Media Ecology and Blogging Part 3
by Adam Robbert
Journals are able to maintain strict disciplinary boundaries and tend only to be read by specialists in a particular field. With blogging it is different. The philosopher writes a blog post and suddenly the artist, comedian, ethnographer, geographer, mathematician, businessperson, activist, housewife, linguist, rhetorician, computer programmer, etc., speaks up. You are no longer addressed to others that have undergone the same process of academic subjectivization as you, but now are forced to encounter a variety of different forms of thought, knowledge-production, and life. This significantly diminishes the narcissistic pretensions that any and every discipline harbors with respect to itself. Boundaries are blurred and something new tends to emerge.
Since even before I was a grad student I was very interested in transdisciplinary research projects, and have long felt that academic specialization had reached its peak and had entered a deficient phase that was stifling the kind of knowledge production that a politically globalized, economically networked and ecologically endangered planetary society requires. Transdisciplinary research differs from inter or multidisciplinary research in that it seeks to blur distinctions between research projects more thoroughly, engaging research questions at meta-paradigmatic scales.
As such, transdisciplinary research raises a variety of epistemological problems about the nature of human perception vis-a-vis worldviews and their accompanying research models. Thomas Kuhn did to scientific research programs what Freud and the gestalt psychologists of the 20th century did to the human psyche. Kuhn destabilized our sense of control in perceiving a truly “objective” image of an independent and unified world that existed “out there.” Transdisciplinary research is a late response to the coming to consciousness of the role paradigms play in even basic aspects of human perception.
And yet, transdisciplinary research alone does not seem up to the task of matching the incredible amount of diverse specialization happening at the upper levels of the academy (I am not against specialization by the way, but it does need a counterpart through a more integrative model of knowledge production). Perhaps what we need then is not just a new approach to organizing knowledge in the academy but rather a whole new medium of communication.
In short the response to academic specialization that fragments and distorts a more gestalt image of any given situation (and often requires the tyranny of one program over another) lies not only in integrative research, but in the construction of a whole new ecological environment where interactions can occur on dimensions not possible in print. Thus we are dealing with an emergent ecological context that is public, democratic and, just by nature of the medium, breaks down the esotericism of late 20th century disciplinary specialization.
In the end I think this is what blogging will come to (at least for the academically oriented). Its not there yet but I think blogging is so new that (as Harman also pointed out), like an ecosystem far from its climax state, the media ecology developing online still needs to pass through several successive phases of disorder and re-organization before it can enter a phase of “normalcy.” In this regard knowledge and media ecologies seem to operate in ways similar to Kuhn’s understanding of the difference between “normal” and “extraordinary” science (I prefer the newer term “postnormal“).
We are in a postnormal phase with regards to the development of new media ecologies and the results are, at this point, open ended.