This chapter describes the research methods I used to source and gather data about Neville’s life work, and the processes I used in making coherent sense out of the diversity. The Chapter commences with how issues concerning being an insider looking in were resolved. My data collecting, using a combination of interviewing, archival research, on site visits and immersion in prolonged action research in enabling and supporting social action, is discussed. My use of naturalistic enquiry is outlined and the Chapter concludes with a discussion of the processes I used for data analysis and the steps I took to ensure trustworthiness.
When I started this Thesis I sensed that I was an insider looking in. I had people’s trust. I had special insider knowledge that an outsider may never be given clearance to know. I had access. I had had a massive amount of access to Neville. I had a feel for what Neville and the Laceweb were all about. I knew a lot. For me, there was concern about my being potentially prejudiced, biased and selective in data gathering and analysis, even with the best will in the world. Any outsiders attempting to do this Research would also bring their biases and prejudgments to the task. An outsider may never find out about the Laceweb. I chose to use naturalistic inquiry and this puts big ‘O’ Objectivity into question (Lincoln and Guba 1985). Outsiders would have potentially even greater difficulty than I did in sussing out what was and is going on. Outsiders would also have had issues with bias and what to included and exclude. It could be said that as an insider I would be interested in giving it a ‘good spin’. I have a vested interest because of my close connection to ensure that this Research has rigor and substance. Only a very good Thesis would have ‘legitimizing’ value. For example, according to Dr. Elizabeth deCastro, a long-term attendee at International forums, my inclusion in a UN Expert Group on Psycho-Social Response to Emergencies in Thailand in August 2001 was dependent on my Thesis involvement. To address these issues I endeavored to be simultaneously close and detached. Neville specifically worked with me on attachment/detachment. I was at varying times by contextual circumstance and intentionally, an insider and outsider, native and stranger. At times I felt this role fluidity as emotionally painful, wearing and exhausting (Petford Working Group 1992). Ultimately, this ‘insider looking in’ issue becomes a matter of degree and being mindful of the issues. I had a strong drive to have the Thesis methodological sound. The topic deserves this.
While I had written over 150,000 words on Laceweb related frameworks, processes and action before commencing this Thesis, it turned out that I was not the insider I thought I was at the start of this Research. Then I had very little of what is woven into this Thesis. I had bits. I did not at first realize I had scant knowledge, understanding or feel of Neville’s Way – even though I had been talking and working with him for twelve years. Neville told me in early 1999 he had felt despair with some of my pre-Thesis writing. He said that my earlier writing was nowhere near tentative enough. I knew of Neville’s concept ‘Cultural Keyline’. I had no idea what this meant. When I asked Neville what he meant by ‘Cultural Keyline he said I already knew (I sense now that he meant that I had already incorporated Cultural Keyline into my mode of being, though I did not recognize this at the time and did not need to know this at the time). I had asked him because I had no idea what it meant. Afterwards I found out that virtually all I thought I knew about Keyline was incorrect. For many of the early months of this Thesis I was in overwhelm. There appeared to be a dozen or more Theses. Which one was I doing? Focusing on my Thesis focus and deciding what I was, and was not doing was important. One of my challenges in this Thesis was how to write so as to not lose or overwhelm the reader or myself. Linked to this was how I could convey the interconnections – how to weave it all together meaningfully. The Thesis has emerged as something beyond anything I had contemplated and emerged through contemplative action, persistence and a lot of work.
Neville linked me with many others with whom I also had prolonged and in-depth research interviews/dialogues. (Kellehear 1993). From 1987 onwards Neville immersed me in social action contexts with him and on my own (Appendix 02). These contexts were of matching form with each and every one of the diverse social actions he had been exploring.
While I had been told and shown so much, Neville only told me of his collected papers in the Original Manuscripts Collection in the Mitchell Library within the NSW State Library in Sydney when he knew my Research towards a PhD had been confirmed. As ever strategic, that Archival collection was put there for serious academic study. Neville told me where that primary source archival material was stored as well as the location of other materials. This is discussed later in the Chapter.
I wanted to interact naturally with informants and not have detailed note taking interfering with my attending. Taylor and Bogdan estimate that one hour of interviewing generates around forty pages of typed data (Taylor and Bogdan 1984). Most of the time Neville and I talked very fast. At the time I tested my speed of thought at around 650 words a minute without any sense of rush and Neville was way faster than me. My guess is that our discussion would have generated far more than forty pages per hour. Given that I had in excess of 150 hours of discussions with Neville and many hours with other interviewees, tape recording was deemed inappropriate. As my method, I followed Minichiello et al in relying on memory aided by brief note taking. These notes were also what Burgess calls an ‘aide memoire’ for the next interview (Burgess 1984). While speaking by phone I would type in key words and phrases into my computer in my own shorthand and type up my notes more fully directly the call was finished. In face-to-face interviewing I made brief notes throughout, concentrating my attention on themes, key words, incidents, names and ideas. I jotted these down as they emerged in conversation. Typically I jotted down or recalled the meanings of remarks rather than verbatim statements. Succinct important comments likely to be used in the Thesis were recorded verbatim. I used my own shorthand in note taking. Examples were FH for Fraser House, and BG for Big Group. Neville’s therapeutic use of tension in Big Group was code ‘Big Group tension BGT’ and became ‘BGT’. I always wrote up my notes on a computer within an hour of an interview/discussion (Minichiello, Aroni et al. 1995, p. 134). Minichiello et al suggest that ‘Researchers who have mastered the above process can conduct up to two hours of interview without the use of a tape recorder (Bogdan and Biklen 1982). I found I could do this.
During face-to-face interviews with Neville between 1986 and 1998 I would also take cryptic shorthand. We would speak for about 40 minutes before a break. I would then download my notes and recall onto my computer. I would print these notes as my guide for the next 40 minutes. I found that my notetaking enabled recording, coding, analysis, interpretation and emergent design (and vice versa) on the run and gave scope for analysis and interpretation to be discussed as it emerged with informants. This allowed commentaries about the mode of discussion, analysis and interpretation to be exchanged then and there. Links between things were being discussed as they arose. In using Minichiello et al benchmarks for this note taking mode (Minichiello, Aroni et al. 1995, p. 134), it was ‘fair’ to me and interviewees, the data gathering was valid and effective, and it did aid in analyzing of data.
I engaged in writing through rather than writing up. While I would make many file notes, right from the start of the Thesis I started writing the actual Thesis. I constantly added and reworked - as if it was a ‘clay statue’. This is consistent with my emergent design. It did mean constant rereading of the latest draft, and as it got larger, it meant that I had the latest version ‘in my head’. As I gathered more data and reflected I was constantly looking for where things fitted. I will return to this later in the chapter.
