Roundtable 2B | Star Trek as Interdisciplinary Practice

Star Trek as Interdisciplinary Practice; or, How to Put the ‘A’ and an Additional ‘M’ in STE(A)M(M)
Elizabeth Baird Hardy (Mayland Community College)
John N.A. Brown (UX researcher in Silicon Valley)
Amy C. Chambers (Manchester Metropolitan University)
Lukas Esterle (Aarhus University)
Stefan Rabitsch (University of Graz/University of Warsaw)


When the first incarnation of Star Trek aired over fifty years ago, it stood out from other contemporary US-American popular culture in several important ways. Its internationalism is often discussed, as is the groundbreaking presence of an African woman in both a command position and the core cast. But these people, the best and brightest of a distant future, were all specialists by rank and generalists by inclination with knowledge across every technical field and beyond. There is the navigator who practices botany and fencing, the captain who quotes John Masefield and John Milton, the logical science officer who plays music in the common spaces just in case anyone needs to spontaneously compose a song making fun of his inhibitions. What is more, Star Trek not only imagines future technologies, but also their cultural and societal impact in a sociotechnical imaginary where in advances in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine (STEMM) do not automatically result in a postapocalyptic dystopia not least because the humanities are viewed as an indispensable, interdisciplinary adhesive. This productive mix of what in contemporary academic discourse might be labeled different ‘disciplines’, along with a large dose of idealized humanism, has since become the hallmark of every iteration of Star Trek.
This roundtable is modeled after the paradigmatic meeting of senior officers and various specialists aboard Starfleet ships. We will explicate and explore how educators, researchers, and professionals can utilize Star Trek’s science- and humanities-positive world to facilitate the understanding of novel concepts, technologies, and ideas while also fostering genuine interdisciplinary collaboration. To this end, our roundtable has assembled an interdisciplinary away team (sans red shirts) which consists of humanities scholars, hard scientists and engineers, educators, and practitioners all of whom have successfully deployed Star Trek as interdisciplinary practice in different settings.