Me & Autoethnography

Ellis, Adams and Bochner (2011) make reference to autoethnography as being a useful tool for helping yourself and others understand different cultures. This is attained through describing and analysing your own personal experiences in order to unpack a cultural experience. By researching a culture and its practices, values, beliefs and shared experiences as a ‘participant observer’ you essentially help both insiders and outsiders reach a better understanding of the culture. By expressing hindsight of your experiences you can help others tackle some of the pre-conceived judgements, misunderstandings or false impressions that often come when trying to understand another culture.

I have been having some trouble with researching North Korea auto-ethnographically. Firstly, my understanding of autoethnography is still in the ‘confused stage’. Secondly, I have not been consciously aware or taken note of my experiences and feelings during my research (whoops, will try harder). This may be because I am often so involved, focussed and interested in discovering what is going on in North Korea I become distracted by the existing research, and forget to compare and contrast this with my own experience. Also, I don’t think I am very good at talking or expressing how I feel… more often than not I just make jokes and try and change the conversation, which is probably evident in my blog posts. Thirdly, I find it hard to connect with a cultural experience through a computer screen. Because I have chosen a topic I can interact with in really no other way I am not faced with first-hand, impulsive emotion (not complaining, just sayin’). I spend so much time researching global events and am often presented with harrowing images and videos. While I take all of this on board and everyday it helps broaden my global perspective, I believe this type of second-hand research and the visual evidence that comes with it, often has less of an emotional impact on me, or for me these feelings aren’t as close to the surface.

While auto-ethnography may not be my cup of tea, I haven’t given up yet! I will try and embrace my personal feelings, thoughts, stories and observations more so in the next few weeks, and make these thoughts more visible in my blogs and my digital artefact. This post has been helpful in understanding where I stand with autoethnography and will certainly help me move forward in my final project. I definitely need to work on how I can absorb more autoethnography into the visual aspect of my digital artefact, which at the moment stands as a Prezi tracking the information and technology flows into and out of North Korea. Even if in the end me and autoethnography don’t work it out, I will still be happy in knowing that just a few people have a greater understanding of how difficult it can be for North Koreans to access the technology and free information that we, most of us media students, spend so much time using to broaden our own knowledge.

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5 comments

  1. I can totally understand your difficulty with autoethnography! But I think you’re on the right track! Whats really important is that you have identified where you are at and where you think you need to be. One thing I’ve just discussed in my blog is to write down the first thing you think of as it happens, I think it’s helpful! I think first impressions are important and often show exactly what you think.
    Maybe you could try and find a first person experience of North Korea? To help you connect to one person and not many?
    Can’t wait to see how you present this 🙂 Good post!

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  2. Hi,

    Reading your post this week, I couldn’t help but feel as if you were contradicting yourself! You must have faith in your auto-ethnographic abilities because you were expressing your feelings towards this task and the research you have conducted the entire post. From my understanding you are successfully broadening your global awareness of what is going on in the world. This is great!! You are clearly personally benefiting from this research which, I am sure, is the purpose of the whole project!

    So how are you going about finding out how difficult technology is to access in North Korea??? What methodologies are you using? Perhaps a content analysis on how little information we can find on North Korea from Australia would be a good way to convey this! If the information is not coming out of the country, then perhaps that is a means to say it is not going into the country either!! You could also consider a cross comparison between South and North Korea? There would be drastically different results there!

    Your project sounds very interesting and I look forward to seeing the finished product! Also, have faith in auto-ethnography!! In my opinion you’re certainly doing it!!

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  3. This type of ‘reflection’ or ‘organization’ of work is completely new and different to anything that I have ever done before – I think its just important to think about:
    – Your feelings
    – Your reaction
    – Your experience
    Just simply explain how you felt while engaging with your subject. Sometimes I tend to see myself engaging with a subject and then completely forgetting how I felt. I think that sometimes I need to make a conscious decision to think about how I’m feeling (as weird as that is) like you noted that you should take notes because it’s just simply too hard to remember my own thoughts. To me it has been helpful to read everyone else experiences with auto-ethnography – it has been helpful to see I’m not the only one with these feelings of confusion in the beginning. Reading everyone else s posts has definitely informed by behaviour.

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  4. Ha ha, it seems like everyone feels they are floundering with their autoethnographic approach,probably because it is so different to the way writing has been drilled into us over the uni years: nothing you have to say is important unless you can back it up with references!

    Even though, as you said, its hard to connect through a computer screen, I guess the most you can do is continually put yourself in someone’s shoes on the other side of that screen and ask how you’re daily life would need to change based on the differing circumstances in North Korea. Also, as one person commented above, as one of the keys is participation finding a way to interact and participate directly with someone from North Korean would be ideal – however as your case study is about stringent communication laws you might be better off linking to the Korean diaspora.

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  5. I can totally understand why you couldn’t grasp the term “autoethnography” because i had the exact same experience! Although after reading “autoethnography: an overview” it became much clearer. What i gathered from the reading was to write as if you were trying to explain an experience to somebody who had never experienced that before. It will make writing about your topic so much easier. Also don’t forget to include epiphanies you have along the way, this will help make your writing much more personal and will communicate your individual experience.

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