My interviewees were telling absorbing stories and describing structure and process that were very memorable. Listening for key themes and ideas encouraged my attending. With counseling skills training I had received from Terry O’Neil and Neville’s mentoring, I had well-developed interviewing and attending competencies. Recall that I had been trained to paraprofessional status in counseling and interviewing skills by O’Neil at the La Trobe University Student Counseling Unit and had completed 18 months of work as a para-professional student counselor. Terry had modeled his counseling and group work on his experiences with Neville in Fraser House. Once avid discussion with my interviewees was in flow, I would use reflecting back comment, paraphrasing, summarizing, para-linguistics and minimal encouragers in supporting their flow of consciousness. I had also developed individual and group psychotherapy competencies through my work with Neville and my work doing jail group socio-therapy/psycho-therapy and other assignments he teed up for me.
As well, Neville and others had enabled me to be firstly, proficient in information gathering using the NLP language metamodel (Minichiello, Aroni et al. 1995, p. 111) developed by Bandler and Grinder (Bandler and Grinder 1975), and secondly, competent in using Ericksonian Language patterns (Bandler, Grinder et al. 1975; Grinder, De Lozier et al. 1977; Grinder, Bandler et al. 1981; Hanlon 1987) and patterns evolved by Virginia Satir (Satir 1964; Satir 1972; Bandler, Grinder et al. 1976; Satir 1983; Satir 1988). I used these competencies in my exchanges with Neville and my other interviewees to support recall and aid thick description (Geertz 1973). Often Neville and I would be so attuned that we would have things flow without complete sentences and we would finish each other’s sentences as confirmation of empathetic shared understanding.
Neville and I had many overlapping interests. He had competencies I sought to acquire. During the ten years I knew Neville before commencing this Thesis in July 1998, I had many hours of ‘discussions’ with Neville that were informal prolonged in-depth research interviews/dialogues. This was a mutually desired and supported process. We did little by way of social chitchat unless it was networking related. In fact for social exchange, Neville preferred the company of others, not me.
Minichiello (et. al.) define in-depth interviewing as ‘conversation with a purpose – a conversation between researcher and informant focusing on the informant’s perception of self, life and experience, and expressed in his or her own words. It is the means by which the researcher can gain access to and subsequently understand, the private interpretations of social reality that individuals hold (Minichiello, Aroni et al. 1995, p. 81.)’. My use of in-depth interviewing is consistent with my naturalistic inquiry frame and use of grounded theory – discussed later (Glaser and Strauss 1967).
Prolonged Interviews with Neville face-to-face were held when I stayed with him in Bondi Junction, New South Wales, Yungaburra, Queensland and in Rapid Creek, Darwin. These face-to-face interviews were daily and sustained, often lasting all day and well into the night. A couple of times in Yungaburra I stayed for a fortnight. I stayed a week in Darwin. I stayed for a week with Neville in Bondi Junction many times during 1986 and 1987 and traveled up to Bondi Junction for long weekends monthly for eighteen months during that period coinciding with the Bondi Junction Dispersed Therapeutic Community Sharing Sundays. I also held interviews with Neville by phone.
When I commenced the Thesis in July 1998, Neville and I agreed that interviews would be by phone and typically four times a week. By common agreement we worked better on the phone. Phone calls were typically around two hours or longer. In 1999, the holding of interviews were dependent on Neville’s pain levels from his bladder cancer, and during this period we generally had discussions one or two nights a week. The discussion length was generally between thirty to sixty minutes. During the phone interviews I typed on the computer as we talked. The bulk of the time we would have unstructured discussion and storytelling themes rather than question and answer.
My notes referred mainly to discussion themes rather than specific questions. Most of these in-depth interviews were recording Neville’s life history, with storytelling a large part (Minichiello, Aroni et al. 1995, Chap. 7). These stories related to Fraser House, Fraser House Outreach and the Laceweb. We constantly jumped around in time. Neville very much saw his life action as emergent (Minichiello, Aroni et al. 1995, p. 152).
I was subjectively endeavoring to enter Neville’s socially constructed world’s through his ‘precariously negotiated subjective views of it’ (Minichiello, Aroni et al. 1995, p. 152), the stuff of Poole’s intersubjectivity – my experiencing of Neville’s experiencing of my experiencing of him (Poole 1972). These discussions did involve a mutual inter-subjective exchange of information (Minichiello, Aroni et al. 1995, p. 179) - what Neville called co-learning.
Often Neville would initiate a new theme. For example, up at Yungaburra in 1993 Neville volunteered the story of his being lost as a three year old and his near death experience. The conversation flowed to his second near death with the grass fire. This led to a discussion about the evolving of his life quest. Another theme commenced in 1993 by Neville was the potent relevance of his father’s, Keyline work and Neville’s adaptation of this as ‘Cultural Keyline’. I had not heard of these aspects being related to Neville’s psychiatric work before. Even then, with so much storytelling and discussion, I did not realize till around mid 1999 that up till that time I had so filtered my hearing, through my prejudices and preconceptions, that I had heard and understood little of what Neville was saying. During 1998 and early 1999 I was still seeking to find out the change process that was used in Fraser House. I still was thinking in terms of, ‘an expert using therapy techniques on the mentally ill’ frame. Neville had told me time and again that the change process was ‘self-help’ and ‘mutual help’ and that ‘community’ was the therapy. For all this telling, I was still thinking – ‘Yes! But was the real change process? I was a slow learner.
Neville never spoon-fed me with him telling me, as ‘font of all wisdom’ what to do. He would set me challenges and tasks (resonant with Dr. Milton Erickson’s way (Hanlon 1987)). When together in Laceweb contexts, he would never do something if I could do it myself. By the time I started my Thesis, Neville was in his Seventies and said his memory was failing. However, I suspect that often he followed his Fraser House protocol, ‘Give the tasks to those who have no experience, so they learn by doing’. Sometimes he could have told me things. Instead he had me find things out from my interviewees and then he would respond to my crosschecking what I had found out from others.
After reading my first bit of writing for the Thesis in late 1998 he said he wept because it was so emotionally resonant for him. Thereafter, he refused to read any portion of my draft till it was finished – so that academic integrity would be preserved – it would be my work. Neville died without reading any more of my drafts.
Apart from Neville, my first Thesis interviewees were ex-Fraser House staffers Warwick Bruen and Phil Chilmaid. I had an interview with Bruen and Chilmaid in October 1998, and one in each of March, June and July in 1999. Chilmaid was a Fraser House head charge-nurse who continued at North Ryde Hospital after Fraser House closed till his retirement in 1999. Warwick Bruen was a Fraser House psychologist. After leaving the Unit, Bruen moved on to become Assistant Secretary in the Community Care Branch of the Federal Department of Health and Aged Care in Canberra. Both were delighted that I was doing the Thesis and pleased to help. I met Bruen in Canberra. My first interview with Chilmaid was at North Ryde Hospital on the Sydney North Shore and the interview commenced at 11 PM. He was doing the Midnight till dawn Charge Nurse shift. This was my first visit to North Ryde Hospital and he and I spoke briefly. He then gave me a tour of the Reception Center as he told stories. He then took me 150 meters down the hill in the dark to where the Fraser House buildings are.
