From the Log of a Consumer Researcher: Reflections on the Odyssey

Morris B. Holbrook, Columbia University
ABSTRACT - This paper contains several excerpts taken from the log that its author kept just before, during, and for some time after his participation in the Consumer Behavior Odyssey. These selections focus on a central theme -namely, how and why the author chose to preserve the record of his experiences in a single logbook rather than in separate field notes and journal entries (the accepted anthropological practice followed by other members of the group). A preface traces the log's genesis back to early childhood memories and offers a rationale based on the author's current research interests. Several dated log entries continue the latter theme in more detail. A postscript concludes with ten reflections on the meaning of the Odyssey experience.
[ to cite ]:
Morris B. Holbrook (1987) ,"From the Log of a Consumer Researcher: Reflections on the Odyssey", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 14, eds. Melanie Wallendorf and Paul Anderson, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 365-369.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 14, 1987      Pages 365-369

FROM THE LOG OF A CONSUMER RESEARCHER: REFLECTIONS ON THE ODYSSEY

Morris B. Holbrook, Columbia University

ABSTRACT -

This paper contains several excerpts taken from the log that its author kept just before, during, and for some time after his participation in the Consumer Behavior Odyssey. These selections focus on a central theme -namely, how and why the author chose to preserve the record of his experiences in a single logbook rather than in separate field notes and journal entries (the accepted anthropological practice followed by other members of the group). A preface traces the log's genesis back to early childhood memories and offers a rationale based on the author's current research interests. Several dated log entries continue the latter theme in more detail. A postscript concludes with ten reflections on the meaning of the Odyssey experience.

PREFACE

When I was a boy, I used to travel every summer with my family to stay at our place on the Brule River in Northern Wisconsin. The river was spring-fed, icy-cold, and brimful of small brook, brown, and rainbow trout. We spent our days fishing with fly rods, poling canoes upstream, floating back down, and on occasions of extreme bravery, swimming in the clear, frigid water. In the evenings, we read, sang campfire songs, and played cribbage.

Everything in this tranquil place had its own special name. To the constant consternation of novitiate guests, a boat was a "canoe"; its front and back and sides were its "bow" and "stern" and "gunwale"; its oar was a "paddle." I quickly mastered these terminological intricacies. More difficult for a small boy to remember, our house was "the lodge" and its central living space was "the council room.

Tucked into the top drawer of a large desk near the window of this council room, my family kept a book called "The Log." Every day or so, my dad or grandfather would take pen in hand and, in a meticulous version of his best physician's scrawl, would enter a record in this logbook. Such entries contained the names of all guests and visitors, the number and sizes of trout caught on the river that day, the magnitudes and durations of significant storms, the dates and times of canoe-poling feats or first accomplishments, and any other informational tidbits that my dad or grandfather chose to immortalize in this fashion. Sometimes lists of numbers would appear in the log, sometimes passages of well-crafted prose.

One year, when I was about ten, something extraordinary appeared under our Christmas tree. It was a book written by my grandfather, based on the accounts entered into the log over a lifetime of trips to the Brule River and published at his own expense, complete with photographs. Everyone who has ever read this book has loved it. It contains wonderful evocations of life on the river. It beautifully conveys my grandfather's sense of humor and magically captures his spirit of playfulness. It plumbs the depths of his soul by recreating his most cherished moments on the Brule. It is called From the Log of a Trout Fisherman.

I suppose that, ever since I initially encountered my grandfather's marvelous accounts of his experiences on the Brule, I have secretly wanted to write my own log. His introspective, deeply personal narrative provided the first quasi-phenomenological portrayal of a lived world that I had ever read. Since it came from a man who had studied under William James at Harvard, I ought not to have been surprised by its eloquence. But, in those days, I did not know such things. I only knew that it felt good to read and that, someday, I would like to try something similar.

The only problem was that I lacked a suitable subject. For many years, my life's most dramatic moments consisted of studying for school (which mostly involved reading other people's books), playing the piano (which only David Sudnow has managed to make experientially interesting), and football practice (which I would rather forget). Probably with justification, I found it hard to imagine these as topics in which others would find any interest. Only recently did I discover "consumption" as a heading under which I could meaningfully collect some of my most self-reflective thoughts. I have put together such musings in short pieces entitled "I Awake," "I'm Hip," and "The 25-Cent Tour of a Jazz Collector's Home." But these amount to little more than tiny vignettes, brief stories that some would charitably call introspective or interpretive in the humanistic tradition and others would harshly characterize as egocentric or narcissistic in self-indulgent excess. Having grown up reading people like Samuel Johnson, not to mention my grandfather, I do not shrink from such accusations. Yet, until now, I have lacked a subject broad enough to command my sustained attention. Finally, in the Summer of 1986, I got my chance.

