Beyond Disciplinary Silos (2011) | Seungyon Claire Lee

Beyond Disciplinary Silos (2011)

Multidisciplinary Collaboration
Knowledge on blind spots: Knowing about what you know and what you DON’T KNOW.

When implementing intelligent expert systems that perform like human subject matter experts (SMEs), system engineers often meet common challenge: SMEs’ knowledge is unfamiliar to system engineers. This study explores detail aspects of the challenge by articulating what engineers have missed and should have known about SMEs during the development process.

Activities from two groups are compared:  how SMEs perform the job in the real world practice (Group 1); how system engineers acquired essential features on SMEs’ knowledge to embed to the system (Group 2).

The comparison is performed in the context where the system engineer implements intelligent document composition system through his method called probabilistic document model (PDM) with the help of graphic designers (Group 2). While the development process of Group2 is traced, the real document layout design process in the natural work setting is simulated by Group1 participants. The purpose of the comparison is to examine how successfully PDM algorithm echoes professional graphic designers’ knowledge in action.

The result revealed that Group 1 designers made the decision through planning, pagination, and evaluation. However, Group 2 designers’ activity was limited to pagination because their involvement was guided by engineers interpretation on SMEs knowledge. Among 24 design heuristics demonstrated by Group 1 designers, 37.5% were supported by PDM. Some simple heuristics (33.33%) were not included in PDM because engineers did not perceive such heuristics, while other sophisticated heuristics (29.17%) were not implemented due to the difficulty to transfer abstract design concept to explicit code. The loss of such heuristics implies the high cost of communication barrier that engineers need to hurdle in the development of intelligent system.


Interview, simulation, observation

Related Publication

When Engineers from Mars Meet Designers from Venus: Metacognition in Multidisciplinary Practice, Lee, S.C., Damera-Venkata, N., Liu, J. and Lin, Q., Technical report, HLP-2011-202.


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