What The Heck is Autoethnography?

To be honest, other than briefly hearing the word tossed into conversation here and there, I haven’t heard much about autoethnography, so it should come as no surprise when I saw and heard the word and thought: “what the heck is that?”. I’ve never been too fond of big words that usually sound a lot more simple or meaningless than they actually are, and autoethnography isn’t much different, except for the fact that it is a big word with a very simple, yet complex meaning depending on the individuals understanding of it. As Ellis et al. (2011) defines it, autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to both describe and analyse (systematically) personal experience in order to understand ones cultural experience. To me, in short, this means that it is a systematic method used to decipher ones personal cultural experience when exposed to different cultural attributes. As simple as that is, it can actually be harder to understand that I first thought.

My first thought once consuming all that was discussed in the Ellis et al.  (2011) reading was that, whether consciously or subconsciously, we all undertake autoethnographic research (in relative terms) every time we are exposed to a cultural difference compared to that of our own. As discussed by Ellis et al. (2011) in section 5, a common critique of autoethnographic research and work is that it is not rigorous, analytical or theoretical enough and instead too aesthetic, emotional and therapeutic. Although in my understanding of the term, these traits as so often expressed in autoethnographic research, are still analytical and theoretical responses to a subject, regardless of how it is displayed or presented.

Below is a sort of stream-of-consciousness of my experience when viewing Gojira (1954), the first time I have viewed such a culturally different film to what I would usually view.

  • My first thought was, “oh here we go, a black and white film all in Japanese, how am I going to understand this?” – this was a problem for me as I haven’t yet learnt to appreciate black and white film, maybe given the fact I was not exposed to much of it while growing up or taught to appreciate it.
  • I had done some quick background research and having found out that the set was incredibly small so it actually made me appreciate the time and effort that it must have taken to built such a perfect piece.
  • The ability to pick up when Special FX were being so obviously used made me laugh, but also appreciate the production effort of the film in order to provide entertainment to an audience.
  • The Special FX are just an older-version of what we consider CGI nowadays and with the resources they would have had in 1954, they did a sufficient job.
  • The incredible lack of dialogue and a sufficient score (background music) made it quite difficult to stay immersed within the film and quite often had to remind myself to actually watch and take note of what was happening.
  • Having studied Japanese throughout high school, it came to no surprise to me when the use of weapons, especially those of mass destruction, was quite critical.
  •  The over-dramatic emotion displayed by characters came to me as no surprise, maybe this is because of my stereotypical view on most Asian films/media that I should probably forget about when viewing something of this matter.
  • Eventually I grew incredibly bored given the slow-paced nature of the film and the lack of excitement that was displayed unless there was a fight scene.

REFERENCES

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1. http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095 accessed 12/8/16

To be honest, other than briefly hearing the word tossed into conversation here and there, I haven’t heard much about autoethnography, so it should come as no surprise when I saw and heard the word and thought: “what the heck is that?”. I’ve never been too fond of big words that usually sound a lot more simple or meaningless than they actually are, and autoethnography isn’t much different, except for the fact that it is a big word with a very simple, yet complex meaning depending on the individuals understanding of it. As Ellis et al. (2011) defines it, autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to both describe and analyse (systematically) personal experience in order to understand ones cultural experience. To me, in short, this means that it is a systematic method used to decipher ones personal cultural experience when exposed to different cultural attributes. As simple as that is, it can actually be harder to understand that I first thought.

My first thought once consuming all that was discussed in the Ellis et al.  (2011) reading was that, whether consciously or subconsciously, we all undertake autoethnographic research (in relative terms) every time we are exposed to a cultural difference compared to that of our own. As discussed by Ellis et al. (2011) in section 5, a common critique of autoethnographic research and work is that it is not rigorous, analytical or theoretical enough and instead too aesthetic, emotional and therapeutic. Although in my understanding of the term, these traits as so often expressed in autoethnographic research, are still analytical and theoretical responses to a subject, regardless of how it is displayed or presented.

godzilla-1954-main-review.jpg

SOURCE

Below is a sort of stream-of-consciousness of my experience when viewing Gojira (1954), the first time I have viewed such a culturally different film to what I would usually view.

  • My first thought was, “oh here we go, a black and white film all in Japanese, how am I going to understand this?” – this was a problem for me as I haven’t yet learnt to appreciate black and white film, maybe given the fact I was not exposed to much of it while growing up or taught to appreciate it.
  • I had done some quick background research and having found out that the set was incredibly small so it actually made me appreciate the time and effort that it must have taken to built such a perfect piece.
  • The ability to pick up when Special FX were being so obviously used made me laugh, but also appreciate the production effort of the film in order to provide entertainment to an audience.
  • The Special FX are just an older-version of what we consider CGI nowadays and with the resources they would have had in 1954, they did a sufficient job.
  • The incredible lack of dialogue and a sufficient score (background music) made it quite difficult to stay immersed within the film and quite often had to remind myself to actually watch and take note of what was happening.
  • Having studied Japanese throughout high school, it came to no surprise to me when the use of weapons, especially those of mass destruction, was quite critical.
  •  The over-dramatic emotion displayed by characters came to me as no surprise, maybe this is because of my stereotypical view on most Asian films/media that I should probably forget about when viewing something of this matter.
  • Eventually I grew incredibly bored given the slow-paced nature of the film and the lack of excitement that was displayed unless there was a fight scene.

REFERENCES

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1. http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095 accessed 12/8/16

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4 comments

  1. Hey, I really enjoyed reading this. The first thing that struck me was that this blog ended really abruptly, however for the rest of the blog I was encapsulated from the beginning. I thoroughly enjoyed the layout, I thought started with your experiences was a good idea and then flowing into a bit of referencing and a bit of detail about what an autoethnography actually is. The only thing that I could suggest here is to quote the text just a little bit more, just so if you’re someone that isn’t apart of digc and you’re reading this it makes a bit more sense!
    I thought the dot points were a good way of recounting your opinions of the film but I thought they lacked a little substance.
    I loved how you included a picture as well as the trailer, and like I said, I really did like reading this blog! Well done

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  2. The title of your blog is what initially grabbed my attention- you said what we were all thinking… and also demonstrated to me that whilst watching Gojira you were more than likely not watching it through an ethnographic perspective. Stream of consciousness is an excellent way to demonstrate a personal and cultural perspective of an experience, and you have done this really well. I commend you also for picking up on points that you personally feel were too general or naïve, particularly when you realised you were in for an hour and half of a black and white film; “maybe given the fact I was not exposed to much of it while growing up or taught to appreciate it.”
    Its great that you had conducted some research and realised how much work had gone into the creation of the set (as it was made in miniature) and you were able to appreciate how incredible this would have been at the time, however stereotypical ideas that the Japanese were incessant on military weaponry and that all Asian films/media is overly dramatic shows a lack of ethnographic research. The context in which you watched it- a classroom full of students, and knowing you had to report on what you see, also may have impacted how you viewed this text and potentially taken away from the enjoyment factor of the film.

    Like

  3. I liked that you just jotted down what you were thinking and formatted that into just simple dot points, it helped to show the flow of thought in your experience of Gojira. I agree completely about the black and white film “gate”, we live in a generation where we don’t get to experience these kinds of things on the regular, because you know… we have the technology to display colour now, unless we’re a super artsy art student. I also appreciate you use the term special effects and visual effects correctly, many people mistake one for the other quite often, and definitely the special effects was something that definitely stood out to me too, most likely just because of technology advancing and better film made nowadays.

    Like

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