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Futures 3 multidisciplinarity


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  • 1. Multi-disciplinarity and Knowledge Interests in Studying Futures Anita Rubin Finland Futures Research Centre, University of Turku
  • 2. 2 Flechtheim’s Futurology Ossip Flechtheim believed that the new science, futurology would help in • preventing wars; • abolishing hunger and poverty in the world; • the fight against deprivation; • democratisizing societies; • stopping exploitation of the Nature, and • fighting against alienation.  The creation of Homo Humanus, an better human being
  • 3. 3 Flechtheim’s Basic Insights The four basic insights of Flechtheim’s futurology: • The understanding of problems as universal (global, multidimensional, systemic); • Complexity and systemic worldview (no problem can be solved by merely fixing one part or sector; • We can affect the future by understanding the present; • A moral and ethical point of view, reformation
  • 4. 4 Diversity in futures studies Diversity and in futures studies means that the story told (scenario) is composed of multiple levels and several viewpoints, for instance, social, technological, ecological, economical and political (STEEP). Therefore, by nature, futures studies • is multidisciplinary to begin with, because we strive for holistic models; • aims at being distinguished from the futures scanning of different individual sciences by especially emphasising the holistic point of view, and • utilizes systems theory and other methods and tools which highligh diversity.
  • 5. 29.1.2015 5 Inter- disciplinarity Multi- disciplinarity Cross- disciplinarity Research problem Research problem ! ! The Different Stages of Multi-disciplinarity Research problem
  • 6. 29.1.2015 6 Multi-disciplinarity Explains a problem which simultaneously spreads in the field of two or more sciences. The point of view is specific to each separate science / discipline, and it is dependent on the character of the phenomenon under study. The limits of each separate science to alone solve the problem are recognised. Interplay between sciences is not at the focus –- the emphasis is rather on the problem itself. Example: Some global environmental phenomenon which causes problems in different countries is interesting to both ecologists, sociologists, biologists, political researchers, economists etc., each from the viewpoint of their own field.
  • 7. 29.1.2015 7 Interdisciplinarity Explains a phenomenon / problem from the grounds laid by interaction between scientists from different scientific backgrounds. In an interdisciplinary study, the concepts, theories and methods used to understand and solve it derive from many different sciences. The focus is to make the problem / phenomenon more understandable. The scientific study is a systematic process in which problems are presented from one scientific angle to another. Example: A scientific conference (method) called together by the UN in order to discuss and study a common, multidisciplinary problem. The aim is to gain a common understanding and consensus based on the needs, values and interests of each nation, religion and ethnic group of the participants.
  • 8. 29.1.2015 8 Cross-disciplinarity This process gradually makes it possible for a new discipline to emerge. The nature of the problem prevents a thorough investigation with traditional tools and techniques, and/or old theories are not sufficient to explain the whole. Multiscientific problems are often like this – they cannot be planted in any science that is already existing. Therefore the researchers have to break away from traditional methods and thinking and form a new domain (school or science) Example: The birth and development of futures studies is a good example; it is a field of thought which can be approached from the background of any traditional science. It starts to fulfil the criteria of a true science (Niiniluoto). ! !Explains a problem from the details and characteristics of that phenomenon itself in order to gain as wide and thorough understanding from it as possible.
  • 9. 9 The challenges of multidisciplinarity • In a futures project, how to persuade the representatives of different sciences and disciplines to a dialogue which is problem-oriented so that no single science dominates? • How can an individual futurist learn to master several disciplines? • How to question and break the unnecessary borders between sciences? • How to avoid the situation where multidisciplinarity ends up as a mere label or superficial talk?
  • 10. 10 The dilemma of multidisciplinarity On one hand, it is sensible to take into account as many relevant futures impacts as possible. On the other hand, the multiplicity of fields of analysis generates disjointedness and immeasurableness.  the more futures impacts, the more difficult they are to compare. Solutions: 1. To make commensurate: choose a shared measure of a value or meaning, utility (eg. the evaluation of ecological and economic futures impacts in money) 1. To transfer to border condition (eg. to formulate them as the primary assumptions which structure decision-making).
  • 11. 29.1.2015 11 Knowledge Interests in Research Technical knowledge interest Practical, interpretative knowledge interest Intuition Critical knowledge interest Source: P. Kyrö, 30 May, 2001 Study problem
  • 12. 29.1.2015 12 Technical (Instrumental) Knowledge Interest Searches information that can be used to explain the study object and/or control its behaviour in its natural environment. Methods of study: Empirical and experimental data gathering and analysis; measurement techniques, observing techniques, laboratory techniques, statistical methods, trend analysis, etc. Values: objectivity, value neutrality Goal: technical realisation An answer is searched to • What are the possible futures of the problem/question/phenomenon at hand? • What is the level of probability of each possible future? • What are the interfering variables?
  • 13. 29.1.2015 13 Practical (Interpretative, Hermeneutical) Knowledge Interest Aims at understanding the problem or phenomenon under study from the human point of view. Methods of study: interpretative data gathering methods, i.e. discourse analysis, SSM. Goal: Meaning of phenomena, actor’s choices and behaviour, expectations, value preferences etc. Is used to create a value analysis based on the different interpretations of a phenomenon. Values: pluralism, equality of different interpretations. An answer is searched to: • What are the different interpretations of the future of the issue/research problem etc. under study? • What makes them different? • How can we reach a common (and democratic) view and understanding on the future of this issue/research problem etc. at hand?
  • 14. 29.1.2015 14 Critical (Emancipatory) Knowledge Interest Focuses on the factors behind the subjective conceptions of the problem or phenomenon under study (power relations, politics & policy choices, appreciations, social needs, interests, expectations, etc.) Values: Liberation from conventional and conformist thinking in order to reveal new viewpoints, meanings, hidden social relations, etc. Normative by nature Goal: Aims at change, renewal. Methods of study: action research, CLA (Causal Layered Analysis), value analysis, futures workshops, sometimes Delphoi, SSM, etc. An answer is searched to: • How can we free ourselves from our preconceptions, ideas and beliefs which tend to be largely inbuilt and unconscious? • How can we broaden the variety of futures that genuinely are alternative?
  • 15. 29.1.2015 15 Is based on a person’s own subjective feelings, experiences, culture, language, and realisations. Values: Creativity, search for new ways to see in order to make better choices; openness to change. Goal: The motive behind all scientific work is intuitive and creative by nature, and therefore important to all the other three forms of knowledge interests. An answer is searched to: • How can we use our creativity in a courageous and high-spirited way to understand, open and describe alternatives and possibilities? Intuition and Creative Thinking
  • 16. 29.1.2015 16 Three Types of Imagination Logical imagination • Extrapolation of current trends • Critique  room for new ideas • Reveals what is wrong Critical imagination • Search for structural weaknesses in the existing state of affairs  creating a context for alternative futures • Reveals why things are wrong Creative imagination • Strikes out on a completely new cause • Breaks radically with prevalent concepts  opens the way for something new to emerge