The Language of Risk

Placement Details

Location: Flexible. Although we anticipate remote working, we would hope for some in-person visits and face to face meet-ups.


Duration: 3 months full time/ 6 months part time

Start Date: Flexible, to be decided between the student and the placement host

Deadline for Expressions of Interest: Friday 29 April

Placement Description:

The concept of risk has a long history. From the late 18th century, changes in governance and the rise of new technologies bought myriad new possibilities but led to a concomitant development of the notion of ‘risk’. Government, criminal justice, business and trade – all came under the sway of actuarial or risk-based decision making. We arguably live now in a ‘risk society’. But an overly cautious approach to risk stifles creativity as ‘risks only suggest what should not be done, not what should be done (Beck, 1996, p.141).

Risk and the language around risk has potential to be highly emotive. BT needs to optimise organisational agility and operational processes, whilst empowering employees.  To develop a greater understanding of the impact of language around risk on behaviours and attitudes within the workplace is therefore key. The placement will involve working with a Research Manager to better understand how individuals describe, work with and understand risk, and to develop a clearer appreciation of what appropriate language around risk could be within different organisational contexts.

The placement, into which the chosen candidate will have significant design input, will likely involve:


  • Exploratory interviews with individuals involved in risk and its management within BT.
  • Desk research into relevant academic work on the language of risk.
  • Consideration of insights from other industries or contexts.
  • Preparation of a report with an overview of how appropriate language around risk can better enable agency in employees and clarify responsibilities.


The placement has the potential to help develop an important framework for understanding the impact of language on attitudes and behaviours associated with risk (and its management) within the workplace.

Skills, knowledge or experience needed:

This placement is open to all Open-Oxford-Cambridge DTP students but may be of particular interest to students based in:

  • language and linguistics
  • history (particularly history of science/science of ideas)
  • philosophy
  • design 

You should have an interest in the concept of risk and/or in the ways in which language structures and delimits/empowers behaviours (particularly in institutional contexts).

To apply:

To express interest in this placement, please submit a CV, supporting statement, and a very brief summary of what attracted you to the project and some thoughts on how you may approach the work. Please send these documents to by Friday 29 April 2022.