdisciplinary work aims to be "that which is at once between the disciplines, across the disciplines and beyond all discipline" (Nicolescu)

2 June 2007

Although it was not always the case, we are living in times when the arts and sciences are seen as dichotomous. Not only that, but specialisation within the seemingly apposite fields of knowledge seems to discourage the sharing of knowledge even within the arts or sciences. To me this conjures an image of hundreds of academics frantically working to solve one problem, on different scales, with different view points and each getting more and more useless answers. How can we solve problems that affect us all on so many scales without beginning to break down the divides between specialisations and fields? To me in order to trans_end we need to look to collaboration, not simply in an interdisciplinary manner, but in a transdisciplinary one. Interdisciplinary work too often simply cements divides between different disciplines with each working towards different goals. In contrast, transdisciplinary work aims to be "that which is at once between the disciplines, across the disciplines ad beyond all discipline" (Nicolescu). I am not naive to the problems which we will encounter when trying to work in this manner. After all we are all so used to divides between disciplines and have known no other way, but without attempts at this kind of work we will all keep fighting our own little battles and losing the war.

Nicolescu, B. "A New Vision of the World: Transdisciplinarity", http://nicol.club.fr/ciret/english/visionen.htm, last accessed 2 November 2006