During the Summer of 1986, several consumer researchers banded together and went on an excursion that they called "The Consumer Behavior Odyssey." They rode in a van -- a 27-foot recreational vehicle -- from California to Massachusetts, observing different aspects of consumer behavior in a wide range of settings. During a two-week period in July and August, they and their RV stayed with me at our house in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. This house is a modest weekend retreat in a developed area called Hemlock Farms. Hemlock is not exactly the Brule River, but at least it is in the woods. This log represents my experiences -- just before, during, and for some time after that visit by the members of the Consumer Behavior Odyssey.

I intend my log as a companion piece to the field notes and journals written by my friends and colleagues who participated in the Odyssey by riding on, sleeping in, and often nearly clinging to the van. Like good naturalistic inquirers, they followed accepted anthropological practice a by endeavoring to split their observations between the more objective and interpersonally verifiable (as contained in their field notes) and the more subjective and personally introspective (as contained in their journals). r But, from the start, I questioned the tenability of this I distinction and opted instead for a medium that combined both in what I called a "log," partly to distinguish it from the documents created by my traveling companions and partly to remind myself that I followed in a tradition | started by my grandfather.

My log represents my reactions to what I observed around me on the Odyssey. It stems from the data collected in my travels but it reflects the filtering of those data through my own sensibilities. In other words, it tries to capture the research experience as I lived it in the Summer of 1986. Thus, in a sense, one might say that my colleagues have written about the Odyssey across (across the country, across consumption situations, across informants) whereas, by contrast, I have written about the Odyssey within. I have peered as far as I can see into the depths of my own responses to our observations of consumption phenomena. Here is what I have found.

Excerpts from Log Entries

Tuesday, July 29

....As I pass the Pickerel Inn, heading toward the Hemlock Farms entrance, I notice that it is already 11:07 a.m. Writing notes in the car turns out to be a completely absorbing experience, and the time has flown. I have the sudden thought that I might find the van waiting for me at Horseshoe Lane, with several angry friends upset that I wasn't there to meet them. But I calm myself with the thought that it is much more likely they will arrive in the late afternoon or evening or even in the middle of the night. I am expecting Jeff Durgee at 4:00; so we'll see what happens.

At the Hemlock Farms gate, I tell the incredibly officious guard that I expect some visitors at Horseshoe Lane. This uniformed officer makes me spell my name three times and inquires solicitously about the names of all my visiting friends and their exact times of arrival. I hope and pray that the van passes his scrutiny without incident.

When I first heard that the Odyssey would be cooing cross-country in a van, I pictured one of those cute little Dodge wagons with the pointed noses. In Chicago, the sight of the actual vehicle that my friends had rented in California filled me with something between astonishment and tread. I am sure that it will be the largest privately owned object on wheels ever to seek access to Hemlock Farms. While I know of no specific rule against inviting your friends to visit you in a van, I still cannot picture this gigantic RV breezing past our gestapo-like sentry without some sort of horrendous hassle. I hope that he has not received gatehouse training in how to shoot to kill.

(Suddenly, I hear what I think might be the Winnebago groaning its way up Gaskin Drive, but the vehicle in question turns out to be the Hemlock garbage truck)

On arriving at the house, I unpack the car (which could use a wash and maybe a new coat of paint), put away the groceries (such as they are) and my clothes (what I can fit on my half of the closet shelf), open all the windows (to clear the musty smell that has collected in only a day and a half), spray half a can of bee poison into the now-deserted wasp nest that I stumbled on the other day (with painful results), and perform a superficial rat patrol (finding no mouse signs for the first time in recent memory, probably because we have only missed two nights in the house). I get WBGO going on the FM (with loads of static), retrieve the rest of my coffee from the car (only three hours old and still barely lukewarm), and settle in the gazebo (to write a few more notes to myself and maybe others).

Here, the scene seems terribly tentative, yet peaceful. The contrast with yesterday in the City seems incredible. Yesterday was all craziness and rush as I desperately tried to finish the first draft on a revision for JMR so that I could get it into word-processing and sent to Bill before I left town. I succeeded in placing this document on Mary Ann's desk (in the absence of Liz) only by pushing myself and my loved ones to the limit. By the time I got to bet at 2:15, I had completely drained my physical and emotional energies.

