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From disciplines to common ground and actions: reflections on a transdisciplinary project in Kisumu, Kenya

Conference paper
Authors Helena Kraff
Eva Maria Jernsand
Published in Design with the other 90%: Cumulus Johannesburg Conference Proceedings.
ISBN 978-0-620-60373-7
Publisher Greenside Design Center and the University of Johannesburg
Publication year 2014
Published at School of Design and Crafts
Department of Business Administration, Marketing Group
Centre for Tourism
Mistra Urban Futures
Language en
Keywords Transdisciplinarity, knowledge integration, participatory design
Subject categories Design


Scholars have acknowledged that research staying within its own discipline tends to only investigate one level of reality, which hinders our understanding of the world we live in, and fails to address contemporary social issues. The concept of transdisciplinarity has emerged as an alternative approach that enables researchers to go beyond their discipline, reaching knowledge that risk to otherwise get lost in the gaps between fields and between academia and practice. The importance of working transdisciplinary is frequently mentioned in design, especially when dealing with participatory design and sustainable social advancement in developing countries. However, although seen as important, collaboration between disciplines is often only noted in passing. Other fields are acknowledged primarily by a definition of their discipline, or referred to as non-designers. Also, designers seem to mainly carry out the discussion in a design context, from a design perspective.This is relevant in order to evolve the disciplinary knowledge, however other fields tackle the same issues as designers, often in the same context. Transdisciplinary research also includes practitioners and the society. The involvement of these stakeholders is seen to be the core of participatory design, however there are few studies that incorporate their perceptions of the process. The paper aims to explore how it is possible to work with the challenge of moving beyond disciplinary boundaries in order to reach knowledge integration in transdisciplinary projects. This is done through a reflection on an ecotourism development project in Dunga Beach, Kisumu, Kenya, where the authors’ research areas of design and marketing and the collaboration with local stakeholders enabled the project to be set in the borderland between fields, as well as between research and practice. The findings indicate a need for support structures that allow stakeholders to find a common ground, and for focus to be placed on actions rather than disciplines.

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