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Transdisciplinarity:

Stimulating Synergies, Integrating Knowledge

How to tackle the manifold aspects of reality? How to increase understanding on global and complex issues? How to stimulate synergies among disciplines? How to support co-operation and exchange among experts and sectors?

These questions provided the broad scope of the Symposium on Transdisciplinarity

which took place in Royaumont Abbey in May 1998. The present report account for the many discussions among scholars and to outline the theoretical and the practical advice and recommendations. This report wishes to provide increase conceptual knowledge and operative know-how on transdisciplinary and it hopes to give new insights to the many programmes of UNESCO.

tries to debate tools to issues,

As

a

multi-sectoral

organization,

UNESCO

has

oRen

been

involved

in activities

beyond the mono-disciplinary

perspective. Year after year, the co-operation among

various sectors and disciplines has assumed different modalities. These modalities

have been differently labelled: “multi-disciplinarity”, “trans-disciplinarity”.

“inter-disciplinari@‘,

and now

Borders, similarities and differences among these perspectives have rarely been clearly explained. This report then tries to clarify the not always evident distinction

and articulation between theoretical knowledge and

‘multi-‘, problem

‘inter-’ solving.

and ’trans-disciplinary’

approaches to

The lack of clarification has caused a widespread impression that co-operation among

disciplines and sectors can be achieved address complex issues that fall outside competence of an individual, it seemed together, and to collect their contributions.

through unstructured brainstorming. To the domain of a single discipline or the enough to call meetings, to put people

On the contrary, the Symposium made it clear that this is not enough. Gathering is a requirement. Proximity is a necessity. Even establishing a daily physical or virtual exchange is crucial. But a substantial factor, the most important factor, is the kind of interaction among the elements of the gathering. And, as is the case for human beings,

the decisive ‘ingredient’ negotiate and collaborate

.

is their mental and personal disposition

to trust, share,

of segmented disciplines In an academic world characterized by a plethora , Neither “integration” is multi-disciplinarity the cardinal keyword nor inter-disciplinarity to increase meets this criterion. understanding.

Multi-disciplinarity,

often relying on the simple juxtaposition

of mono-disciplinary

approaches, frequently fails to produce unified outlooks. based on assembling distinct viewpoints, keeps its roots and consequently misses the coherence it is aiming at.

Inter-disciplinarity, mostly in fragmented disciplines,

III

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