We had no access. Even so, Chilmaid identified what in the Fraser House days in the Sixties was the Administration Block, the room where Big Group was held, the two large double story dorm blocks either side of the central administration section, and the lounge/recreation area and the dining room at their respective ends. The buildings stretch over a quarter of a kilometer so in circling them it was a substantial walk. I could get a sense of the room used for Big Group as it was dimly lit by street lighting. During all my time with Chilmaid we met no one. We talked to about 3:00 AM. The whole experience was otherworldly. I visited Fraser House two days later and took photos. I was not given permission to enter as it is now home for disabled adolescents.
I commenced my first two interviews with both Bruen and Chilmaid with a series of questions that honed in the specifics of the structure and process of Fraser House. As the interviews progressed discussion became more unstructured. I realized some time after the second interviews with both that many of my questions were based on incorrect and naive assumptions. For example, I had asked a lot of questions relating to the ‘change process’ at Fraser House. I was continually returning to asking about the kinds of therapy and change processes that were used. ‘Was it Gestalt? Was it Behavior Modification? The response I kept getting was, ‘It was not like that’. After the first two interviews with both of them, I was still confused about the nature of the change process. Neville had already told me the changes processes many times in many ways. Therapeutic community was the process. I had not heard! He said to read his father’s books on sustainable agriculture and read his archival material. The first reading of the books and archives left me none the wiser. I cannot pin point the time when I realized that ‘community’ was the therapy and ‘therapeutic community’ was the process, not a just a name. All of the patient community governance and work by patients were change process. Everything was change process. It was there in the archives, mentioned many times, as discussed in Chapter Four, but I had just not sensed it.
Once, I had this understanding about socio-therapy/community-therapy it became clear that all that Neville had said about his father was central and not peripheral. Neville had told me many times that he modeled his way on his father’s work and I had not read P. A.’s writings. During 1999 I finally did read all of Neville’s fathers books so I had a growing understanding of Neville’s adaptation of his father’s ‘Keyline’ concept into Cultural Keyline. My Research was naturalistic inquiry, emerging connoisseurship and emergent design in action. This is discussed later. This gave me a new framework for the third interview with Bruen and Chilmaid in June 1999. It became apparent during this June 1999 and the July 1999 interviews that I had some understanding that they did not have. Bruen and Chilmaid had little idea that Fraser House was, for Neville, a pilot for exploring epochal change with more than a three hundred year time frame. Neville talked about this epochal change meta-frame of Fraser House with me through the late Eighties and the Nineties. That Neville had this metaframe in the Fraser House years was confirmed by two other interviewees, Margaret Cockett and Stephanie Yeomans.
Apart from Neville, Bruen and Chilmaid, I interviewed six other people linked to Fraser House, namely, Margaret Cockett, Alfred Clarke, Terry O’Neill, Stephanie Yeomans, as well as a former Fraser House patient, and a former outpatient. Apart from the outpatient, all of these interviewees were skilled psychosocial researchers and used these competences in our exchanges. The patient changed his career from bank robber to having a career as a research assistant at the Australian Institute of Criminology after leaving Fraser house.
I had interviews with Margaret Cockett in April, June and July 1999. Margaret, a psychologist and anthropologist was Neville’s personal assistant at Fraser House. Margaret stayed on as Neville’s personal assistant in his subsequent Director of Community Mental Health position and other outreach. Margaret later went into private practice. Chilmaid, Bruen and Cockett each facilitated Fraser House Big Group and Small Groups on many occasions and conducted research into aspects of Fraser House.
I also interviewed Alfred Clark, head of the Fraser House External Research Unit, and co-writer with Neville of the book about Fraser House (Clark and Yeomans 1969). During his time at Fraser House, Clark was a senior lecturer at the University of New South Wales and was completing his PhD on Fraser House. After leaving Fraser House and the University, he carried out organizational research with the Tavistock Institute in the United Kingdom. Then he became a Professor and Head of the Sociology Department at La Trobe University for fourteen years. Coincidently, I commence my Social Science degree in 1978 in the La Trobe Sociology Department when Clark was head and I had got to know him during this period. Shortly after I first met Neville in 1986, I spoke to Clark in Melbourne about his Fraser House experience and work with Neville. I interviewed Clark for the Thesis late in 1998. As another coincidence, during this interview I met Alf Clark’s partner and she had been a student with me in Werner Pelz’s sociology class in the Seventies.
Another interviewee was Terry O’Neill. He was a psychologist at North Ryde Hospital in the early Sixties and had voluntarily run the Fraser House children’s play therapy sessions immediately after the Unit’s parent-child play therapy sessions on Tuesday evenings. Terry went on to be a member, and then head of the La Trobe University Student Counseling Clinic. Terry taught me paraprofessional counseling skills in 1977 and I went on to be a voluntary on-call paraprofessional crisis counselor within that unit. It was because of this experience that I was permitted to do clinical therapy research at the psychology honors level. I did not meet Neville till nine years later. Terry had never mentioned Neville or Fraser House to me. I was absorbed in Terry’s Way of enabling and it was not until I said to Terry in 1988 that I had met some one who did things similar to himself that he would probably really like to meet, mentioning Neville’s name, that Terry said he knew Neville well and that he had largely based his work on Neville and learnings from Fraser House.
Some of the feel of Fraser House, especially the Big and Small Groups from a patient’s perspective, was obtained from a former patient and a former outpatient. These two are discussed in Chapter Five.
Another person I interviewed was Neville’s sister-in-law, Stephanie Yeomans (Neville’s younger brother, Ken’s first wife). She had been a psychiatric nurse at North Ryde Psychiatric Hospital (where I had met Chilmaid) in the Sixties, although she did not work at the Fraser House Unit so as to avoid charges of nepotism. Neville had extensive conversations with Stephanie during their times at Fraser House and later. Stephanie said that when she was working up the hill from Fraser House in another part of North Ryde Hospital, Neville would come over and talk with her about Fraser House. They would also talk at his house. Stephanie had been in her early teens an informal research assistant for her mother, a geographer. Later she used these skills when she regularly assisted Neville in University Libraries, ‘devouring’ books on anthropology, sociology, psychology, religion, history and humanitarian law. Stephanie and Neville’s brother Ken were also very active with Neville in his Fraser House outreach. In conversations I had with Stephanie in January 2001, and January and July 2002, Stephanie said that back in the Sixties and early Seventies, she and Neville had had endless hours in discussing his way and action. There was evidence among all my interviewees that they had, to varying degrees, adopted many aspects of Neville’s Way.
It was in September 2002 in reflecting upon the social action contexts that I had been involved in since 1986 linked to this Thesis that I suddenly realized for the first time that Neville had set up for me an extensive range of contexts that were isomorphic metaphors (matching form) for each and every type of social action he had enabled. Appendix 2 is a table showing eighteen types of social action with over fifty examples of these types that Neville had been engaged in prior to my meeting him. The third column shows over seventy mirroring contexts that he set up and/or arranged for me to be involved in. Many of these were not just for me; large numbers of people were also involved. This meticulous extensive strategic thoroughness was typical of Neville. He knew that if ever I started a PhD based thesis, I would have this extensive experience to draw upon, as well as interviews, archival research, narrative, autobiographical material and storytelling - all enriched by my own prolonged action research that I am continuing to be involved in.
