ID+ | An Interdisciplinarity Model
In today's academic world, more and more research projects are interdisciplinary in nature. Increasingly, research funding programs demand that interdisciplinary modes of operation be applied. This development is due to the realization that tackling complex problems from the perspective of a single discipline often proves inadequate. A more heterogeneous approach is required.
It was for this reason that the Interdisciplinary Image Knowledge Gestaltung of Humboldt Universität zu Berlin was formed in 2012. It includes academic staff and students from more than 40 disciplines and its goal is to investigate processes of Gestaltung in the sciences and humanities. For the first time, two disciplines associated with Gestaltung – architecture and design – are included in pure research alongside the humanities, natural sciences and technology. The Interdisciplinary Laboratory thus combines disciplines that had previously not converged, or only rarely. Such experimental interdisciplinarity must first try out its own functionality, find common objectives, establish communication channels and make divergences productive. The aim is to forge those innovative approaches and arrive at those new perspectives that emerge only through dialogue between the disciplines.
Furthermore, the Interdisciplinary Laboratory sets out to explore this particular form of extended interdisciplinary collaboration in itself. The underlying empirical task seeks to investigate, test, analyze and experiment with the functionality and forms of interdisciplinarity. The resulting areas of work are many, since there is a decidedly wide variety of interdisciplinary structure – which naturally leads to multiple perspectives and methodical approaches. Such experimental constellations of projects and knowledge represent special challenges in relation to their structural compilation, multi-perspective description and analysis in the form of meta-research to accompany a project. This is the central interest of the authors of this publication, who as members of the Interdisciplinary Laboratory are working both within, and on, the laboratory. The aim of the research is to arrive at an overarching theory and a general understanding of the forms of interdisciplinarity.
To this end, the team of authors has developed the ID+Model The model lays down important elements and categories for describing and recording interdisciplinary collaboration. It defines how these may be used to elaborate specific interdisciplinary situations. The ID+Model is used to produce concrete diagrams, which are applicable in the analysis of detailed interdisciplinary constellations and processes. In this sense, the ID+Model should be understood as an instrument of analysis that provides a defined system of recording and describing situations, and thereby allows for investigation, comparison, observation and communication of these situations. The resulting formalized description has a dedicated focus on elements that are particularly relevant to interdisciplinarity. The model can also be used for simulating and drafting interdisciplinary collaboration, whereby it becomes an instrument of Gestaltung.
The need for the ID+Model arises from the fact that the observable modes of operation of diverse projects in the Interdisciplinary Laboratory are widely disparate, and cannot moreover be reduced to the participating disciplines. If interdisciplinarity is to be more than the sum of its constituent disciplines, then a knowledge and understanding of all relevant elements are essential for its success.
Beyond these specific aims, the ID+Model also aims to make a contribution to the current Open Science debate. It is the conviction of the authors that researchers in particular should reveal not only the results of research but also, and in equal measure, the processes that gave rise to them. The elements that go into the creation of knowledge are responsible to a great extent for the form or design of results and, as such, they are important aspects of results. An account of the processes and circumstances under which knowledge was gained allows other researchers to evaluate, replicate, quality-check and place different interpretations on results in a completely new way. Above all it allows them to learn new approaches. Better academic work is, in this sense, more transparent academic work in respect of the actual methods involved. In many places today, stronger requirements are being stipulated for complete openness about the algorithms and raw data that underlie published results; in like manner, the conditions under which results are produced should be accessible. The ID+Model affords the ability to model work conditions relatively easily and to make important aspects of a research project visible and available. There are benefits both for the authors, in the form of increased visibility and for the academic system as a whole, which, especially in interdisciplinary research, still has to contend with far too many unknown elements.
The ID+ prefix is an acronym, whereby ID stands for both InterDisciplinarity and IDentity. The plus sign suggests an empty space and what might follow; something that cannot be expressed through the logic of the disciplines alone, but which is an important determinant of research actors' identities.
To arrive at an understanding in an objective way as possible, this study will use a descriptive approach that exemplifies, formalizes, models and explains an actual process that has been observed. The period of modelling is one year, during which time all the main observations are continually documented in the form of situation descriptions. The study serves two functions. First, the methods used can be illustrated and assessed for value; second, the main elements of interdisciplinary collaboration are rendered recognizable and analyzable.
Following an actor-oriented approach, all all these elements are understood as actors and given capital letters to highlight their agency: actors are in this sense not only human actors such as Persons, but also non-human actors such as Methods and Tools used, the Topics under discussion, the Tasks awaiting processing, the Places, Events and Organizations of collaboration, the received and self-generated Sources and the Monies and Times available. Actors possess their own agency and relations to other actors. They gather as clusters of actors, and may disperse again.
