Transdisciplinarity: The What and the Why of a Different Framework for Thinking About Inquiry
Transdisciplinarity as a framework for both conducting an inquiry and as a methodology for considering complex thoughts is not new. Throughout history, there have been many scholars that have embodied transdisciplinarity even prior to it being a specific methodology. Martin (2017) describes Leonardo da Vinci as a transdisciplinary thinker as an engineer, inventor, anatomist, and artist. In their writing, Bacon, Descartes, Leibniz, Kant, Hegel, and Comte all discuss the fragmentation of scientific knowledge just as a practitioner of transdisciplinarity would. As an articulated concept, transdisciplinarity goes back to the 70s Piaget, Lichnerowicz, and Jantsch all provided some conceptualization of transdisciplinary and ideas that went beyond interdisciplinary concepts (Klein, 2013; Klein, 2014; Martin, 2017). While the notion has is more than 50 years old now and has gained significant attraction by many scholars, it is not considered a mainstream mode of thinking. Marin (2017) describes how the term is not included in the English Oxford Dictionary. As I am writing this short essay, the spell check in my writing app on my iPad does not recognize either transdisciplinary or transdisciplinarity as words with correct spelling.
Martin (2017), who both describes disciplinarity for librarians and makes a case for how librarians should consider organizing and taxonomizing this inquiry versus discipline driven model, reviews many different definitions that have been offered by various scholars. She summarizes these multiple definitions and defines “transdisciplinarity is a new way of conducting research, in which multiple contributors and stakeholders, both from within and from outside academia, are collaboratively working on identifying specific societal problems and on finding solutions to these problems” (p. 7).
The focus of transdisciplinary work necessarily means that it is examining the intersections and ideas concepts related to the scholar’s inquiry but beyond the bounds of just one single discipline. This process can be taken on collaboratively or individually. The concepts of having a transdisciplinary skill set, being intellectual risk-takers and institutional transgressors, transdisciplinary practices and virtues, and creative inquiry and cultural relativism are all described as factors contributing to transdisciplinary individuals (Augsburg, 2014).
The complexity of transdisciplinarity both at the individual level and through collaborative inquiry is challenging. Not only are there traits that the participates benefit from having, the process for understanding the area of investigation can also be comprehensive. As a process for understanding our field of inquiry, it requires a tangled and intricate kind of thinking that contextualizes information from separate disciplines and connects and brings them together. The very nature of this research’s inclusion of so much interrelated details makes for a complicated literature review (Montuori, 2013).
Montuori (2012) talks about having inquiry-based versus discipline focused topics as one of the dimensions of a transdisciplinary approach to research. One way that this breakdown of the paradigmatic view of these theories is useful can be in the initial planning and framing of our inquiry. Resilience as a research topic benefits from using an inquiry-based approach. Many disciplines focus on resilience, trauma, personal development, and growth. Being able to go beyond just one discipline’s understanding of these subjects and incorporate their findings into a broader set of conclusions is useful. For example, in understanding trauma, it is beneficial to understand the biological aspects of what an individual experience’s during a traumatic event. This biological can find additional depth and meaning as we understand the neurological impacts. The physiological elements give a part of the story related to the trauma. That trauma can also be understood in how collides with the psyche and a psychological perspective. There is some need to review the trauma and how it impacts our relationships with others or event the societal impact.
Augsburg, T. (2014). Becoming transdisciplinary: The emergence of the transdisciplinary individual. World Futures, 70(3-4), 233-247. https://doi.org/10.1080/02604027.2014.934639
Klein, J. T. (2013). The transdisciplinary moment(um). Integral Review: A Transdisciplinary and Transcultural Journal for New Thought, Research, and Praxis, 9(2), 11.
Klein, J. T. (2014). Discourses of transdisciplinarity: Looking back to the future. Futures, 63, 68-74. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.futures.2014.08.008
Martin, V. (2017). Transdisciplinarity revealed: What librarians need to know. Santa Barbara, California: Libraries Unlimited, an imprint of ABC-CLIO, LLC.
Montuori, A. (2012, August 20). Five dimensions of applied transdisciplinarity [Integral Leadership Review]. Retrieved from http://integralleadershipreview.com/7518-transdisciplinary-reflections-2/
Montuori, A. (2013). The complexity of transdisciplinary literature reviews. An International Journal of Complexity and Education, 10(1), 45-55. https://doi.org/10.29173/cmplct20399
This essay was originally submitted as a discussion for TSD 8130 - Transdisciplinarity as a part of course work for CIIS.