Now I sit in the Sears gazebo, surrounded by our slim white chairs and the rusty hibachi, in a comment of utter tranquility of environment if not of spirit. A grasshopper, probably injured, lurches across the terrace. The sun comes and goes from behind its cloud cover. Distant rolls of thunder seem to underline the heaviness of the humid air. From the house, I can hear a Latin-tinged jazz band (maybe Bill Watrous) performing Chick Corea's "Spain" with some heavy bongo drums and screaming trumpets. Meanwhile, I wait.

I wait for the arrival of my friends and who-knows-what kind of activities to come. I do not even know in advance which friends and colleagues will still be on the van by the time it gets here. I'm more or less counting on Russ and Melanie, probably Rick, maybe Tom, probably not John, and almost certainly not Hal (who said that he would again join the van at Beth's house after it leaves here). Jeff will arrive separately. Wendy might join us, as might T. J. and who-knows-whom. It should prove quite interesting to see who arrives. During the delay, I have the doubtless soggy Whopper that I bought in Stroudsburg, the need for exercise. and plenty of paperwork to keep me busy....

....After some interesting footage of interviews on the TV monitor, Rick, Joe, Jeff, and I share a few thoughts on our feelings about the direction of the research. I express my own reaction to the field notes and journals completed up to the arrival of the van in Chicago. These hinge on what I sense is a gap between the relatively matter-of-fact field notes and the more interpretive journal entries. According to the perspective of naturalistic inquiry, accuracy, completeness, and consensus regarding the field notes are touchstones of rigor and trustworthiness. This emphasis extends to a preoccupation with research audits and member checks. I acknowledge the potential value of such procedures but fear that an overemphasis on the mechanics of collecting and recording field notes might lead to a "new orthodoxy" in which we just latch onto a surrogate for the old positivism. For me, increasingly, the emphasis on data collection needs to be tempered by an openness to interpretation -- including interpretation that is subjective, personal, and introspective. The clearest opportunity for such an interpretive thrust lies in the journals, and I therefore favor a greater value placed on the diary-like journal entries and their potential contribution to developing interpretations of what is happening in the research process. I raise this point again at dinner, where it receives some sympathy but prompts general agreement that, at the start, the field notes demand so much investment of time that the blossoming of the journal entries will have to come later ....

Wednesday, July 30

.... (At breakfast, we also discuss some differences in perspectives on what constitutes fair game for the field notes and particularly the journals. I have had some interest in exploring the group process involved in the research endeavor itself. Apparently, John began some of his early entries in this direction but soon discovered that his explorations were seen as too invasive. Rick joined with similar inclinations but has felt that a real focus on the lives of others might intrude too deeply into their privacy. Since I remain interested in this topic, I sh 11 need to find a way to observe what is going on in the research group without revealing material seen as too sensitive. Perhaps, since I am mostly writing about myself, I can get away with some personal revelations. We'll see.)....

Saturday, August 2

....Our efforts to eat in Milford devolve into a disaster. The diner serves no beer; so we leave. The hour is 10:15 and the To Quick Inn has already closed for the night. We walk down to the pizza parlor (still open even at this late hour for Milford). On the way I suggest that we could drive home and eat the elaborate meal that Sally laboriously prepared and brought from New York City, but several of us prefer the convenience of the fare at the Greek-Italian takeout counter. These hungry ones order and eat sandwiches and pasta. Then we drive back to He lock where Sally, Joe, Rick, Jeff, and I eat Sally's curry soup, pasta salad, asparagus, hot biscuits, and chocolate cake. We open two bottles of Inglenook Chablis.

Our discussion leans toward philosophical issues bearing on the science of the trip. I reveal some of my concerns that the Odyssey "method" could evolve into a kind of orthodoxy with Naturalistic Inquiry as its bible and Lincoln and Guba as its prophets. I as especially concerned that the few people in our field who genuinely care about qualitative, ethnographic, phenomenological, clinical, narrative, introspective, interpretive, humanistic, and related methods not impose their own particular approaches on each other. The rather feverish emphasis on field notes, journals, the entry thereof on terminals, and its outputting via the printer onto stacks of sheets that are passed around and half read but never discussed might be a comfortable research style for some but not for others. Besides pets and esthetics and leisure experiences and things like that, my main interest at the moment lies in observing and analyzing my reactions to what is happening around me and in studying and reflecting on the research experience. For example, I cherished the opportunity to interview Joe, not so much because of what he said about his big Rhodesian Ridgeback (though I do have interest in his pet consumption) as because of what I learned about the experience of depth interviewing on camera. Similarly, I value the interaction with Russ, Melanie, Jeff, Joe, Rick, et al. not so much because of what they can teach me about consumer research (most of which I could pick up by reading their articles) as because of what these interactions suggest about the group research process. I often sense that the feverish emphasis on watching video tapes, typing at the terminals, printing output, loading/unloading the van, changing batteries, and parking on level ground may detract from the ability of the group to sit down and talk about what is actually happening on this Odyssey. Thus, many potential insights might escape.

