Designing knowledge: An interdisciplinary experiment in research ...

Apr 7, 2006 - I have given this product a name: the “Blackwell-Leach Process” for ... developed, leading to the idea of an interdisciplinary design workshop as an adventure in social science ... fieldwork, followed by the development of new software ... the “knowledge tools” created by the company's software developers.
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Technical Report

UCAM-CL-TR-664 ISSN 1476-2986

Number 664

Computer Laboratory

Designing knowledge: An interdisciplinary experiment in research infrastructure for shared description Alan F. Blackwell

April 2006

15 JJ Thomson Avenue Cambridge CB3 0FD United Kingdom phone +44 1223 763500 http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/

c 2006 Alan F. Blackwell

Technical reports published by the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory are freely available via the Internet: http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/TechReports/ ISSN 1476-2986

Designing knowledge: An interdisciplinary experiment in research infrastructure for shared description

Alan Blackwell Crucible Network for Research in Interdisciplinary Design University of Cambridge

Preface This report brings together two halves of a long-term project, carried out through 2004 and 2005. Each half has been presented and distributed privately, but not previously published. A single publication based on this work may be produced at some time in the future. However there is sufficient demand for access that I have prepared this version simply by placing the two halves together, with this preface and a brief postscript summarising experience since the second half was written in August 2005. The report presents the experimental development, evaluation and refinement of a method for doing adventurous design work, in contexts where academics must work in collaboration with corporate and public policy strategists and researchers. The intention has been to do applied social science, in which a reflective research process has resulted in a “new social form”, as expressed in the title of the research grant that funded the project. The objective in doing so is not simply to produce new theories, or to enjoy interdisciplinary encounters (although both of those have been side effects of this work). My purpose in doing the work and writing this report is purely instrumental – working as a technologist among social scientists, the outcome described in this report is intended for adoption as a kind of social technology. I have given this product a name: the “Blackwell-Leach Process” for interdisciplinary design. The Blackwell-Leach process has since been applied and proven useful in several novel situations, and I believe is now sufficiently mature to justify publication of the reports that describe both the process and its development. I would like to thank James Leach for his collaboration in this project, Marilyn Strathern for her initial welcome, patience and encouragement, and my colleagues in the Crucible network for helping to develop these ideas. I am grateful to the ESRC for funding the project Social Property and New Social Forms, and to the other co-investigators, research assistants, and workshop participants who have participated in the project (many of whom are mentioned in the body of this report). Alan Blackwell 7 April 2006

Designing Knowledge

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Designing knowledge: An interdisciplinary approach to creating tools for shared description (Part I) Report on IDW2 – an Interdisciplinary Design Workshop at Girton College, as a component of the Social Property and New Social Forms seminar

Alan Blackwell Crucible Network for Research in Interdisciplinary Design University of Cambridge, June 2004

Interdisciplinarity is widely recognised as a good thing for academics and for technology research. Funding bodies give additional credit for interdisciplinarity when assessing research funding proposals, academic promotion panels give special recognition to interdisciplinary effort, and many academics take pride in advertising their work as interdisciplinary. This report describes an event within the Social Property and New Social Forms seminar, a year-long experiment in interdisciplinarity being conducted at the University of Cambridge1. The overall project consists of four colloquia on themes relating to knowledge, de