Natural Group Conversation (NGC) strengthens Community and Produces Richer Data for Science Research

Based on documentary filmmaking and community outreach methods, NGC employs a family of methods that enable us to document indigenous and endangered language and culture as they are actually lived. This provides more accurate linguistic data, gives form and access to the cultural, historic, and scientific knowledge that the language encodes, and raises community awareness and motivation.

In Mixe-speaking Totontepec, Oaxaca, Mexico our NGC filming helped University of California Davis plant scientists understand better how farmer, soil, and gene interactions place the local corn among the most nutritious in the world. In public feedback forums using NGC videos, community members engaged with linguist Daniel Suslak and geneticist Pablo Zamora to understand and address environmental threats to their corn.

Transcribed and subtitled NGC videos from Speaking Place are being used for language learning both in the classroom and online at the Passamaquoddy-Maliseet Language Portal ( Today there are over 100 NGC videos on the Passamaquoddy Portal and 40 on the Ayöök Portal ( The portal technology is the architecture for community encyclopedias that become the home for critical community education documents searchably linked together to make community knowledge more accessible and usable.

NGC is also the starting place for our feedback process awareness building technique, which has inspired language advocates to develop language revival efforts in the two Passamaquoddy Communities. Natural Group Conversation and Activity documentation has great potential for expanding linguistics research, developing educational resources for a new generation, as well as forging stronger collaborations with communities that support community education agendas for social and environmental betterment.