In particular, each member of the group has his or her own form of materialism that substitutes having for doing, though some of these go unrecognized. I do not particularly object to materialism. (What collector could?) But I do wonder if we are replacing reflective, mutually reinforcing, and strategic conversation with stacks of photos, artifacts, and computer printouts. My own sense would have been that the printed output could wait until about Christmas and that, meanwhile, we should be focusing on such vague issues as what it all means and such specific exigencies as where we are going tomorrow and when. Today, for example, we wasted at least two hours and will have, at best, three or four productive hours at the Renaissance Fair.

All this may come to a heat when the others discover that my journal and field notes are the same thing. Because my primary interest lies at the interface between my observations and how I react to them, I have no straightforward way of keeping the two separate. Moreover, I to not believe in the possibility of truly objective recording. Everything in these interviews comes to us through the filter of our preconceptions and expectations. Further, in our interviewing styles, we structure what happens by asking leading questions and picking up on some aspects rather than others. Even if we make a purportedly objective record via video tape, we still load that record with our own subjectivity by guiding the discussion at every turn and incorporating the camera-person's point of view. In other words, the observer affects the observed. Heisenberg was right and there's nothing we can do about it. From this, it seems to follow that my field notes (about what people say) merge imperceptibly into journal-like descriptions (of how I react to it). I would rather focus consciously on structuring all my notes in a way that proves meaningful to me than to pretend to remove myself from part of them, especially since the latter gesture is little more than an exercise in futility....

Tuesday, August 5

I arise at 8:00 a.m., shave, brush, and throw myself through a workout to the tones of Hamp Hawes and Oscar Peterson for the second day in a row (same artists, different music). After showering, I fix coffee, pack, and wander around between the house and the van getting things ready for our scheduled 10:00 a.m. departure. These preparations include pouring the Gallo Chablis into smaller carafes that will fit in the van's fridge; rechecking to make sure that I have note-taking materials, cameras, and film; and giving Russ moral support in his efforts to print my 1¦R notes from the disc.

When the van has been packed and loaded with water and wine, we depart in the general direction of Utabsent, PA, (near Reading), where we plan to spend some time visiting Martha Park Keeler, an old school chum of Melanie's and a decorator who has offered to let us interview some of her clients. friends. and family.

On the way, I tap furiously at the PC keys, while Jeff drives, and Russ and Melanie read my first three days of log entries. They laugh occasionally; so I conclude that I have at least partially succeeded in keeping the kind of log I seek to create. Meanwhile, most of my trip to Utabsent remains lost in the blur of typing and bouncing and backtracking and retyping....

....Maybe later, I shall punctuate my suburban adventure with a splash in the Keeler's newly installed hot tub.

But "later" never comes. The Odyssites retire to the van to write notes and watch tapes. I join them and am soon sucked back into the maelstrom of consumer research. I feel under tremendous pressure to keep typing up my handwritten log entries -- why, I'm not sure, since Jeff will be leaving tomorrow ant, after that, we shall lose our capacity for printing out. I guess I'm afraid of arriving back at Columbia in the Fall with fifty pages of log material to type and no time in which to do it.

The van is much too noisy and crowded to attempt any sort of typing, largely because both Martha and Mark have arrived to watch their friend Buffy and Martha's mother Valerie on TV. I therefore take a PC up to the Keeler's deck, plug in, and start rapping. From this vantage point, I can vicariously participate in the festivities around the hot tub. First, Mark does his daily dousing, with shouts of something between anguish and joy amidst much splashing. On his way back inside, he pauses briefly to tell me his life's story -- namely, that he must live in Utabsent to be near his daughter Margie who lives with his estranged first wife who is a business partner of his second wife Martha (our hostess). Re was once offered a better job in Minneapolis at a salary higher than he'll ever make in his lifetime, but he won't leave Margie.

