Searching for the Moon

Shannon Clark's rambles and conversations on food, geeks, San Francisco and occasionally economics

apophenia: identity crisis: the curse/joy of being interdisciplinary and the future of academia

Posted by shannonclark on May 13, 2005

apophenia: identity crisis: the curse/joy of being interdisciplinary and the future of academia

I made a long comment to Danah’s post:


I’m outside of academia but have just finished running MeshForum ( a conference on Networks where we made a lot of effort to bring together a truly wide range of academics, business people and government experts around multiple aspects of and views on Networks.

From this a few thoughts – I would argue that the growing study of and understanding of networks which has blossomed in the past 5 years represents a truly interdisciplinary and important development. Social scientists, physicists, economists, and dozens of other fields finding a common language and means of collaborating together to address very real and important problems.

At MeshForum we had a number of people who’s careers illustate real work across disciplines:

– Dr. Anna Nagurney of U. Mass – Amherst. Dr. Nagurney is an economist but has professorships in both the school of management and the school of engineering. She has published and/or edited 8 books on Networks – including works specifically on transportation networks and Network Economics. Her talk at MeshForum brought together work from operational engineering, transportation, economics, and many other fields.

– Dr. Noshir Contracter, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Dr. Contractor is in the school of communications, but his research interests and works (over 250 papers and books) have been with researchers from many other fields.

– Dr. Eivind Almaas, University of Notre Dame. Dr. Almaas is a physicist but his research at Notre Dame in Dr. Albert-Lazlow Barabasi’s lab is on biological networks. Dr. Barabasi’s work (see his book Linked) includes studies of computer networks, social networks, and physical networks.

Just a few examples from speakers we had – our other speakers are also great examples.

My own interes (well one of them) is in studying economics through a lens of networks. To do this, I am learning as much as I can about networks in every context – social, physical, biological, technical etc. I expect to adapt techniques from many fields to address the issues I’m studying.

Hope this helps,



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