I was introduced to this research method by Jamie Murdoch, Research Fellow, at the University of East Anglia (UEA).
The term sounds rather intimidating so let me say more about it as it will help some readers interested in research and ‘safe experimenting’
The term ‘linguistic ethnography’ is an umbrella term for specific approaches to research. Scholars combine linguistic and ethnographic research traditions to our understanding of the impact of our social world on us. It does not take for granted our ways of communicating on our everyday world (our ‘social context’, as it is labelled). Take a look at:
……. for more details.
There is a connection here with the information I have provided about Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). I’m no great philosopher, but ACT authors have described their approach as based on the philosophy of science called functional contextualism. Put simply, this means focusing on things that work and the context in which they are working. You are likely to be less effective – and invite more small defeats – unless you design your safe experiments paying close attention to the context in which you are living your life.
As I see it, the research into therapy undertaken by Charles Truax and Robert Carkhuff, as well as later work on Neuro-linguistic programming, undertaken by Richard Bandler and John Grinder, emerged to some degree from this way of examining what goes on in our world.
The relevance of linguistic ethnography to ‘safe experiments’ is that this research method serves to help us notice the social context within which we operate – just enough to see what changes might be made and how we might go about designing a suitable experiment.
You cannot do a safe experiment unless you want to do something different and, to notice what might be done differently, we need to notice the everyday impact on us of the world in which we are existing.
So, in practice, pay attention to the language you and others use and notice what impact language has on your understanding. Just as important, return to the Road Map safe experiment in How to Give Yourself a Nudge and notice how change is made difficult by our wider world.
Notice how others around us make it more or less easy to create change or even ‘allow’ us to become aware that change is feasible. Schools and colleges are intended to educate us; have you noticed how, sometimes, those institutions contain and reduce or ability to be different. It is precisely those ‘social contexts’ that may need disrupting before you can initiate a safe experiment effectively.
Do you remember the experiment about messages from our parents and grandparents? Most messages sent to us were meant to be well-meaning (sadly, not all). Go back to your records and notice the unintended consequences arising from some of the messages we received.