After Mark retires, the Odyssites come out to play in the Jacuzzi. They first call for me to join them, but I ext plain that I am currently sitting on the deck in a bright light trying to type my log entries on a PC. They then call for brownies, which I shag from the kitchen to give the hungry revelers their next chocolate fix.

I become somewhat disoriented by all this excitement. When I return to the PC, I can barely read the screen. I reach over to fiddle with the contrast button, but accidentally hit the on/off switch, killing everything that I have typed since about the time that Hark left me. Ironically, I could have splashed happily in the hot tub and actually been better off in terms of my typing chores.

I start over.

My friends call for me again, this time to make my bed so that I won't disturb them when I come stumbling into the van. I decline their extra sleeping bag and haul out my sheet, pillow, and blankets. I tuck these neatly in and return to the patio for another hour of typing, a brownie, some milk, and two chocolate-covered ice cream bits that I surreptitiously snatch from the Reeler's refrigerator.

My worst fears about sleeping in the van are more than confirmed. The mattress is pretty comfortable, but the air conditioner blows blasts of icy air directly at my face. I realize that I'll have to spend the night with my head under the covers, wondering why these great van-haunting outdoors-people cannot survive in this cool climate without artificial air. Predictably, I toss and turn all night...

Thursday, August 7

After our exertions on the excursion to Reading, I crash. I realize increasingly that I have only the slimmest chance of finishing the typing of my logs before leaving tomorrow for my holiday with Sally and Chris. I therefore coax the others without much resistance into spending the day on bookkeeping activities. This goes down fairly easily -- I suspect because Russ and especially Melanie also feel under some pressure to get caught up.

Consequently, after rising, exercising, and showering, I sit down at the round dining table and start typing to the sounds of Andre Previn and Russ Freeman. Six hours later, I am still typing. By this time, from sitting tensely in the slant-backed chair, my lower back is aflame with agonizing pain. I desperately want to reach closure on this task; so I persevere. But afterwards, I feel physically and mentally drained and in no mood to go to the Clyde Beatty Circus in Stroudsburg.

It makes only moderate demands on my rhetoric to persuade Russ and Melanie to-designate this as an evening of reflection, conversation, and catching up on the video tapes I haven't seen yet. In fact, they graciously offer to take me to dinner, and I jump at the chance, making a reservation for three at the Settler's Inn for 8:30 (the earliest they can take us). This gives us some time before we need to leave. While I have some beer and peanuts, Russ and Melanie interview me about the house. Russ has taken some photos earlier while I was still typing. He seems to be working on a theme that has to do with symbolic hunting. Evidence in support of this theme includes the artistic animals scattered around the house, the longbow on the wall, and plentiful supplies of anti-mouse and -ant devices on the bookshelf near the door and in several other all-too-conspicuous corners. I re-explain the household pest problem as best I can. Amazingly, to me, they still think I am over-reacting. Maybe I should have just left that dead mouse in Jeff's bed.

We take the van to the Settler's Inn so that I can watch videotapes on the way. I screen the footage on Buffy Schlinger and Valerie Park, using this opportunity to verify the overall impressions that are already in my log. I would backtrack and make changes only if I found something that was factually incorrect. I don't.

Dinner is most pleasant. We talk about issues like "what does it all mean," "where do we go from here," and "how should we present this stuff at ACR." We find no answers to any of these questions, of course, but we have a nice chat.

During the drive back to Hemlock, I watch more tapes. On our return, I retreat into the house with a PC, the discs, and some hard copies of the notes written by Melanie, Russ, and Rick. I sit up until about 2:00, reading the printouts and scrolling through the discs....

Friday, August 8

I arise at 8:00 and push myself through the familiar exercising and grooming rituals. After coffee and a brief confab with Melanie and Russ, I rush around getting things together to take back to the City for the start of our vacation. Mostly, this involves throwing clean clothes and laundry into two separate garbage bags and hoping I don't get these mixed up with the real garbage, several bags of which have been quietly accumulating for the past few days. I toss all this into the station wagon, exchange some tender thank you's and farewell's with Russ and Melanie, and leave for home and Sally at about 11:00 a.m.

The trip down Route 402 and several pesky errands in Stroudsburg use up the next hour and a half. The last such errand involves stopping at the Burger King for something that they call "chicken," a Diet Pepsi, and a pee. The "chicken" comes between slices of bread in a sort of sandwich. The pee encounters a line at the men's room; so I use the ladies' room (which is empty), exit quickly (without detection), and finally reach Route 80 East at about 12:30 (roughly two hours behind schedule).