Gold (1958) writes of four possible roles for observers ranging from complete detached observation to complete involvement and participation in the site context. Neville arranged for me to be in the later role – being immersed in the action and regularly taking an initiating and enabling role (Gold 1958, Vol. 36, p217-223). Neville engaged me in enabling and supporting social-action research a number of times in contexts approximating Fraser House Big Group with between 100 – 180 people present, and in these he caste me in the Big Group enabler role. These matters are discussed in Chapters Four to Ten. He also set up for me a prolonged experience (eighteen months) in enabling in-service training of a jail psychologist friend of his, Elsbeth Stephens, as well as enabling small therapy groups with murderers and sexual offenders within the prison environment. This experience helped prepare me for supporting Bougainvillian and West Papuan combatants return to community living as wellbeing enablers and nurturers (Laceweb-Homepage 2001). Through the Nineties I have enabled over 200 experiential gatherings with between 40 and 180 people attending during bush camp-out conference-festivals. This is discussed in Chapter Eight.
Neville involved me in actions resonant with many of Linda Tuhiwai Smith’s twenty five Indigenous Research Projects (Smith 1999) listed in Table 01 below.
Table 1 Examples of Linda Tuhiwai Smith’s Indigenous Research Projects (Smith 1999)
In these social action contexts Neville mentored me in taking on the same enabler, mentor and ‘supporter of others’ self-help and mutual help’ roles that he engaged in. This social action had ‘research’ woven into the holistic emergent action. Actions were being continually reviewed by me and other participants together. What worked was repeated in similar contexts. What didn’t work so well was modified and adapted so it did work, or it was dropped. The process was merged-iterative – action, monitoring evaluation adaptation/modification all took place in a merged holistic way appropriate to emergent context, rather than as a linear process. The Prolonged Continuous Action Research that I have engaged in since 1986 is isomorphic with the Prolonged Continuous Action Research that Neville engaged in throughout his life.
For Neville and his ‘Cultural Keyline’ Way, Prolonged Continuous Action Research became an embodied aspect of being. It is resonant with Indigenous socio-medicine. It became woven into his every day natural perceiving and sense-making in relational social-place inter-action. The Prolonged Continuous Action Research that Neville pioneered in Fraser House and Fraser House outreach has resonance with what business people describe as a ‘culture of continual improvement’. There is also resonance with what Senge calls, the ‘learning organization’ (Senge 1992). In some senses we all do this continuous everyday action research – noticing and adjusting as circumstances change. Neville did it exquisitely in a way that maximized emergent potential. He noticed, responded to and supported the positive aspects of context-role specific behaviors and aspects of others. While Neville monitored the unfolding context he stayed in his own meta-context. In a June 1999 conversation he spoke of being ‘context driven’ while maintaining his own metacontext in these words:
‘I was context driven - if I go to ‘creative context’ then ‘everything is creative’ - it worked like that.’
He attended in a way that ‘soaked up’ all that was there and responded in a resonant way, and noticed the unfolding action and flexibly altered and responded to responses as a natural spontaneous flow. It was an integral aspect of his Way of life – his ‘culture’. Neville immersed me in this Prolonged Continuous Action Research as an aspect of embodied being and action in everyday life in the wider and social life world. I adopted/adapted Neville’s Ways in my own praxis.
Neville told me that archival material was in three places, the Mitchell Library within the NSW State Library, in a private collection in Armidale in North East New South Wales, and in his private collection in Yungaburra. Neville had mentioned to look for his, ‘collected papers’ in the Mitchell Library. It contained a range of primary sources including Neville’s hand written jottings and diagrams, photographs, newspaper clippings, meeting notices, monographs by Neville, Staff and Patients, and Neville and Staff’s conference papers, research reports and Unit reports, most of it original documents. Neville was well skilled in research methodology and had created an archival researchers dream cache. There was a spread of types of archival material and a spread of authors – Neville, senior staff, junior staff, patients, outpatients, newspaper reporters and other interested parties. It was not a large collection though it is not all in one place in the collection. Neville had obviously given thought to each piece’s strategic significance. I had a strong feel that this cache was sent ahead specifically for the likes of me. Additionally, there was a collection of Nevilles father’s materials and three further collections belonging to Neville’s brother’s Allan and Ken, and Neville’s second wife, Lein.
On my first visit I did a skim read of the collection to get a sense of what was there and took some brief notes as a guide for the next visit. At this time I had no idea what Thesis I was doing or the relevance of what I was looking at. I had two further visits lasting three days where I ‘poked around’ in the archive. It was in August 2002 on my fourth visit when I had finished my first rough draft of the whole Thesis that I scanned, skimmed, and read the total archive of all family members. By this time I knew what was relevant and what was cross-confirming and where it would go in my Thesis. Typically, I only wrote down what I was going to use in my Thesis.
As well, on this visit I saw material that ‘stood out’ that I had never noticed before. Some small bits were seminal. These I photocopied. While plainly there all along, I had never seen just how many research papers and monographs Neville had written. I sense that given the interaction between me, my interviewees, my Thesis topic and the archive, the timing sequence was right as to when I went ‘in earnest’ into the archive. The preliminary archival viewings had given me a feel for the collection. On those early visits the archive was becoming familiar to me, though I had little sense of what was significant. My approach and timing in the use of the Mitchell Library archives were consistent with my emergent design. Some small bits of Neville’s handwritten scribblings turned out to be potent, for example the personal file-note ‘Mental Health and Social Change’ which is Neville’s succinct half page early statement about his thinking on global transitions (Yeomans 1968). I spotted this on my first look at the archive and then I had no idea that it was one of two seminal linked documents. It was the precursor to the paper, ‘On Global Reform – International Normative Model Areas (INMA)’ which was in Neville’s Yungaburra Far North Queensland archives (Yeomans 1974). I found this second document after Neville’s death.
Dr. Ned Iceton had archival materials at his home in Armidale in N.E. New South Wales relating to the 1971-73 Aboriginal Human Relations Gatherings. I was able to get a photocopy of all of the relevant material so I could peruse them at my leisure. As well, Iceton informed me that a collection of the Aboriginal Human Relations Newsletters was held in the Australian National Library. I had two interviews with Iceton on consecutive days. My questions focused on the processes used to start and sustain group process at the Gatherings given the presence there of both urban and remote area Aboriginals and non-Aboriginal people. These interviews also soon became semi-structured then un-structured. Through these interviews I confirmed that the 1971-73 Aboriginal Human Relations Gatherings were resonant with Fraser House groups and fully consistent with Neville’s Cultural Keyline, therapeutic community and other socio-cohesion frameworks.
