Author: abbeycubit

I am a 22 year old, currently based in Sydney, Australia. I am working in a Media Agency and am a recent University graduate. I have a love for travel, sweet potato and books. I hope you enjoy my blog xx

Okashi

I have to start by saying that any assessment where I get to integrate food is always going to be a good one, especially ‘okashi’, which is the Japanese word for treats and snacks. For my individual autoethnographic research, I decided to purchase a basket full of treats from Wan Long Supermarket Wollongong. This is the closest location to where I live to gain access to Asian groceries without physically having to go to an Asian country. With the guidance of my partner Jon, who has previously lived in Japan, we filled a basket full of primarily Japanese based treats. All of the items chosen were a new taste, not ever having tried them before. I filmed the whole experience of the first taste test which made it very easy to watch over and reflect.

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(Source: Cubit, A 2016)

Firstly, it is worth noting the initial selection process of the Japanese based candy at the supermarket. I struggled to identify the difference of Chinese based packaging to Japanese. Most products did have English translated words, such as “strawberry flavour”. However, without the guidance of Jon, I would have got a largely mixed bag of candy and drinks from all over the Asian region. This brings to light the major barrier that language has on interpreting what it is you are buying. Without English translations that are available on imported goods, or the further guidance of Jon who has tried those foods, speaks Japanese and lived in Japan for over a year, I would have not been able to have had the experience that I did, of trying Japanese candy in Australia.

Similarly, it was evident throughout the whole 20 minutes of taste testing, I was critically referencing what I was trying, back to an Australian based taste. For example, “this biscuit reminds me of tiny teddies”. This could mean one of two things. The first is that it could be me trying to understand Japanese culture through my Australian context. For me to grasp and take in what It was I was trying, I was searching for the Australian equivalent. Similarly, it could also have meant that I understood that the video was going to be watched by an Australian audience, thus I could have been referring to the Australian context, to ensure my audience could connect with the foods I was trying.

Moreover, the packaging was something that really stood out to me. The colours were all very bright and most included images of the flavour for example. The candy also largely had a cartoon character of some sort, which I believe was to connect the target market of children, with the product. A cross-cultural study on the affects of advertising in US, Japanese and English families outlined how “Japanese children have a significantly lower level of television viewing that the US and British children” (Robertson et al., 1989). Perhaps this is why the packaging is so bold and colourful, as marketers are focusing on the need to gain attention of children in-store as television advertising targeted towards children is absent or minimal in Japan? Such packaging also could fit with the Kawaii or “cute” culture in Japan.

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(Source: Dreamstime.com)

The reoccurring theme in my above deconstruction of my initial post is how my Australian context not only forms my opinion of product selection, tastes, and packaging, it also informed my method of recording as well as the factors I chose to analyse. Living in metropolitan Australia, I am lucky enough to have access to a range of groceries from Asia, with the closest Asian grocer only 5 minutes away. This is a central factor to my research as I was able to gain access to the treats quite easily. It wasn’t a huge event in tracking down such foods. Thus making my experience of accessing Japanese culture and foods straight forward, even though I am almost 8000km away from Japan.

Sources:

Dreamstime, 2016, Kawaii Foods, retrieved from <https://thumbs.dreamstime.com/z/cute-kawaii-dessert-cake-macaroon-ice-cream-icons-vector-set-food-isolated-white-54668595.jpg.&gt;

Free Map Tools, 2016, Tokyo to Sydney, retrieved from < https://www.freemaptools.com/how-far-is-it-between-sydney_-australia-and-tokyo_-japan.htm>

Robertson, T, Ward, S, Gatignon, H, & Klees, D 1989, ‘Advertising and Children: A Cross-Cultural Study’,Communication Research, 16, 4, p. 459, Education Research Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 25 September 2016.

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Japanese Treats direct from the Gong

This assessment has taken a few turns, from ordering a Kawaii Box to changing my mind and instead going for Tokyo Treats. I then realised the package would arrive too late from Japan so I would have to think of something else. So the assessment changed again into collecting a basket full of sweet food from the local Asian Grocer. I have finally been able to kick on with my autoethnographic research, so I hope you enjoy my videos. The first video outlines the scope of my project and the second is me opening and trying all sorts of treats including, chips, chocolate, candy and drinks collected from Wan Long Supermarket Wollongong. I tried to stick to only purchasing primarily Japanese treats.

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“Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyse personal experience in order to understand cultural experience. This approach challenges canonical ways of doing research and representing others and treats research as a political, socially-just and socially-conscious act” (Ellis et al. 2011).


Though there are many ways to comprehend autoethnographic research, I have come to understand the research method as a form of self reflection. Through this research method, I get to consider my own cultural bias that may be forming my opinion. Having never been to Japan, or tried any of the items in this research project, it was very much taste testing and forming an opinion as an outsider.

The autoethnographic research method will form my investigation around my perspectives on Japanese sweets, imported to Australia and purchased locally here in Wollongong. Never having tried any of these products, it is very much a fresh perspective. However how will my Australian cultural context effect my opinion on things like taste, packaging or branding? These questions are exactly what I will analyse in my next post later this week.

Source:
Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1.

Hello. Again.

To be honest, I did groan a little at the term ‘autoethnographic research’ as it sounded like a load of academic vomit. However, I must give this term the benefit of the doubt, as four weeks in, referring and thinking in this way has actually been really interesting. For once you get to consider and challenge your own perspective and opinion as an outsider, which is often what you are told to suppress in research. This blog post is me revisiting my autoethnographic account for my first text in the Digital Asia subject.

