As Michael has pointed out in his last post, there is an increasing pressure for social science researchers to “cover the bases” when it comes to being able to understand and use the methods of other academic disciplines. In last week’s readings, Luker explained the importance of needing to “frame” ones’ research in terms of existing intellectual frames (2008, p.64). Choosing a frame is a difficult task when your research topic potentially fits in many. Knight calls attention to the fact that, although the distinctions are not absolute, disciplines tend to favour certain epistemologies and ontologies which affect the research methods they commonly use (2002, 27-28). In highly interdisciplinary institutions, such as the iSchool, students are faced with the added challenge of working between even more disparate scholarly traditions. I share Michael’s concern regarding how researchers are expected to generate such a comprehensive understanding of all the related fields. I am even more concerned about how to account for differences in epistemologies and ontologies as I try to synthesize multiple approaches to a field.
This week’s readings gave me some comfort as they featured possible solutions to working in highly interdisciplinary fields. We see an example of Luker’s “methodological agnosticism” as Ratto adopts constructionist approaches more commonly used in scientific and technology-based disciplines (2011, p.254). Also, the collaborative process and shared experience of building a prototype in Ratto’s explanation of “critical making” involves the creation of a “collective frame” where participants can identify and address epistemic and ontological differences (2011, p.253). Similarly, the collaborative nature of the UTOPIA project, as described by Winner, featured the incorporation and synthesis of the perspectives of stakeholders from many academic and professional backgrounds (1992, p.357). Collaboration seems to be an easy way to help develop a frame which accounts for epistemological and ontological differences between fields. I am not certain how to achieve the same results through small scale research where opportunities for collaboration may be limited.