By the time I was able to get up to see the Yungaburra archive, Neville had died. There was some considerable negotiation about access to the archival materials as an Aboriginal person close to Neville had received the archive from the tenant who was living in Neville’s house where Neville’s materials had been stored. There was initial reticence relating to my access. After twenty-four hours I was given the archive to copy. The key document, ‘On Global Reform and International Normative Model Areas (Inma)’ was in this archive. As well, there were materials relating to Neville’s Lake Tinaroo Mediation Workshops (Yeomans 1974). A crucially important video of Neville in action entrusted to me by the Aboriginal holder of the archive – the only example of Neville enabling that I have been able to find – was entrusted by me to a non-Aboriginal local to get mould removed from the tape while I was in the area so I could return the tape to the custodian before I left. Somewhere between the non-Aboriginal local and the tape cleaning firm the tape seems to have been irretrievable lost. I learned a bitter lesson and caused anger and resentment among local Aborigines. Steps are being taken to determine if the lost video was a copy of the original that is being held by someone else.
This research is in the style and mode of the naturalist paradigm following Lincoln and Guba’s book, ‘Naturalistic Inquiry’ (Lincoln and Guba 1985). I used this approach because Neville himself engaged in naturalistic inquiry and helped pioneer this method in Australia in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Neville used naturalistic inquiry as the framework for his prolonged action research/praxis, and engaged others in sharing with him in naturalistic inquiry as a process for re-constituting locality, community and society. ‘Locality’ here means ‘connexity with place’ rather than ‘place’.
Consistent with naturalistic inquiry, I engaged in prolonged action research in natural settings and obtained secondary source recollections and archival materials because, to quote Lincoln and Guba, ‘Naturalistic ontology suggests that realities are wholes that cannot be understood in isolation from their contexts, nor can they be fragmented for study of the parts’ (Lincoln and Guba 1985, p. 39). My guiding substantive theory emerged from, or was grounded in the data (Glaser and Strauss 1967; Lincoln and Guba 1985, p. 41). I set boundaries to the inquiry ‘on the basis of emergent focus because that permits the multiple realities to define the focus…; because boundaries cannot be satisfactorily set without intimate contextual knowledge, including knowledge about the mutually shaping factors involved… (Lincoln and Guba 1985, p. 42).’ I followed Lincoln and Guba’s special criteria for trustworthiness, namely, credibility, transferability, dependability and confirmability discussed below (Lincoln and Guba 1985, p. 43). Consistent with naturalistic inquiry, Neville’s way of prolonged action research was based on the same beliefs and associated principles of the New Paradigm as detailed by Lincoln and Guba (Lincoln and Guba 1985, p. 56) – refer Table 02.
Table 2 Basic Belief and Associated Principles of the New Paradigm – From Lincoln and Guba (Lincoln and Guba 1985, p. 56.)
Neville was well aware of the holographic quality of his Cultural Keyline–social systems interaction. For example, Lincoln and Guba could well have been quoting Neville when they wrote:
‘Information is distributed throughout the system rather than concentrated at specific points. At each point information about the whole is contained in the part. Not only can the entire reality be found in the part, but also the part can be found in the whole. What is detected in any part must also characterize the whole. Everything is interconnected’ (Lincoln and Guba 1985, p. 59.).
This quote describes the holographic and fractal quality of the way Neville interacted with connexity in a two-fold sense. He maintained connexity in relating with the unfolding connexity. I found that Fraser House can be seen in Neville’s Festivals, community markets, smaller therapeutic community houses, and in his networking, and simultaneously Keyline can been seen in Cultural Keyline and both in Fraser House, Fraser House outreach, Cultural Healing Action and Laceweb Networks. I return to this theme in discussing holographic generalization below.
To ensure trustworthiness in my research I endeavored to establish truth value by the test of isomorphism (Lincoln and Guba 1985, p. 294) – namely, that I have revealed the form, structure and processes of the focal multiple social constructions adequately in a way that would be credible to the co-constructors of those multiple realities. In respect of external validity, again following Lincoln and Guba, I make the assumption that, ‘at best only working hypotheses may be abstracted’; Neville used to continually exhort me to keep everything tentative and up for continual review. On another trustworthiness criteria, ‘consistency’, I use a number of processes set out below to ensure replicability and dependability.
I had sustained prolonged engagement by investing ample time to become immersed in the focal milieu. I learned the culture. I have built respect and trust. I was around long enough to detect the subtle and non-obvious aspects (even then, with considerable difficulty). I had ample time to detect my distorted and selective perceptions and misconstructions of what Neville and others were saying; time to ‘render the inquirer (me) open to multiple influences – the mutual shapers and contextual factors (Lincoln and Guba 1985, p. 304)’. This prolonged time also enabled the building of trust in some people who were extremely cautious about me. Some are still very cautious and hold back for very good reasons. There are some things I do not need to know. Similarly, there are many things that I do not tell other Laceweb people for good reasons to be discussed in Chapter Ten.
While engaged in prolonged action research, I believe that I have never ‘gone native’; I have never lost what Lincoln and Guba (Lincoln and Guba 1981, p. 4) call ‘detached wonder’. I also engaged in persistent observation to add salience - to ‘identify those characteristics and elements in the situation that are most relevant to the problem or issue being pursued and focusing on them in detail. If prolonged engagement provides scope, persistent observation provides depth’ (Lincoln and Guba 1985, p. 304.)’. These two forms of engagement enabled me to come to terms with what Eisner has called the ‘pervasive qualities’, in this case the ‘pervasive qualities’ of Neville and his social action, and to sort out what really matters (Eisner 1975). In my writing I have endeavored to specify in detail the explorings I carried out and how I sought out salience.
Another aspect of my method to ensure trustworthiness was the use of triangulation. Following Denzin (Denzin 1978) I used different sources and different methods. Comments made by one interviewee were crosschecked with the other interviewees. As well, comments were crosschecked with archival material and on-site visits and immersion in ongoing social action with me taking on the enabling and mentoring role for others, with Neville as my mentor. Archival materials were also crosschecked. In Chapters Four to Seven on Fraser House I detail findings from this sustained triangulated cross-checking between interviewees and archival material without constantly referring to interviewees to avoid being tedious though seminal points are referenced and archival references are all specified
I also engaged in peer debriefing (Lincoln and Guba 1985, p. 308) with a number of people who were disinterested though resonant. I also carried out ongoing member checks with all of my interviewees both formally and informally after typing up my interview notes and when the first and later drafts were finished (Lincoln and Guba 1985, p. 314). This was in the early work to provide, ‘an initial and searching opportunity to test working hypotheses, to correct for error, to provide them opportunity to ask challenging questions, probe for biases, question meanings, check the need for further information or clarification, and giving them an ‘opportunity to give an assessment of overall adequacy (Lincoln and Guba 1985, p.308 - 309)’.
In keeping with Neville’s use of naturalistic inquiry, my research design was emergent rather than preordinate (Lincoln and Guba 1985, p.208). Meanings emerged from unfolded and unfolding contexts and multiple realities. In my prolonged action research, what I was experiencing and learning was a function of my interaction with the contexts and the people who had helped constitute them and were co-constituting them together. There was pervasive indeterminancy. In many aspects I was in the situation of knowing I did not know. With other aspects, I did not know I did not know and I found out this by ‘running into seeming inconsistencies and paradoxes - the bewildering’, and into what I thought were ‘brick walls’, and Neville making me ‘jump hurdles’. My response to this was to have an even more open-ended approach (Lincoln and Guba 1985, p. 209).
