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Timothy McGettigan

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Field Research for Boneheads: From Naïveté to Insight on the Green Tortoise
by Timothy McGettigan   
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Last edited: Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Posted: Wednesday, February 25, 2009

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In the following story, I catalogue a variety of difficulties that I encountered while conducting field research on the Green Tortoise. Oddly enough, the greatest impediments to the early success of this project were my poorly examined orienting assumptions. Nevertheless, the distortions imposed by my flawed assumptions were effectively sundered by an uncomfortable, but invaluable “corrective” crisis.

            In this paper, I describe a field research project on the Green Tortoise, a neo-hippie adventure travel company. My initial orientation to the Green Tortoise was rooted in an uncritical acceptance of standard research practices. However, an unanticipated emergency altered my perspective profoundly. During a crossing of the Rio Grande, a male Tortoise passenger allegedly pitched a Mexican rowboat operator and a female passenger, Amanda[1], into the river. Although the boat operator made it to shore, Amanda disappeared downstream. I dove into the river to render assistance, but in doing so lost my glasses. Thus, my optical vision became blurred for the balance of the journey. However, my jump into the river also clarified my perspective.

In choosing to intervene as a “real” participant, I transgressed a number of barriers (Wichroski, 1996) that I had erected for the purposes of doing “good science” (Dahl, 1957; Denzin, 1994; McGettigan, 1998a). Ironically, by unintentionally contravening the boundaries that I had assumed would preserve the validity of my research, my uncorrected vision generated redefined (McGettigan, 1998a, 1999a) insights of utmost lucidity.

[1] All personal names have been substituted with pseudonyms.


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