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  A traditional means of data collection within geography, based on the assumption that reality is present in appearance (see empiricism) and can therefore be directly apprehended through observation (see realism). Its \'traditional\' status (which refers to its historic centrality within the discipline) is not unproblematic. Founded uncritically on the Enlightenment presupposition that seeing is believing, the idea of fieldwork betrays a bias towards the evidence of the eye (see vision and visuality). An implicit emphasis on exploration and discovery, and on the taming of raw materials into ordered knowledge, has, moreover, earned it the label \'geographical masculinities in action\' (Rose, 1993; cf. masculinism; phallocentrism). Some feminist responses appear in a theme issue of The Professional Geographer (1994, vol. 46).

In quantitative human geography (see quantitative methods), fieldwork is largely about the implementation of sample questionnaire surveys of people\'s attributes, attitudes, actions, aspirations and motivations (cf. survey analysis). Such surveys may be conducted in person or by post, and depend for success on a relatively high response rate from a random sample of households (see sampling). This quantitative approach regards social data as analogous to the raw material of much of natural science: something which is discrete and stable and exists independently of the analyst, and which therefore yields findings which could be replicated and verified by others. Such fieldwork is part of the practical project of empirical-analytical science, and is generally used to establish cause and effect relationships in order to predict and control the future.

There is, however, an alternative view of fieldwork, associated with the advent of humanistic geography and with the discovery of meaning. This philosophy requires an approach more akin to the case study methods of anthropology than to the statistical generalizations of positivistic social science (cf. logical positivism; positivism). Within this tradition, fieldwork is preoccupied with the project of understanding and communication rather than with the goal of prediction and intervention. Some researchers aim to achieve this depth of understanding by empathizing with their subjects and acquiring knowledge through immersion (for example Crang, 1994), while others prefer to conceptualize fieldwork as a dialogue driven forward precisely because shared understanding cannot be reached (see Folch-Serra, 1990). Either way, these encounter-based approaches to fieldwork are now raising important questions about the politics of representation (Kobayashi, 1994) and the aims of engagement (Katz, 1994).

However achieved, the generalizations arising from qualitative fieldwork are not of a statistical nature, and the validity of the approach does not hinge on the randomness or typicality of the cases selected for study. Such research often takes the form of participant observation, written up in the form of ethnographic description (see ethnography), although it may also include in-depth individual or group interviewing. These qualitative methods all locate social scientists within, rather than apart from, the social world, and acknowledge that \'reality\' is constructed — not uncovered — through the search process. (SJS)

References Crang, P. 1994: It\'s showtime: on the workplace geographies of display in a restaurant in southeast England. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 12: 675-704. Folch-Serra, M. 1990: Place, voice, space: Mikhail Bakhtin\'s dialogical landscape. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 8: 255-74. Katz, C. 1994: Playing the field: questions of fieldwork in geography. The Professional Geographer 46: 67-72. Kobayashi, A. 1994: Coloring the field: gender, \'race\' and the politics of fieldwork. The Professional Geographer 46: 73-80. Rose, G. 1993: Feminism and geography. Cambridge: Polity Press.



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Other Terms : heterotopia | place utility | turf politics
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