The ID+Model is oriented toward network-topological structures. It specifies actor categories and makes their relations and interactions transparent. These structures can be represented in, or constructed as, diagrams. Interaction and changes in structure are of course essential: it is through them that aspects of modelling such as functional failure, obstacles and influences from otherwise invisible background actors are made plain. At the same time, one finds that in modelling, certain patterns that diverge from typical assumptions about interdisciplinarity become empirically visible, revealing alternative ways of improving their formulation. Hence, from concrete observations, general assumptions can gradually be deduced about interdisciplinarity, or the specific forms of interdisciplinarity.
The following three-column structure emerges from the questions and goals: the left column of the model contains an explanation of the theory behind it, as well as a specification of actor classes. The contents are structured and compressed in such a way that when read as a whole they serve as an introduction to the theory; it is also possible to use them to look up methods. The middle column of the study contains the 27 relevant situations of an interdisciplinary collaboration in the form of chronologically arranged diagrams, accompanied by descriptions. The right column amalgamates theoretical analysis, contextualization and interpretation of the study as well as modelling.
The unusual format allows for interrelations between the three columns to be pointed out, especially those that have a non-linear and non-hierarchical bearing on each other. It also allows for sections of text or diagrams to be juxtaposed based on context, and thus to be rearranged dynamically according to the inclination of the reader. Finally, this format shows that all three columns have an equal weighting. The ID+Model should be seen as an overall picture whose parts have equal validity, and which can be approached from any side.
Thus, reading can begin according to the individual's preference, in any column or position; the reader can jump over to other parts when necessary. This enables a more individual, interactive use of the table whose format anticipates active reading strategies – which involve looking up references, 'jumping about', skimming, making notes and recombining. It is furthermore a better reflection of the process of producing text, with the potential for close relations and development involving each of the three columns. Of course, a linear reading and organization of text is still possible; it is simply no longer a requirement. On another level, the idea is to encourage interdisciplinary publications in particular to tread new paths – better suited to content and audience for instance, or experimental in nature – without the publication and discourse traditions peculiar to a discipline.
The ID+Model is intended for anyone planning interdisciplinary research or already engaged in it, as well as those wishing to expand, better understand or actively improve interdisciplinary research. People who have already worked in interdisciplinary constellations will know of the enormous difficulties and delays that can arise if projects are inadequately structured. This involves many actors that were not normally considered at the planning stage, were never before deemed relevant or that had to be added retrospectively. But, for the success of a project it is essential that these actors be understood, actively included and kept in view – particularly in non-stereotypical, innovative constellations. The ID+Model provides the tool, the theoretical foundation and the practical experience to make interdisciplinarity more understandable and plannable. In this regard, it is designed for project planners and managers, advisors and organization management; for designers, architects, sociologists, ethnologists and meta-researchers who wish to analyze work structures in innovation fields; but also for funding bodies, experts and appraisers of scientific policy who aim to foster more successful constellations, or improve existing ones.
The ID+Model has been constructed in a way that permits the production of diagrams using analogue and digital media. This allows the visual vocabulary to be simply set up on paper or a whiteboard, without additional equipment. For a still more effective use of the whiteboard, it is possible to produce visual symbols of actors as magnetic elements that can be placed at will on the whiteboard and connected by drawn lines. Digital alternatives are for example the Keynote or PowerPoint programs. Modelling can thus be incorporated in presentations such that a model can be elaborated in stages or through animation. Similarly, all vector-based graphic programs such as Adobe Illustrator or Inkscape are suited to the process. Visual modelling tools such as VUE (Visual Understanding Environment) can also be used. The topological definition or application of other means can also be achieved with the class or object diagrams of UML (Unified Modelling Language), which is supported by many programs. A purely logical representation can be achieved with ontology languages such as RDF, RDFS and OWL, which in turn form the starting point for various visualization environments.
Michael Dürfeld (Architecture) and Christian Stein (Germanistics, Information Technology) invented, developed the concept for and wrote "ID+ An Interdisciplinarity Model". Anika Schultz (Design) is responsible for the icons. Technical implementation was by Sammy David (Information Technology). Textual reference points were integrated in the HTML structure by Laura-Maria Heinz (Architecture). Horst Bredekamp (Image Studies) and Wolfgang Schäffner (Cultural Science) contributed important comments and corrections. The Excellence Cluster Image Knowledge Gestaltung, funded by DFG (the German Research Foundation) provided resources and thereby made the publication possible. The Image Knowledge Gestaltung project ID+Lab, which is located in the Excellence Cluster, adopted and further developed the ID+Model so that it could be used to generate the interdisciplinary publication platform ID+Stage as well as the modelling tool ID+App.