A Reply to: "Raoul France's Heritage a Nightmare for Specialists" …

IFSR Newsletter 1995 Vol. 14 No. 1 March
In [1] Sokoloff concluded with “Today, as in France’s time, narrow specialization is the surest way to academic success”. In contrast, information systems specialists have recognized that academic and commercial success requires traditional academic boundaries to be breached. Beyond the Boundaries Boulding [2] describes what he calls the ‘crisis of science today’ resulting from the lack of communication between intellectual disciplines. lncreased specialization and lack of communication between specialists is perhaps even more apparent in the 1990s than Boulding first acknowledged nearly forty years earlier. Specialization which we considered necessary to encourage the advancement of knowledge has had the reverse effect of restraining the growth of ‘total knowledge’. The need for interdisciplinary research has been recognized in many disciplines
Ackoff [3] points out that the world is not naturally divided into disciplines. We have found it necessary to reduce the world into defined academic disciplines in order to develop expertise and aid comprehension. However, it has now become apparent that the artificial boundaries imposed on the world can be restrictive and sometime hinder further advancement.
Unbounded lnformation Systems
Boulding uses the terms “interdisciplinary movement” and suggests that the first sign of this movement is the development of hybrid disciplines. The “Hybrid Manager” has become a recognized attempt to consolidate organizational and technical disciplines. Information systems cross traditional boundaries at two levels. Firstly, information systems developers have recognized the importance of softer, organizational, social, political and cultural influences in the development of computer systems. Secondly, information systems cross organizational departmental boundaries into manufacturing, sales, finance and production areas. In order to develop effective systems in these areas an appreciation of the concepts in these fields of expertise are primarily needed.
Approach for Interdisciplinary Research
A key problem of interdisciplinary study is the interpretation of terminology specific to the native discipline. The key terms in many disciplines are often the subject of extensive debate between specialists in the area. This increases the barriers which exclude other professionals from gaining an appreciation of the discipline. It is, however, suggested that an elementary introduction to principles in one discipline can stimulate invention in another. Ackerman [4] proposes that a complete understanding of terms as understood by experts in the native domain is not essential; “it is enough for it to inspire”. Researchers should, therefore, follow France’s example of seeking inspiration by maintaining a flexible awareness and interest in the potential contributions of “diverse’ disciplines. This can be achieved by:
1. Browsing through ‘foreign’ journals
2. Establishing a forum in which to exchange specialist knowledge
3. Maintaining an acute awareness of the rich reality which surrounds us
Further advancement of knowledge can only be found by breaching the boundaries which may constrain its application to specific domains.
[1] Sokoloff , Stephen, (1994), ‘Raoul France’s Heritage a Nightmare for Specialists‘, IFSR Newsletter No. 32, (March), pp.2 – 3
[2] Boulding, Kenneth, E., (1956), ‘General Systems Theory – The Skeleton of Science’, Management Science, 2(3), April, pp. 197-208
[3] Ackoff, Russel, 1.. & Emery, Fred, E., (1972), On Purposeful Systems: An Interdisciplinary Analysis of lndividual and Social Behaviour as a System of Purposeful Events, Tavistock Publications, Great Britain
[4] Ackerman, James, S., (1965), ‘On Scientia!, In: Halton, Gerald (ed.), (1965), Science and Culture: A Study of Cohesive and Disjunctive Forces, Beacon Press, United States of America, pp. 14 – 23
Dr Stephen Sokoloff’s reply: lnterdisciplinary – New Cages

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