By Mareike Smolka, Erik Fisher and Alexandra Hausstein
Have you ever had a fleeting impression of seeing certainty disrupted, the impulse to laugh when your expectations were broken, or a startling sense of something being both familiar and foreign at the same time?
As social scientists engaged in collaborative studies with natural scientists and engineers, we have had these experiences repeatedly while doing research. Whenever we recognized that our social science paradigm was confronted with a different approach to knowing the world, unsettling experiences of difference emerged, which we later analyzed as moments of disconcertment.
In a comparative analysis of the affective substrates of interdisciplinary collaboration (Smolka et al., 2020), we found that attending to disconcertment facilitated collaborative knowledge production. By affective substrates we mean emotional and other bodily feelings that occur during interdisciplinary collaborations.