Multidisciplinarity and 21st Century Communication Design

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This presentation addresses recent calls for the importance of multidisciplinary research and action in communication design. The impetus for multidisciplinary perspectives toward communication design is technological change, rapid developments in work products and processes, and the perception that emerging issues in the workplace demand additional competencies and knowledge. Terminology related to multidisciplinarity, such as disciplinarity, cross-disciplinarity, interdisciplinarity, and transdisciplinarity, is defined. Since ACM SIGDOC members are distributed across academic and nonacademic fields and institutions, the focus will be on discipline as epistemology and as language with the goal of explicating common frameworks and terminology for better articulating communication design and work.

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Multidisciplinarity and 21st Century Communication Design

  1. 1. Multidisciplinarity and 21 st century communication design Dr. Brad Mehlenbacher Leadership, Policy, Adult & Higher Education NC State University brad_m@unity.ncsu.edu www4.ncsu.edu/~brad_m ACM SIGDOC 2009 Bloomington, IN, USA
  2. 2. Setting the stage <ul><li>ACM SIGDOC’s 2004 realignment from computer documentation to communication design, ie., from “human factors to human actors,” is a significant one and draws on general movements in the arts, sciences, and applied sciences toward developing global, collaborative, holistic, and culturally sensitive workspaces and knowledge workers. </li></ul><ul><li>SIGDOC researchers and practitioners interested in the intersection between human beings, technologies, communication, instruction, and learning (inherently “multidisciplinary”). </li></ul>Bødker, S. (2008). Design for reconfiguration. SIGDOC’08: Proceedings of the 26th Annual International Conference on Design of Communication . NY, NY: ACM P, 263-264 . Adopted from:
  3. 3. Disciplinary realignments <ul><li>Parallels innovative curricular developments in the humanities (aligning themselves with developments in digital media) and in computer science and engineering (aligning themselves with communication, social, ethical, and environmental studies. </li></ul><ul><li>These shifts in disciplinary focus, relationships, and work processes are being driven by accelerated technological change and radical shifts in the nature of communication design work. </li></ul>
  4. 4. Wicked work <ul><li>Communication design work or “global 21st century work,” is ill-defined and “wicked” and wicked work exhibits the following: </li></ul><ul><li>There is no definitive formulation of the problem . Because these systems are large and constantly changing, the person solving the problem does not have all the information needed to understand the problem fully. </li></ul><ul><li>There is no stopping rule to tell when the problem is solved . The problem solver can never conclusively answer the question “Have I done enough?” </li></ul><ul><li>There is no immediate nor immediate test of whether the system design is successful . The system design process has unbounded consequences, and there is no way to conduct comparative analysis. </li></ul><ul><li>There is no single, identifiable “cause” of a problem . The problem may be a symptom of other problems, and the solution will change depending on how the problem is formulated (p. 43). </li></ul>Kukla, C. D., Clemens, E. A., Morse, R. S., & Cash, D. (1992). Designing effective systems: A tool approach. In P. S. Adler & T. A. Winograd (Eds.), Usability: Turning technologies into tools (pp. 41-65). NY, NY: Oxford UP . Adopted from:
  5. 5. Communication design tasks <ul><li>Collecting, sorting, analyzing, interpreting, designing, reporting data, collaborating, communicating, interacting, negotiating </li></ul><ul><li>Generating representations, accessing and navigating information, identifying, explaining , and analyzing phenomena, taking positions, communicating </li></ul>Kozma, R., Chin, E., Russell, J., & Marx, N. (2000). The roles of representations and tools in the chemistry laboratory and their implications for chemistry learning. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 9 (2), 105-143. Mayer, R. E. (2001). Multimedia learning . NY, NY: Cambridge UP. Unsworth, J. (2000). Scholarly primitives: What methods do humanities researchers have in common, and how might our tools reflect this? Humanities computing symposium: Formal methods, experimental practice . London, England: King’s College. Available online: http://www.iath.virginia.edu/~jmu2m/Kings.5-00/primitives.html Adopted from: <ul><li>Discovering, annotating, comparing, referring, sampling, illustrating, representing </li></ul><ul><li>Selecting, organizing, integrating, comparing, generalizing, classifying </li></ul><ul><li>Inventing, judging, deciding, evaluating . </li></ul>
  6. 6. General problem-solving tasks for the 21st century Allen, B. L. (1996). Information tasks: Toward a user-centered approach to information systems . San Diego, CA: Academic P. Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL). (2000). Information literacy competency standards for higher education . Available online: http://www.ala.org/ala/acrl/acrlstandards/informationliteracycompetency.htm Norman, D. A. (1990). The design of everyday things . NY, NY: Basic. Adopted from:
