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New interdisciplinary approaches

by Dominik Hartmann

In brief

The $ 100 laptop  was developed at the MIT Media Lab.

The $ 100 laptop was developed at the MIT Media Lab.

Researchers at the MIT Media Lab are developing a variety of practical technologies that facilitate productive interaction between people and computers. The result is a growth of knowledge, options and skills. The Lab boasts achievements like the $ 100 laptop and learning and programming software for children. For instance, the Scratch project allows children to programme their own computer games, that include animation and the possibility to share the codes and results with other children around the world.

The most important factor for success is a non-disciplinary and application-oriented philosophy for teaching and research. Computer scientists, designers, natural scientists and social scientists from various countries and age groups cooperate closely. They develop learning technologies, advance digital solutions to problems that relate to health, urban development or music research. They even build robots to assist human beings.

The STEPS initiative at the University of Sussex also makes inspiring work. It is developing interdisciplinary approaches in order to grasp the complexity of environmentally sustainable development. The STEPS methodology uses different perspectives and techniques to identify innovations that are sustainable in ecological, economic and social terms. The STEPS Centre shares its insights with all interested parties.

An increasing number of students and researchers in the field of economics are looking for alternative pathways. They view the one-sided neoclassical and model-oriented curricula with great scepticism as they offer few explanations and solutions for current problems like the financial crisis, youth unemployment or economic inequality.

In recent years, a variety of new heterodox and interdisciplinary approaches have emerged that focus specifically on the complexity of national economies and draw on large volumes of data. One example is The Observatory of Economic Complexity. In addition, new practice-oriented economics textbooks are being developed, for instance at the Institute for New Economic Thinking at the Oxford Martin School.

References and link

Hartmann, D., Guevara, M., Jara-Figueroa, C., Aristarán, M., and Hidalgo, C. A., 2015: Linking economic complexity, institutions and income inequality.

International student initiative for pluralism in economics:

Institute for New Economic Thinking at the Oxford Martin School:

Scratch – an interactive programming software tool for kids:

STEPS – social, technological and environmental pathways to sustainability:

The Observatory of Economic Complexity:

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