HCTP Annual Interdisciplinary Workshop – Thoughts from Day 2

Before I get into some of my thoughts on the issues and ideas presented during the second and final day of the workshop, I had a few additional thoughts based on yesterday’s posting.

The first thought, and perhaps most interesting to me, is about ehealth (my apologies for using the term “ehealth” as if it were an object). Can we describe ehealth as a “convergence” of disciplines, or is it better described as a launching point for newly “emergent” types of research. In the first metaphor, I would liken ehealth to a central train station or marketplace where people of different interests and backgrounds come together in a central spot. I suppose in one extreme example, the human body could be another example – we have disparate systems that more or less work independently, but have inter-dependent, inter-related, and symbiotic relationships with the rest of the “system”. The second example of a divergence point would be something akin to a prism breaking up white light into the rainbow. “White” light seemingly becomes a spectrum of colours. I know that this second metaphor isn’t a very good one – perhaps something like a petri dish would be better. Regardless, I think it’s interesting to think about ehealth and what the ramifications are – are we converging, diverging, or doing both (i.e., converging only to ultimately diverge)?

My second thought relates to the idea of using hospitals as metaphors for other industries or institutions. I awoke this morning and realized that the Christian religion, through the teachings of Jesus, use medical metaphors (and by logical extension, hospitals) to describe its members and institutions. I suppose in some sense, a hospital metaphor could be used to describe a church. I never really made this metaphorical connection (at least consciously), but I am finding the modern hospital’s organizational structure to be very interesting – something that I think modern churches could (and should) study. I find that the separation between the management/administrative and medical/clinical functions are separated. I argue that these two functions should remain separated as the skills required to do either successfully are not necessarily compatible – besides, it isn’t logical to assume that highly proficient and successful physicians would necessarily be good managers. In this way, I argue that churches (and religions in general) should begin to nurture and recruit professional managers to operate the managerial and administrative functions of institutions, much like hospitals are beginning to do.

Okay, enough about metaphors and onto today’s presentations.

Morning Session: Technologies & translations: Sustaining interdisciplinarity

The Artist-in-residence program, National Research Council & Canada Council for the Arts (Andrew Woodsworth)Prototyping the future in the information age (Brian Cantwell-Smith)

Andrew Woodsworth shared about the “artist in residence program”, which is a program to have artist work collaboratively with other scientists to help in non-traditional ways. Some work by one of the artists was presented. I found the work that was presented to be absolutely stimulating. I can’t really articulate it, but I think the effect was felt. Basically, the thrust of the program is to help examine new ways of approaching problems and to try and be creative about conceptualizing issues.

Brian Cantwell-Smith shared a well-thought out, brilliantly articulated presentation on inter/cross/multi/trans-disciplinary research. I now call inter/trans/multi/cross-disciplinary research as “-“research. Actually, he presented a great number of different ideas. Should -disciplinary research move toward “disciplinizing”? How are intrinsically -disciplinary problems addressed? He made an assertion that methods of inquiry are now moving “beyond disciplinarity”. What I found absolutely delightful was how he described -disciplinary research: multi-culturalism in the intellectual realm.

Both of the these presentations had considerable resonance with me, as to me, I felt as if my lived experiences of being trained as a multi-disciplinary researcher were validated in some way. I would perhaps go even further to suggest that the challenges that are being faced by those in this research space must address issues of “self-identity” – who are we as researchers? There were concerns from students and junior faculty members wondering how to promote oneself or how to find “home” departments.

Breakout Session 1: Epistemological considerations: Publications about HCTP interdisciplinary research

We were supposed to discuss publication issues, but it turned out to be a continuation of the morning session. What I found was that my particular experiences haven’t been shared by others. In fact, my overwhelmingly positive experiences with -disciplinary training and research makes me even more appreciative of all the mentors and teachers that I have ever had. There was some peripheral discussion about the possibility of creating a new journal for HCTP.

Afternoon Session: Technologies@work: Knowledge & complexity in health care

Health care technology for humans (Kim Vicente)

Kim Vicente shared some of his work and thinking on human factors issues in technology design. I found the presentation to be very stimulating, particularly in his conceptualization of systems (i.e., an organization) as a “technology” that needs to be designed and understood a multiple levels.

Breakout Session 2: Health technologies @ work – brainstorming new HCTP research

We really didn’t brainstorm much in this session. Perhaps it was because it was the final session and that people were a bit mentally drained from the stimulation over the past two days.

Closing thoughts

Overall, I had a wonderful time. Not sure if I “learned” very much in terms of knowledge uptake, but it was very refreshing to be in a closed environment with like-minded people interested in “-disciplinary” research. I met several new people with very interesting research topics examining a plethora of topics. Hopefully I’ll be able to nurture these encounters into something more productive. In any case, it was very encouraging. I’ll probably write some more in the days to come as I’m able to process all of the things that I experienced.

Okay – time to focus on my thesis…