POSTSCRIPT

On the trip back to town, I ponder my experiences during the past two weeks. When I drove out to Hemlock Farms, a week ago last Tuesday, I had a deep sense of not knowing what to expect. I was right. The ensuing events that filled my life for the next ten days differed considerably from anything that I might have anticipated.

First, the monster RV hardly raised an eyebrow at the security gate. Apparently, the gate really is intended for security and not to hassle the residents of the "Property," as the real estate agents like to call it. Presumably, thieves do not usually arrive in mammoth six-wheeled recreational vehicles that stick out like sore thumbs; so vans are OK

Second, I spent much less time being a host in our house than I had originally anticipated. For the first couple of days, I tried to play this role. But, especially after Joe and Rick left, I began to understand that the others really did prefer being in the van; so I spent as much time as I could on wheels.

Third, I learned that the boundaries of my eagerness to live in a van extend from about 9:00 a.m. to about 10:00 p.m. I vastly prefer sleeping in (one of) my own bed(s) and also feel much more comfortable trying to exercise, shower, and change in a house. Contrary to Melanie's interpretations (which were also largely disconfirmed by her friend Martha), I do not feel any status hangups over inhabiting a van. I do not feel that it is lowbrow or declasse or ecologically unsound. I just find it physically uncomfortable for any more than fifteen or sixteen hours a day.

Fourth, I do not think that this particular Odyssey could have functioned without the van. The RV provided a good place for a group of people to work for about eighteen hours a day. For everyone but the driver(s), a long trip meant a chance to type field notes, journal entries, or log material; to watch videotapes; to compare thoughts; to eat; to sleep. Thus, the van introduced very real efficiencies in terms of time. I would estimate this efficiency ratio at a factor of about 2.0.

Fifth, I'm not so sure that efficiency is everything. As elsewhere, there may be an efficiency/effectiveness tradeoff. In this case, some effectiveness may have been lost to the driven quality that characterized the feverish collection of data, writing of notes, entering them into the PC, and other compulsive research activities (my own included). As I have discovered, it is easy to get sucked into the need for a sense of completeness. I still wonder, however, if it might not be better either to proceed more slowly and reflectively or to collect the materials now and write them up for Christmas. After all, that is what my grandfather did when he wrote his log.

Sixth, I wonder if the emphasis that some of us place on the distinction between field notes and journal entries might not be misdirected. True, it adheres to the traditional practice in naturalistic inquiry. Yet, often, the field notes amount to little more than a (partial) transcript of what is already on tape, whereas the journals sound like "Dear Diary" material that has no real support in concrete events. Hence, the all-important interaction between objective reality (if there is such a thing) and the researcher's subjective impressions may tend to slip between the cracks. I am aware that anthropologists and ethnographers prefer to do it this way. But that does not necessarily make it right for purposes of this particular Odyssey and related projects.

Seventh, as an alternative, I have tried to focus on writing a "log" that combines aspects of field notes and journals by describing my own experience of our sites and interviews. These experiences involve an interaction between the objective reality of the data and the researcher's own subjective interpretive responses. A positivist wants to eliminate the latter. But, increasingly, post-positivists have recognized the impossibility of such a reduction. The log format may help us put the researcher back into the research. I hope so.

Eighth, such a device will help us only to the extent that we really do care about our experience of the research process. When I began the Odyssey, I thought that the main point was to study other people (as consumers). Increasingly, however, I have realized that, for me, the main point has been to study myself -- myself as a consumer and myself studying other people as consumers. The Odyssey experience seems well-suited to providing the latter kinds of insights. Most of what I have learned on the Odyssey and tried to convey in my log concerns the nature of that research experience.

Ninth, I remain aware that any conclusions coming out of my log should be viewed as preliminary and tentative. The log provides an interpretive, personal account of what one researcher experienced during a ten-day portion of a summer-long journey that involved many people. Their accounts will doubtless differ from mine and should be studied and compared accordingly.

Tenth and last, I am more grateful than I could have anticipated for being allowed to participate in this adventure. The Consumer Behavior Odyssey was and is a grand idea -- something like a "grand" house, but applicable to events of the mind and spirit -- in which several colleagues have allowed me to share their most private and profound thoughts and feelings. Where else could I have found such friends and fellow travelers? Where else, indeed, could I have found a project so vast, so heroic, and so beautiful as to raise Ulysses from the dead?

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