  7. 7. Disciplinary work <ul><li>A discipline is a particular “department” of learning or knowledge informed by collective rules that shape “proper conduct and action” (OED) </li></ul><ul><li>In the workplace, disciplinary influences play out in the departmental structures of many contemporary companies. </li></ul><ul><li>Engineering design, programming, human factors, and project management often occupy profit center status, whereas communication design (if it is even organized as a “center”) falls with marketing, instructional design, usability testing and evaluation, and training into the cost center category. </li></ul>
  8. 8. Interdisciplinary work <ul><li>Interdisciplinary research or action involves an interaction between or blending of two or more areas of learning. </li></ul><ul><li>Cross-disciplinary research or action involves two or more disciplines employing the methods, understandings, or activities of the others without necessarily merging their resources. </li></ul><ul><li>Interdisciplinary relationships involve cooperation and integration of practices and understandings whereas cross-disciplinary interactions may involve cooperation but do not necessitate integration </li></ul>
  9. 9. Multidisciplinary work <ul><li>Multidisciplinary research or action requires that separate disciplinary understandings be combined or integrated (resulting in a struggle for status and centrality against the forces of disciplinarily-located efforts). </li></ul><ul><li>Academic disciplinary structures are designed to solve particularized problems and have resisted the types of co-responsible ownership that have resulted from emerging technologies. </li></ul><ul><li>But these developments challenge constructs as fundamental as collaboration, information, learning, communication, methodology, and instruction. </li></ul>
  10. 10. Transdisciplinary work <ul><li>Transdisciplinary research or action aims “to grasp the complexity of the problems, to take into account the diversity of scientific and societal views of the problems, to link abstract and case specific knowledge, and to constitute knowledge with a focus on problem-solving for what is perceived to be the common good” (p. 19). </li></ul><ul><li>Transdisciplinarity integrates understandings, approaches, data, methods, and arguments from more than one discipline with the ultimate goal of solving significant, real-world problems. </li></ul>Hirsh Hadorn, G., Biber-Klemm, S., Grossenbacher-Mansuy, W., Hoffmann-Riem, H., Joye, D., Pohl, C., Wiesmann, U., & Zemp, E. (2008). The emergence of transdisciplinarity as a form of research. In Hirsh Hadorn, G., Hoffmann-Riem, H., Biber-Klemm, S., Grossenbacher-Mansuy, W., Joye, D., Pohl, C., Wiesmann, U., & Zemp, E. (Eds.), Handbook of Transdisciplinary Research (pp. 19-39). London, UK: Springer . Adopted from:
  11. 11. Engaged and multidisciplinary <ul><li>Cheney, et al. (2002) and “engaged scholarship” </li></ul><ul><li>Engages in popular as well as academic concepts </li></ul><ul><li>Moves out into the world </li></ul><ul><li>Considers multiple perspectives </li></ul><ul><li>Places the human, the moral, and even the spiritual alongside the technological, the financial, and the productive </li></ul><ul><li>Questions our cherished concepts and practices </li></ul><ul><li>Chooses problems and issues that matter </li></ul><ul><li>Reaches audiences other than ourselves </li></ul><ul><li>Finds or creates models of socially responsible organizations and promote them </li></ul><ul><li>Embraces an action learning approach </li></ul><ul><li>Seeks out connections not only with the powerful but also with the disenfranchised. </li></ul>Cheney, G., Wilhelmsson, M., Zorn, T., & Theordore, Jr., E. (2002). 10 strategies for engaged scholarship. Management Communication Quarterly, 16 (1), 92-100 . Adopted from:
  12. 12. Alternative views of communication <ul><li>Overcoming monodisciplinarity (ie., appreciation of alternative views, identification of strengths and weaknesses in disciplinary perspectives, and acceptance or rejection of different disciplinary inputs). </li></ul><ul><li>Provisional integration (ie., emergence of hybrid understanding and complex disciplinarity). </li></ul><ul><li>Revising integration (ie., questioning and critical probing of integration and rejection of the provisional integration and rejections of the provisional integration as final and complete (p. 413). </li></ul>Nikitina, S. (2005). Pathways of interdisciplinary cognition. Cognition and Instruction, 23 (3), 389-425 . Adopted from:
  13. 13. Alternative views of design Mehlenbacher, B. (in press). Instruction and technology: Designs for everyday learning . Cambridge, MA: MIT Press . Adopted from: <ul><li>Design as linguistic, extralinguistic, metaphorical, space-time dynamics. </li></ul>
  14. 14. Alternative views of problems Mehlenbacher, B. (in press). Instruction and technology: Designs for everyday learning . Cambridge, MA: MIT Press . Adopted from: <ul><li>A Sociocognitive orientation provides opportunities for framing instructional and communication information spaces as both profoundly personal and individual and intensely sociocultural in nature. </li></ul>
  15. 15. Multidisciplinary (Athenian) futures <ul><li>A radically comprehensive approach to problems and processes is demanded by the 21st century “with the triumphs going to rhetoricians skilled in many disciplines’ knowledge and talents. As the Athenians had to process what we might today call ‘multidisciplinary knowledge and skill’ in order to survive and thrive in a demanding democracy, so students today must possess the multidisciplinary knowledge and technical skills to succeed in a multimedia age” (p. 64). </li></ul>Scenters-Zapico, J. T., & Cos, G. C. (2003). A new canon for a new rhetoric education. In J. Petraglia & D. Bahri (Eds.), The realms of rhetoric: The prospects for rhetoric education (pp. 61-71). NY, NY: SUNY P. . Adopted from:

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