My design emerged from continuous data analysis and writing as I went. I was under way for almost a year before I decided what Thesis I was doing – that it would by in three parts, Fraser House, Fraser House Outreach and the evolving of the Laceweb. Initially, I was looking at the archives and not knowing what I was looking at or for, or what was, and was not significant. Consistent with emergent design, I allowed the emerging data to guide my review of literature. For example, it was after realizing the way Neville and his father worked holistically with emergence in self organizing systems that I had the literature as a ‘stimulus for thinking’ (Minichiello, Aroni et al. 1995, p. 71) and the emerging data as a stimulus for literature review.
In making sense of, and writing up my research I combined ‘grounded theory’ (Glaser and Strauss 1967; Lincoln and Guba 1985, p. 204-205), holographic generalization (Lincoln and Guba 1985, p.125), ‘thick description’ (Geertz 1973), ‘thematic analysis’/‘narrative analysis’ (Kellehear 1993, p. 38; Miles and Huberman 1994), ‘structure/event process analysis’ (Neuman 1997, p. 433) and Eisner’s concept of ‘connoisseurship’ (Eisner 1991),. After discussing each of the above, I outline processes used to support my intuition and being what Neville called, ‘a scientific detective’.
Lincoln and Guba describe ‘grounded theory’ (Glaser and Strauss 1967) as a ‘theory that follows from the data rather than preceding them’. ‘The theory that is developed is then said to be grounded in the data (Minichiello, Aroni et al. 1995, p. 103.)’. Lincoln and Guba make the point that this is a ‘necessary consequence of the naturalistic paradigm that posits multiple realities and makes transferability dependent on local contextual factors’ (Lincoln and Guba 1985, p. 205).
I had the advantage at the start of my Thesis of all of my prior research. I had some sense of theoretical perspectives, though once under way I had to drop a lot of them as they did not fit the emerging data.
Along with researching the transferability of Neville’s Way (including Keyline and Cultural Keyline) between many contexts, a central theme of this Thesis is the fractal and holographic quality of Neville’s action. Lincoln and Guba refer to Schwartz and Ogilvy’s (Schwartz and Ogilvy 1979), comment that ‘the metaphor for the world is changing from the machine to the hologram’. Lincoln and Guba point out that a characteristic of holograms is, ‘that any piece of the hologram contains in it all of the information found in the whole.’ While recognizing the limits of metaphor, Lincoln and Guba make the case that any part or component gathered is a, ‘perfect sample in the sense that it contains all of the information about the whole that one might hope to obtain; that imperfect (blurred) information from any source can be improved (clarified), if one has the appropriate filters or other processes for so doing.’
Space scientists are able to use knowledge from the study of holograms to correct blurred images transmitted from spacecraft. The blurred image ‘contains’ the focused image. If one knows how to correct the blur for a tiny bit of the image, that information may be used to increase focus for the whole image. A friend skilled in photo manipulation checked with me that sports shoes in a photo were in fact white not gray. He made some adjustment to correct the gray to white and this altered the colors throughout the whole photo. My friend and the space scientists can do this because, ‘both the substantive information about an object and the information needed to clarify it are ‘contained’ in the unclarified versions’.
The ‘base of information’ that is appropriate for holographic generalization is suggested by Lincoln and Guba as Geertz’s ‘thick description’ (Geertz 1973). I have endeavored to obtain thick description of the many and varied contexts in which Neville worked. I then used Keyline, Cultural Keyline and other ‘filters’ or ‘lenses’ to focus and clarify what I had found and to help in form and pattern recognition.
These processes in turn helped clarify the ‘filters’. I found the ‘filters’ permeated through the interstices (small spaces) of the various objects, events, processes, happenings, and structures that Neville set up and enabled and their varied contexts. I then started seeing aspects of each of particulars in the general and the general in the particulars.
In working with thick description and holographic generalization I used thematic analysis (also called Narrative Analysis). In this I was guided by Miles and Huberman’s list (Miles and Huberman 1994).
Table 3 Thematic Analysis Process from Miles and Huberman’s list (Miles and Huberman 1994)
Neville used each of the above processes in naturalistic inquiry. I also recognized that in large part I had been using each of them in my prolonged Laceweb action research from 1986, and increasingly using them during this Thesis research. Like the healing ways of the Laceweb being spontaneously used in everyday life (discussed in Chapters Nine and Ten), naturalistic inquiry was for me becoming a way of being. As stated, it was some time before I started to see the fractal quality in everything Neville was doing and how all the diverse bits were parts of the whole.
In speaking of ‘thematic analysis’, Kellehear writes that ‘validity is tied to how well a researcher’s understanding of a culture parallels the way that a culture views itself’, and that the ‘central meanings the researcher attaches to objects, actions and relations should reflect the beliefs of insiders’ analysis’ (Kellehear 1993, p. 38). Recall that I carried out ongoing member checks with all of my interviewees both formally and informally after typing up my interview notes and when the first and later drafts were finished (Lincoln and Guba 1985, p. 314). I also checked and confirmed my ‘central meanings’ with others involved in the focal action. When I had understanding and meanings that my interviewees did not have, I checked and confirmed the ‘fit’ of these with my interviewees and relevant others.
I drew on Berger and Luckman’s notion of ‘typifications’ (Berger and Luckmann 1967) in looking for what Eisner calls, ‘structural collaboration’ - ‘recurrent behaviors or actions, those theme-like features of a situation that inspire confidence that events interpreted and appraised are not aberrant or exceptional, but rather characteristic of the situation’ (Eisner 1991, p. 101).
I was guided by Eisner’s references to a number of aspects that all of the social sciences have in common, ‘the search for pattern in the qualities they observe, the effort to illuminate and display what has not been previously noticed, and the attempt to account for what has been seen (Eisner 1991, p. 230).’
In exploring diversity seeking Bateson’s ‘patterns that connect’ (Bateson 1980) in respect of each of Eisner’s three aspects mentioned in the previous paragraph, I endeavored to continually improve my capacity to engage what Eisner calls ‘connoisseurship’, defined by him as ‘the ability to make fine-grained discriminations among complex subtle qualities’. So much of what Neville did was subtle. Connoisseurship is ‘the art of appreciation’ (Eisner 1991, p. 63). A fundamental aspect of connoisseurship is ‘allowing the situation to speak for itself, that is, to allow for an emergent focus’ (Eisner 1991, p. 176). This involves enriching perception, the sense and significance we make from all that is streaming through all our senses. In this I was mindful of the Pelz’s remarks about the German word ‘erscheinung’ meaning ‘appearance’. This word contains the German, ‘schein’ that also contains for the social scientist the caution that appearance may deceive, ‘for schein, because it shines and glitters, reveals and deceives. It denotes something better and worse, more and less than appearance’ (Pelz 1974, p. 88).
Pelz speaks of a particular mood in searching for understanding where appearance can reveal and deceive. In this Pelz introduces another German word, ‘stimmung’ meaning ‘a mood that attunes’ (Pelz 1974, p. 89). I sensed that when I was engaged with Neville, Laceweb prolonged action research and this Thesis, I worked best when I entered this attuning mood.
