Tag Archives: interdisciplinarity

ACM Web Science 2015 take-away

Here are some ideas and things I remember from the The 2015 ACM Web Science conference WebSci’15 held at the Oxford e-Research Centre and Keble College :

Membrane metphore

Markus Strohmaier used an intriguing metaphor for talking about the Web. He said it was a membrane. So the Web is  like thin pliable sheet that cover and connect us. This metaphor bring some biological, living connotation to the Web and how we see it.  This echo in my own research on everyday life and the Internet. Seigworth and Gardiner (2004) remind us that we must reintroduce “life” in everyday life studies. The authors argue that cultural studies have stiffened by only using part of the organic metaphor :the skeleton, and leaving aside the soft tissues. Seigworth and Gardiner (2004) propose to take into account the “soft tissue”: the imperceptible, flexible and  mobile circulation  in the body. Fully reintroduce the “life” in everyday life would then consider its moments, its movements, and its multiplicities different materials, not just the big rigid structure.

Best quote used in a presentation :

“Big data is like teenage sex: everyone talks about it, nobody really knows how to do it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, so everyone claims they are doing it.” – Dan Ariely

Prospography vs ANT theory

It is interesting to see how other discipline study the Web, for instance people in the humanities :

Archetypal Narratives in Social Machines: Approaching Sociality through Prosopography Segolene Tarte, Pip Willcox, Hugh Glaser and David De Roure

In this paper, they used prosopography. According to wikipedia it is an investigation of the common characteristics of a historical group, whose individual biographies may be largely untraceable, by means of a collective study of their lives, in multiple career-line analysis.[1] Prosopographical research has the goal of learning about patterns of relationships and activities through the study of collective biography; it collects and analyses statistically relevant quantities of biographical data about a well-defined group of individuals. This makes it a valuable technique for studying many pre-modern societies.

Instead of opening the black box and analyze what all the actors are doing, those researcher build the archetypal narrative using a Jungian approach. So they do a biography of the infrastructure.

A need to understand the contexts

The big take away from the conference, is that the issue of context. A lot of data is over-analyzed and under-contextualized.


Seigworth, G., & Gardiner, M. (2004). Rethinking everyday life: And then nothing turns itself inside out. Cultural Studies, 18(2-3), 139-159. doi: 10.1080/0950238042000201455

T-shaped academia : bridging interdisciplinarity

As I was listening to the The Ten Faces of Innovation: IDEO’s Strategies for Defeating the Devil’s Advocate and Driving Creativity Throughout Your Organization by Thomas Kelley, on my way to school. I listen to audiobook while I walk. It is a good way to get a break from scientific reading. Anyway, the idea of a special kind of people got me thinking about interdisciplinarity.

T by chrisinplymouth

In an interview, IDEO CEO Tim Brown talked about T-shaped people. They have two main characteristics :

    • Wide breadth of knowledge across disciplines
    • Deep knowledge in one or two specific areas

The vertical stroke of the “T” is a depth of skill that allows them to contribute to the creative process. That can be from any number of different fields: an industrial designer, an architect, a social scientist, a business specialist or a mechanical engineer. The horizontal stroke of the “T” is the disposition for collaboration across disciplines. It is composed of two things. First, empathy. It’s important because it allows people to imagine the problem from another perspective- to stand in somebody else’s shoes. Second, they tend to get very enthusiastic about other people’s disciplines, to the point that they may actually start to practice them. T-shaped people have both depth and breadth in their skills.

I think that in academia, we should also try to be more like T-shaped person. This could build more bridges across disciplines and create new forms of knowledge production as Kincheloe proposed with the idea of researcher as bricoleur (2001).

Bridge reflection by Mundoo

As bricoleurs recognize the limitations of a single method, the discursive structures of one disciplinary approach, what is missed by traditional practices of validation, the historicity of certified modes of knowledge production, the inseparability of knower and known, and the complexity and heterogeneity of all human experience, they understand the necessity of new forms of rigor in the research process. (Kincheloe, 2001, p.681)

As researcher, we tend to dig deeper in our field, elongating the vertical stroke of the “T”. And our horizontal stroke get shorter in comparison, making it harder to cross the gap to another discipline. This mean even more rigorous work so the bridges we’ll build wont collapse at the first crossing over.
Kincheloe, J. L. (2001). Describing the Bricolage: Conceptualizing a New Rigor in Qualitative Research. Qualitative Inquiry, 7(6), 679-692.