Autoethnography: My Understanding

The concept of autoethnography makes me challenge almost every ideal I’ve been taught during my school years. As a journalism student, we are taught to avoid bias and remain as impartial to the research and ideas explored in every article we write. We have to, to the best of our ability, provide both sides of every story for audiences to make up their own mind. Autoethnography allows me to challenge that notion and explore how I perceive particular experiences and instances. As mentioned in Ellis’ Autoethnography: An Overview, authors often find it therapeutic to write personal stories as it helps to make sense of ourselves and our experiences (Ellis et al, 2011). By taking an auto ethnographic approach, authors are also able to question themselves to improve and understand relationships and promote change (Ellis et al, 2011).

The first time I saw the term autoethnographic, I was beyond confused. A quick Google search told me that it was a form of qualitative research used to explore personal experiences, while connecting to a wider meaning. Without any context to what we would be exploring in DIGC330, I still wasn’t quite sure what it actually meant. Ellis et al (2011) explained that autoethnography is made up of two research methodologies: autobiography (a history of a person’s life written or told by that person) and ethnography (a branch of anthropology dealing with the scientific description of individual cultures).

Through this new (for me) form of research, I understand that there will be a fine line between being too personal and not critical enough and being too critical and unattached and not personal enough. One of the main critical responses to autoethnography is that it can be ‘too artful and not scientific, or too scientific and not sufficiently artful.’ (Ellis et al, 2011).

‘We know that memory is fallible, that it is impossible to recall or report on events in language that exactly represents how those events were lived and felt; and we recognize that people who have experienced the “same” event often tell different stories about what happened’ (TULLIS OWEN et al., 2009).

The quote above really caught my eye during the reading as no two people will feel exactly the same about any experience. Thoughts, feelings and backgrounds are just a couple of the factors that impact how each individual sees the world and how they experience anything.

I will be continuing my autoethnographic research by exploring the popularisation of brush lettering, while drawing on the history of calligraphy.

References:

Ellis, C., Adams, T., & Bochner, A. (2011). ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12(1). Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.17169/fqs-12.1.1589
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3 comments

  1. It is really interesting that you began by stating that you have had an experience as a journalism student which had shaped how you approach writing and telling stories, as per journalistic integrity. Acknowledging that there is a framework in place which impacts as to how you observe and practice autoethnography, which in itself is an important part of autoethnography; analysing any potential biases or conflicts of interest which affect your opinion or experience. Great post, really looking forward to reading more about your experience with brush lettering and calligraphy as a whole.

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  2. I can 100% understand what you mean about your studies affecting how you believe we should be regarding autoethnography as I study Journalism too! But I think it could be a breathe of fresh air talking about ourselves for once, hey! But this framework definitely comes into account as it’s something that has impacted the way you view things and understand them. And I can understand hat you mean about the fine line – but I think that’s where reflection and reflexivity can come into account. As Chris mentioned in class, there’s a lot of questions we can ask ourselves following our reaction/research and this is a great way to understand our personal framework better in my opinion. I’m excited to see how your exploration of calligraphy goes!

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