My capacity for being a connoisseur was enriched through in-depth interviewing, prolonged engagement and persistently observing someone like Neville in action. He was a connoisseur par excellence. The observational challenge was that I only saw the output of his connoisseurship, not connoisseurship per se. The perennial question was, ‘How did he do that? How did he come up with that? To this endeavor I brought my understanding of ‘understanding’, honed by my three years of study of the sociology of knowledge with sociologist Werner Pelz. Pelz speaks of a contemplative mode of knowing that has some resonance with connoisseurship, where, Pelz’s ‘contemplating as mode of knowing’ is a ‘kind of intellective-emotive compound of seeing-hearing-smelling-tasting-feeling. It is appreciative and savoring. It leaves things as and where they are.’ ‘It neither proves or disproves, though it may approve or disapprove. It is the psychic equivalent of eating, drinking, breathing. Contemplation does not wish to handle its subjects and need not therefore concentrate on looking for a handle. It is not exclusively interested in categorizing them according to function and utility within a conceptual framework designed by and for sectional interests’ (Pelz 1975, p. 232, 238.).
Following Pelz ‘contemplation’ as a mode of knowing, I have endeavored to use kennen - not a ‘provable’ manipulatable knowing (wissen), rather a knowing to become better acquainted with Neville’s way – to become even more familiar with it – to kennen as, ‘denoting something personal [and inter-personal], subjective, unfinished and unfinishable, involving me and interesting me’. It is relational knowing (Pelz 1974, p. 80-83). Allied to this is a process Jeremy Narby calls defocusing (Narby 1998). As a metaphor for defocusing, Narby speaks of those stereo pictures where the three-dimensional image only appears suddenly with the relaxing defocused gaze. Examples of defocusing approaches are daydreaming, nocturnal soliloquies, and following Pelz, contemplation. Pelz goes on to say that, ‘the fate of one man, one women, one child, during a vast international upheaval or natural disaster, faithfully and sympathetically represented, can in-form us more thoroughly concerning the reality of that situation than any number of statistics or objective descriptions’. A classic Australian example of this is Henry Lawson’s powerful portrayal of the culture of poverty in his two and a half page story, ‘Arvie Aspinall’s Alarm Clock’ about a little boy struggling to support his mother and siblings when he is close to death (Lawson 1974). The short story, ‘Ward 6’ by Chekhov (Chekhov 1964) about a remote area psychiatric clinic director in Russia who is incarcerated by a rival who craves his director position is another example. In keeping with this, I endeavor to give the reader a feel for the richness of lived-life experience and potent vibrancy of Neville, Fraser House and other actions.
One of the challenges in writing was what Eisner called ‘the untranslatable’– ‘there is no verbal equivalent for Bach’s Mass in B Minor’ (Eisner 1991, p.235). Prose can not encapsulate the co-reconstituting lived life emotive richness of Fraser House, or the stimmung of the campfire gathering of the Aboriginal and Islander women at the Small Island Gathering (refer Chapter Nine) (Roberts and Widders 1994). Since an aim of this Thesis was to reveal, I endeavored to understand ‘the limits and uses of the forms used to represent what connoisseurship makes available’ and to recognize and be mindful of how ‘each form shapes content – that is by leaving out what it can not represent’ (Eisner 1991, p.235). I endeavor to give at least a pale cast of milieu, mindful that description and explanation are always inadequate. The derivation of the word ‘explain’ hints at this – Latin ‘ex-planus’ meaning ‘out of the two dimensional’, that is conveying an impoverished representation of the multidimensional. I was constantly challenged by making sense of rich interwoven complexity.
Linked into Eisner’s ‘untranslatable’ mentioned above is the ‘de-processing’ effect of the prevalence of using nouns when we may better use verbs. I understand that the Chinese language contained no nouns up till a century or two ago. A ‘cup’ would be denoted as ‘containing’. Nouns are very useful. Turning a verb like ‘failing’ into a noun like ‘failure’ is called nominalizing (Bandler and Grinder 1975; Bandler, Grinder et al. 1979). Nominalising may limit our representating of our world. For example a troubled young man says with great emphasis that he is a failure. ‘Failure’ is finished. ‘I am a failure’. It is a claim of fact - a fait accompli. Feel the idea. Change ‘failure’ to, ‘I am failing’. Feel that idea. Sense the generalizing and the deleting in the first sentence. We can seek to specify the generalizing and recover what has been left out of the, ‘I am failing’ sentence. Failing at what? With whom? When? How are you failing? In what contexts? All this is hopeful. Change is possible.
In my research and writing up I was aware of the implications of nominalizing. The pervasive linguistic habit of turning dynamic lived process into static nouns may limit understanding. It may contribute to and sustain dysfunction. The terms, ‘social movement’, ‘Fraser House’, ‘therapeutic community’ and ‘network’ are all nouns and noun based expressions. One says these words and says little. These expressions generalize and delete. For those unfamiliar with them they have little surplus meaning. Initially, changing ‘network’ to ‘networking’ has added little to meaning though it focuses on a dynamic process not a concrete entity. Denominalizing is a term denoting changing noun to verb. Denominalizing may reveal some of the dynamic lived life process and experience. Changing ‘failure’ to ‘failing’ is an obvious shift; the same with ‘network’ to ‘networking’. Changing ‘social movement’ to ‘social movementing’ or ‘social moving’ seems novel and meaning is muddied and lost. The togetherness connoted by ‘community’ is lost in ‘communing’ and may carry hints of the ideologies of ‘communism’. ‘Communitizing’ is a possibility, though strange. ‘Fraser Housing’ is also strange though could be a theme starter. The aim and the challenge in this research was to embrace the ongoing processing, the processors, and the lived dynamic unfolding social life world of Neville and his friends and even go beyond embracing to sensing all of this as an integrated holon for them and the reader.
There is a German expression that encapsulates the foregoing, ‘Dichter and Denken’ (Pelz 1974). As an example, some very talented creative people are called 'dichter and denken'. When using this term to refer to say a poet, the speaker is suggesting that the listener merges in his or her reflection the poet, the poem making and the poem. This is calling for us to engage in a very rich form of reflective contemplating about process. It is about our intersubjectively responding to the intermingling of the three elements, i.e., the poet, the poem making and the poem. While reading this document I invite you to do what I did during the research and contemplate Neville as Dichter and Denken. Merge Neville, the evolving and sustaining of Fraser House processing and Fraser House as an unfolding placed social life world. Do the same with Fraser House outreaching and the evolving of Laceweb networking. In the Fraser House outreachings and Laceweb networking contexts, contemplate the merging of firstly, Neville and his other system designers/co-reconstitutors, secondly, system designing/co-reconstituting, and thirdly, the systems as unfolding action; and in so doing, perceiving these three as a connexity/holon. Note that it is easy to think about any of the three separately. Thinking of two simultaneously is more 'work', and merging the three in contemplation towards relational knowing (kennen) is typically a challenge - though a worthwhile experience into a new (higher?) more connexity based mode of reflecting/perception (making sense of the senses).
