Scholarly inquiry about the nature and significance of knowledge has been shaped by disciplinary traditions and priorities that define “knowledge” differently and result in disconnected literatures. In the mid to late twentieth century, library science educator Jesse Shera sought to bridge the conceptual gap between epistemological and sociological approaches to knowledge in proposing a new discipline he called social epistemology. Around the same time, long-term projects by the economist Fritz Machlup and the physical chemist turned philosopher of science Michael Polanyi did not merely combine existing disciplinary approaches but transcended conventional frameworks for conceptualizing knowledge. These scholars can be viewed in retrospect as bringing to the study of knowledge the germs of a transdisciplinary approach. The concept of transdisciplinarity gained traction only after these authors produced their works and has been applied mainly to scientific and technological topics such as climate change, nanotechnology, and sustainability. However, such an approach is highly applicable in studying the meanings, uses, and roles of knowledge in an environment that has changed with the advent of computer-enabled communication networks. Transdisciplinary accounts of knowledge ought to foster a dialogue between liberal arts and applied, client-oriented disciplines.
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