Monday, October 20, 2008

Interdisciplinarity in terms of Film

Katy Barnard

In the packet “Interdisciplinarity: Essays from the Literature,” edited by William Newell, I found that even the authors or supposed ‘interdisciplinarians’ didn’t know how to describe interdisciplinary studies. Each person seemed to have a different explanation for how they went about doing something. One of my favorite definitions of interdisciplinarity was by Bryan Turner, he said that “interdisciplinarity aims in principle at academic fusion… it seeks a reorganization and integration of disciplines.” A few more important pieces that I found in the reading were when Newell talks about the nature of interdisciplinary integration. First he asks about what changes, does the integration change the contributions of disciplines or do the disciplines themselves change? I found myself answering that in my case the integration changes the contributions of the disciplines that I am studying. Second, he asks if interdisciplinary integration must lead to a solution or if it can lead to a mere appreciation of the complexity of the problems. To that question I thought definitely the later part because I’m not looking for strict answers, I want to appreciate film as an art and learn how to make my own art through film.

One of the most helpful things about the reading was stating the difference between multidisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity. Multidisciplinarity is described as the absence of any deliberate form of integration of disciplines and transdisciplinarity is more of a mix of disciplines. At first I didn’t really get these definitions until Newell mentioned the idea of the “metaperspective” and the fruit basket concept.

I think the closest match to what I am studying is transdicsiplinarity. I say this because transdicsiplinarity was defined as “seeking integration so comprehensive and fundamental that the contributing disciplines are subsumed under or replaced by a kind of superdiscipline...” I thought this was closest to my area of study because I am a film studies major and I will take classes from the English department, the Theater department, and the Curriculum and Instruction department. Though these three departments seem to have nothing in common, they actually have the perfect mix of information for me to study film. The English department offers film history and screenwriting classes, the Curriculum and Instruction department offers hands on production classes, and the Theater department offers technical theater classes that help with blocking and setting scenes. My main concentration is the technical aspect of film, but I need to understand film history and screenwriting to be able to put forth my ideas. In the sense of the interdisciplinary fruit basket, I am taking my fruit and mixing them together while adding other ingredients to bake into a pie or something that requires them to be fully mixed to produce something different from what each was alone.

In the vision statement for the Interdisciplinary Studies department it mentions that knowledges are disconnected by several barriers and that the objective is to bring the knowledges into appropriate and transforming relationships with each other. Some of the barriers include economic class, disciplinarity, collegiate structures, race, and gender. I definitely agree with collegiate structures being a barrier because Appalachian doesn’t have a specific film major, and that is what I am studying. Therefore I must pull from different disciplines to get to what I want. In the Carp and Wentworth Manuscript it talks about interdisciplinarity being a transdiscipline in that whoever teaches it seeks a view of the world as complex but inextricably interrelated as a whole. But, individually whoever takes it on studies a particular interstice of knowledges while leaving loose ends behind. Through studying the different disciplines the loose ends eventually come back and end up being attached to other aspects of other disciplines. For example in the film history classes that I take we talk about different angles and shots that make certain scenes from films look more dramatic than others, but we don’t necessarily learn how create them. That’s where my hands on production classes come in. In those classes I learn how to set up certain shots then I learn how to edit and make it all seem real.

According to Armstrong I am led to believe that I am at the second level of integration because at the second level “the institution provides the opportunity for students to work together toward integration.” I know I am not the only one to come to Appalachian and study film, therefore I learn from what others do to see what might help me to achieve my goals. I could set up my plan and just go with whatever comes to me, but there are certain classes that I know would be more helpful to me than others. I know other students doing what I am doing too, so we work together in a way to figure out what is the best course of action for our specific fields.

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