With Structure/Event Process Analysis I was looking for connexity within and between events and other happenings, and their form/structure and processes, and the nexus between people constituting these unfoldings. I was looking for fractals, emergence and mutual-causality (Neuman 1997, p. 433)
After the emotional turmoil of learning of Neville’s impending death I allowed everything I had done to date to just ‘settle’ inside, to give it all room to sort itself out. It was nearly a year later when I had a feeling that I was ready to make sense of it all including his death. I had busied myself in the meantime with reading qualitative method, and the Keyline literature. As well I reviewed the literature firstly on chaos and complexity, commencing with Prigogine & Stengers, ‘Order out of Chaos’ (Prigogine and Stengers 1984); secondly, on fuzziology commencing with Dimitrov (Dimitrov 2002); thirdly on deep ecology commencing with Arne Naess (Naess 1998); fourthly on emergent properties commencing with Fritjof Capra (Capra 1997, p. 28); fifthly on holistic open systems commencing with Ludwig von Bertalanffy (Bertalanffy 1950) and Fred Emery (Emery 1969); and sixthly on self organizing systems and autopoiesis commencing with Maturana and Varela (Maturana 1970). Insights from this literature review are interspersed throughout this thesis.
Beveridge speaks about having a purposeful break in these terms: ‘The most characteristic circumstance of an intuition are a period of intense work on the problem accompanied by a desire for it’s solution, abandonment of the work with the attention on something else, then the appearance of the idea with dramatic suddenness…’ (Beveridge 1950). I did have clarity and sudden insights ‘out of the blue’ after this long break. Other sudden insights occurred unexpectantly throughout the research. A key thing I found with the sudden insights was to write them up immediately they occurred as they had a tendency to disappear beyond recall as fast as they came. I also found that not reading my writing for a number of weeks would allow me to see with ‘fresh eyes’. I could far more easily spot things like clumsy expression, ambiguity, punctuation errors and the like when the material was less familiar.
During all of the time I was working with Neville drafting Laceweb related material, especially relating to setting up possibilities for others to take up, he always opted for using the passive voice form and using ‘soft’ and tentative language – using words and terms like, possibly, may, maybe and its possible. To mirror this softness I have often used the passive voice form in this research.
Neville was quite right when he said that my writing was, ‘Like a scientific detective story’. Neville did in no way ‘dish things up for me’. I had to do lots of detective work. Complicating my task was that Neville and his father’s actions and ways were largely non-linear, and mirroring nature; these actions and ways were pervasively inter-connected, inter-woven, interdependent and inter-related – what I have defined as having a connexity relating. Neville and his father were both ‘groundbreaking’ - to use an appropriate metaphor - World leaders in their separate, though as it turns out, very related fields. There was scant literature that I could find on links between, Indigenous wisdom, sustainable agriculture, psychosocial wellbeing and epochal transitions. A lot of what they were doing was not mentioned in their writing. For example, Neville and his father were both pioneers in the evolving studies of chaos, self-organizing systems, emergence, uncertainty and complexity, and yet none of these themes are mentioned in Neville’s or his father’s writings. Neville never mentions Keyline or Cultural Keyline in any of his Fraser House writings. While ‘Cultural Keyline’ is such a central concept to Neville and his way, I have found no mention of this term in any of his other writings either directly or indirectly, although Cultural Keyline is there if one knows how to discern it. Another complicating factor was that there were fractal forms and other resonant aspects to everything Neville and his father were engaged in, though these are not immediately obvious. If this fractal quality and connexity is not recognized, as it was not recognized by me for halfway through my research, an inquirer would miss the inter-related essence and inner potency of Neville (and his father’s) work. Any amount of analysis of the parts that missed their connexity, or labored to make links when they are already pervasive, would again miss the essence.
Consistent with Neville’s Way of enabling self-organizing, he would create contexts where I would discover his Way and the things he had done. For example, the first time I knew that Neville wrote poetry was when I was handed two of his poems at his funeral by his second wife Lein. These are included at the commencement of this Thesis. My sense is that these two poems introduce the Thesis artistically and succinctly. In some sense they say more than the first Chapter! They are typical of Neville’s potent minimalism. I found out from Neville’s son Quan that Neville had written over 2000 poems and he never told me about them. He knew I would find them if I was thorough and persistent. As at writing I have not had access to these other poems.
In our 1993 Yungaburra conversation Neville said that he was very conscious of not overloading people. Neville well knew how much lay behind his simplicity, brevity and strategic precision. He said that if he was linking with an Aboriginal natural nurturer for the first few times and started talking about Fraser House and epochal change he would likely overwhelm her and he would probably never see her again. He very slowly mentioned things over months and years. The same applied to me. He had very slowly shared aspects with me. I was it seems, a slow learner.
While I had been writing through rather than writing up, I came to the time when I sensed that the Thesis was ‘in the can’. Even then, resonant with Neville’s scrupulous writing, once I sensed I had the Thesis ‘written’, I carried out sustained reshaping of the manuscript, especially looking at the sequencing and juxtapositioning of ideas. Creating headings and subheadings helped in both sequencing and thematic analysis. During this phase I ended up with around sixty further revisions of each Chapter. At one stage I made good use of Microsoft’s ‘Outline’ program that allowed me to look at the words at the start of each paragraph to check sequencing and sense.
When I essentially ‘knew what was in the research document’ I particularly used Neville’s notion of the ‘survival of the fitting’. As I scoured my filenotes and musings ‘what fitted’ ‘survived’ and was woven in to the document. Similarly, what was already ‘in the document’ was tested for ‘fit’ and placement. If it did not fit it was reframed, repositioned or discarded. We shall see in Chapters Nine and Ten that this process is resonant with the passing on of healing ways in the Laceweb. I added ‘gems’ to my ‘final draft’ and found I was 16,000 words over the limit so more rigorous editing was required. Consistent with emergent design this method section kept changing.
Ethics approval was obtained from the James Cook University Ethics Committee for the Thesis, especially for the interviewing. Permission/approval was obtained from interviewees before their name was mentioned in the Thesis.
I was required to get, and did obtain from Neville a letter of authorization to have access and to copy all or any of the material including sensitive restricted material, on the understanding that the restricted material would not be shown or revealed to anyone and that no people’s names would be mentioned in any form. As it turned out, it was critical that I had obtained this authorization before Neville’s death. I based my prolonged social action research on Neville’s ethical, moral and ecological protocols and processes.
This chapter has described the research methods used in data collecting. The Chapter commenced with a discussion of my being an insider looking in. My note taking and interviewing methods were outlined. Data collection using a combination of interviewing, archival research, on site visits and immersion in holistic social action was discussed. The Chapter concluded with an outline of my use of Naturalistic Enquiry, the steps I took to ensure trustworthiness and the processes I used for analysis.
The following Chapter explores the precursors of Neville Yeomans’ Way of being and action and their emergence and adaptation from the joint work Neville did with his father and brother Allan in evolving sustainable agriculture practice, and the families drawing from Australian and Oceania Indigenous ways.
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