Category Archives: Interdisciplinary

Lingua franca

“A lingua franca (or working language, bridge language, vehicular language) is a language systematically used to make communication possible between people not sharing a mother tongue, in particular when it is a third language, distinct from both mother tongues” (Wikipedia)

What’s our lingua franca? More than one?

Information Deluge does not equal Effective Analysis

Information is only as good as the judgement that uses it. The deluge of available information on any given topic or field is no guarantee of effective analysis.

In part this is a quantitative problem. More importantly, it is also a problem of pedagogy, that is, higher education has become excessively specialised. Rather than teaching people how to think, it trains them in specific skills. Interdisciplinary knowledge and experience are the first casualties with the loss of contextual meaning and the ability to synthesize. Simply put, it is difficult to see the forest for the trees.

Creating a reward structure in society that favours disciplinary specialisation over interdisciplinary aggregation has other effects. In the field of economics, for example, the triumph of neo-classical economics during the twentieth century has ensured the mathematicisation of the discipline. It is, thus, taken out of the reach of most people. While the clarity and universality of mathematical reasoning is acknowledged, it has led to a system of economic reasoning that assumes a world without time, and in which history and experience do not exist.

The illusion of objectivity that this imparts can be and is used to conceal other agendas. This is education and research as propaganda, and propaganda serves its master. What this means in practical terms is that for most people, conclusions that are ‘right’ are those that make them money or give them positions of power and influence (over a restricted sphere), whether or not they understand how or why.

This is dangerous for outsiders and puts a huge premium on being an insider. The difficulties that this entails are real and not easily mastered.

The object of an independent-minded, interdisciplinary scholarly approach is to master those difficulties. There is always room for an independent view.

~adapted from the mission statement of Sanders Research Associates