But both the multidisciplinary and the transdisciplinary models make clear that there is a continuing need to maintain the integrity of the traditional disciplines, both in the arts and in the sciences. Without a disciplinary frame, the richness of disciplinary practices, methodologies, and concepts can become lost, leaving an oversimplified cross-disciplinary knowledge domain. This danger exists when any practice is digitized in the absence of an appropriate model, as for example in arts education when young people have become wedded to the prescripted options of packaged applications and are only capable of creating PhotoShop art. What Paul David and his co-authors fear would become “cut-price research motels” in scientific research55 corresponds closely to the degeneration of artistic quality that is possible where electronic art forms (or media art or the modish “new media”) have been cut loose from their deep connections to older and richer art practices.

Finally, it should be noted that the transient, loose coupling of transdisciplinary creativity runs an ever-present risk of premature bureaucratization.56 A single successful outcome is a necessary but by no means sufficient reason to continue cross-disciplinary work in the same vein. In some cases, the outcome of a rich experimental device is best evaluated and further developed in the separate but transformed disciplines that contributed to it. In other cases, however, the committee has found persuasive evidence of the need for the sustained bridging of disciplines, involving the development of both individual practices and a community of researchers in the cross-disciplinary area with correspondingly innovative institutional structures (and these are discussed in Chapter 5).


David et al., 1999, “The Research Network and the New Economics of Science,” p. 334.


As one reviewer notes, there is much to learn from history. See Carolyn Marvin, 1998, When Old Technologies Were New, Oxford University Press; Brian Winston, 1998, Media Technology and Society, Routledge, London; and Paul N. Edwards, 1996, The Closed World: Computers and the Politics of Discourse in Cold War America, MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass. But much of ITCP history is undocumented or otherwise not very accessible, and therefore, it is unteachable in an organized way. As a result, practitioners are unaware of precedents and relevant prior research, and they constantly reinvent the wheel.

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