Let them do it their own way (ethnomethodology)

Garfinkel Charlie passed me an obituary notice today for Harold Garfinkel father of ethnomethodology. It remains a source of quiet satisfaction that Spring research is the kind of place where this sort of news gets dropped on your desk. 

Harold Garfinkel pushed the revolutionary agenda that if you want to study human behaviour then you would do best to organise your observations around everyday understandings which make sense to those people doing things and observing other people doing things. Professionals don't like this because research subjects are neither consistent or accurate in their observations. Wouldn't it be better to create a structural framework to embed observations in to give some kind of objectivity.

Professionals are always more comfortable privileging their own perspectives and modes of organisation over the perspectives of those they are studying. Full credit to Garfinkel for challenging this.  He often use disruption to challenge and reframe very ordinary situations. And was intrigued how small changes in behaviour could result in huge outbursts of irritation as an order which was taken for granted suddenly disappeared.  So much of our behaviour is automated that when the routine is changed or challenged we become first confused then angry. Raising the question Why so upset over a trivial change?

Professionals need to be challenged – we have worked hard in the office here to challenge our profession centred methodologies to see how often we can privilege a customer perspective. It matters. Because that's where the good stuff is.

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