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Two weeks ago our Digital Asia seminar consisted of watching State of Play, a documentary on the eSports competitive gaming scene in South Korea. Watching and recording noticeable factors throughout the documentary was the easy part. When I looked over those notes, it was extremely interesting to see how I referred to such a scene. I used words like ‘they’ and took note of critical differences between South Korean culture and my own.  For example, “They give all of the prize money to their Dad’s”, or “They carry around the keyboards with them”, or “In South Korean schools they sing the national anthem of a morning”. I was noticing and recording the key disparities to my own culture as that is what made sense to make note of.

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Such “interactions and the conditions that make them meaningful, can be labelled ‘culture’” (Sinclair N, 2015). I was studying a different culture from the context of my culture; An Australian, female, non-gamer, which is first and foremost the major consideration to remember with this research method. Essentially, this form of research is a way to “systematically analyse personal experience in order to understand cultural experience” (Ellis C. Et al, 2011), which in this case, is eSports in South Korea through my eyes. Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 3.55.50 PM.png

In continuation, this research method really allows you to pick up on your cultural biases and stereotypes that are usually what you are required to notice and dismiss in other research methods. That is not to say that ethnographic research doesn’t require objectivity. The research method is academic and requires to uphold academic integrity, however we get to bring to light our own perceptions which is different in the academic sense.

This research method does have limitations and difficulties such as being able to comprehend and analyse why you think the way you do. You also need to consider context and additional influencing factors that may affect your opinion such as racism or gender roles. Many facets come in to play when you are observing a culture different to your own. In revisiting my first recordings of the the documentary, I got to recognise how limited my opinion is, due to the lack of knowledge on South Korean culture.

Overall, autoethnographic research is a bloody long-winded word, however moving on from that fact, I do think it is a very valid way to undertake research, as for the most part it encourages you to be natural and record your truth. You then get to discuss why you took note of the points you did and how this is as a result of culture. I’m looking forward to choosing my own text and using the autoethnographic research method in my next blog.

 

By Abbey Cubit

Sources:
Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1.

Nicholas, S 2015, ‘Ethnography’, Research Starters: Education (Online Edition), Research Starters, EBSCOhost, viewed 21 August 2016.

Images: 
https://www.crossed-flag-pins.com/Friendship-Pins/South-Korea/Flag-Pins-South-Korea-Australia.jpg.
https://www.google.com.au/search?q=state+of+play&espv=2&biw=1068&bih=554&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjr3PzY7dbOAhXLj5QKHZKlCpAQ_AUIBygC

 

 

South Korea and the State of Play

My final semester of university kicked off with watching a documentary State of Play, which looks into the eSports scene in South Korea. For those of you that haven’t heard of eSports, it is defined as a “multiplayer video game played competitively for spectators, typically by professional gamers” (Oxford Dictionary , 2016). This doco highlighted the fanatical nature of the huge eSports industry in South Korea specifically, that draws in gamers and fans from all over the country. Our class were asked to simply observe and record our perspectives when watching the film and then to consider our cultural lenses and biases that form our opinions. Regardless if I think eSports are crazy, amazing, intense, bizarre or cool, I need to bring myself to recognise that I am watching this as an outsider, peering in and recording what I think.  Such a method is referred to by Ellis, Adams and Bochner as autoethnographic research.

“Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyze personal experience in order to understand cultural experience. This approach challenges canonical ways of doing research and representing others and treats research as a political, socially-just and socially-conscious act” (Ellis et al, 2011). After four years at University I have practiced a plethora of research methods and I find this to be the most interesting to date. It is always easy to record one’s own perspective, however it is refreshing to be reminded of our cultural biases that influence our views.

Ok, so back to State of Play… Pro-Gamers flock to the South Korean capital Seoul, to compete in huge stadiums dedicated to the video game, Starcraft. The doco follows the story of a Pro, Semi-Pro and Amateur. Whilst the game is pretty ancient, it still manages to attract a huge base of young gamers and this in turn draws in an intense audience, both in the stadiums and across two 24 hour free-to-air TV stations. It is a multimillion dollar business, with sponsors paying for entire teams to live, study and train for the competitions. These young gamers sacrifice a normal social life and a steady education, to train hours upon hours for these matches. Playing is no longer for fun but a short-lived career, with most pro-gamers retiring before they even reach 30.

I found it incredible how intently these kids train. They have such a strong team culture, all carrying around their keyboards and wearing sponsored uniforms. The gamers earn over a hundred thousand Euros per year, all of which is passed over to their fathers (very different from AUS).  I knew there was big bucks to be made in gaming, however didn’t expect it on that level. There are tryouts and drafting of teams, where kids as young as 16 come from all over South Korea to try out. There is such sensationalism around the events and it was incredible how much these teams sacrifice to get so good, playing for around 10-12 hours per day playing the one game. For these young South Korean pros work just happens to be a game.

I was shocked by the enormity of the fan-base that the eSports have in South Korea specifically. There are huge crowds both on TV and in the stadiums, filled with fans who line up for autographs and buy merchandise from the favourite team or gamer. There is a notable split between the genders, with males taking the role as the pro gamers and the girls screaming on the sideline, offering gifts at the end of a competition. Perhaps this is cultural? It would be interesting to see if such gender disparity is evident in other industries or sports.

In conclusion, I want to briefly mention the debate on whether or not eSports can be considered a “real” sport; I would say that it is. The game has spectators, has teams, people feel excited by winning and sad when they loose and overall, it is entertaining. The gamers train hard and sacrifice a normal social life to ensure that they can compete at a professional level. I think that sounds like a sport. It was a new phenomenon for me and I was completely enthralled by the documentary as well as the process of focusing on the way I observe things and how I come to my opinion.

 

By Abbey Cubit