Author: lisa

i am an alien on earth

Mukbang

Ms. Communication

My paranoia about being watched while eating in public or through my webcam – or both happening simultaneously – would make me an awful host of mukbang.

The Korean term combines parts of the words meokneun (eating) and bangsong (broadcast) to label the phenomenon of people eating huge amounts of food in front of an online audience.

1 ‘BJ (Broadcast Jockey) Fitness Fairy’ is a body-builder turned mukbang host, and a prominent face of the South Korean subculture. (source)

My prior knowledge

I knew of on-camera eating before understanding it as ‘mukbang’. My interactions with the subculture however, were limited to social media excerpts which previewed young Asian women eating. I still managed to cast pre-judgement and scepticism. One of those ideas concerned the ethics of binge-eat broadcasting. It was the “think of the children” argument.

In a much more personal respect, I’d felt a sense of…

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The Original Alienation

I opened my previous post by announcing my non-gamer status. From the beginning, I was already subconsciously distancing myself from the text, its characters and the professional gaming culture. I positioned myself as an alien.

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Little alien me writing little alien notes. (source)

“I’m no gamer”

My greatest assumption about the gaming documentary was the kind of content I was expecting. Despite not having watched a gaming doco prior (or at least not according to memory), the thought that I couldn’t be entertained by the sight of people ‘playing’ at a computer was like a self-imposed barrier to the ethnographic experience. I thought, “How am I going to associate with this plot and empathise with its characters?”

I have no aversion to gaming. It’s just something I haven’t partaken in to any significant degree, unless we wanna count Club Penguin.

Anderson (2006) gives 3 criteria for a researcher to effectively undergo analytic autoethnography:

  1. The researcher is a full member in the research setting
  2. The researcher is visible as a member in the research setting
  3. The researcher is committed to an analytic research agenda of improving theoretical understandings of broader analytic autoethnography (p. 375)

I did/do not fit Anderson’s number 1 criteria, which cancelled out the rest. Were my analytical capabilities hindered by my non-‘CMR’ (Complete Member Researcher) status within any level of gaming culture? I’m convinced that if I had even known of someone deeply involved in gaming culture, my non-participant observer’s impression of the film from its introduction would have been positively different.

“That one uncle”

I then realised that ‘State of Play’ was less about games and more about gamers. My slight disinterest was gradually replaced with engagement in understanding the lives of particular characters.

Scenes which involved dialogue with gamers’ family members were moments I reacted to with most empathy. They were scenes which revealed doubts and hesitations about young peoples’ goals and desires. It might be because I am aware of stereotypical Asian parenting attitudes. These are relatively conservative values about family, gender roles and career choices. Maybe I’m wrong to see this from a racial lens, for I’m well aware that these experiences of cultural familial conflict aren’t exclusive to Asian people.

The thing is, autoethnography is about acknowledging and embracing those lenses – racial, gendered, etc.

My growing empathy for the people observed is a core objective of autoethnography. It is a foundation to understanding my own longings and belongings as I connect personal and cultural contexts to my research (Alsop, 2002). Those desires and values I initially expressed were of individualism in particular. I consider its origins the ‘traditionally Asian’ aspects of my upbringing in a Western society that challenged those traditions. I understand the personal conflicts experienced by the film’s characters via the cultural conflicts of my own.

Without the empathy I gradually gained for the film’s subjects, there’d have been less room for my perspectives about eSports athleticism to change, and otherwise, according to Alsop, I’d be measuring the eSports culture against my own inner compass, without “self-reflexivity” (p. 7).

 

References

Alsop, CK 2002, ‘Home and Away: Self Reflexive Auto-/Ethnography’, Forum Qualitative Social Research, vol. 3, no. 3, <http://www.utsc.utoronto.ca/~kmacd/IDSC10/Readings/Positionality/auto-eth.pdf&gt;.

Anderson, L 2006, ‘Analytic Autoethnography’, Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, vol. 35, no. 4, pp. 373-393.

Understanding the Craft

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This is what ‘StarCraft’ means to me. (source)

I’m no gamer. I didn’t think I’d be able to connect with a story about eSports athletes. I didn’t even know eSports athleticism was a thing.

State of Play is a film about a South Korean gaming subculture. Watching it was an ethnographic experience. It was ethnographic in that I was observing and noting the practices and experiences of the gamers. My analyses of these observations using selective personal retrospect is autoethnographyEllis describes the method as an acceptance of the researcher’s subjectivity in which personal experience is used as a means of understanding another culture.

My cultural identity has shaped how I’ve interpreted this film – autoethnography says it’s totally valid.

Ethnography – observations of the film I considered worth noting:

  • A narrating voice tells us that most people follow the paths given to them. I might be cringing a little because I don’t know if it’s meant to give the vibe of a Morgan Freeman-esque intro to a philosophical narrative. This is just not Morgan Freeman’s genre.
  • The professional gamer who earns a kick-ass load of money is asked when he’ll get a ‘real’ job. We all have that one relative, don’t we – that uncle who constantly throws shade at people’s (our) life choices.
  • This is hardcore gaming. It looks like an addiction.
  • It seems that these dudes (it’s all just dudes!) trap themselves into the gaming life in sacrifice of their education, family relationships and a social life outside this subculture.

Autoethnography – analyses of my observations using personal experience:

  • That initial cringe-worthy line felt like a more meaningful statement as I got to know some of the characters. We see the concern for gamers’ long-term wellbeing expressed by their families. Professional gaming is an unconventional career pursuit, even in mainstream Australian culture. I can empathise with these characters. I too have been challenged by the ‘paths’ paved by my parents’ ideas of tradition and my individual desires which contested them. It’s a conflict of cultural identity which leads to awkward but necessary conversation.
  • Perhaps the uncle didn’t mean to be condescending. I feel like that one uncle we share mightn’t understand the capacity with which digital culture can impact a person’s life. I may not be a gamer, but I am hugely reliant on digital media, and so it’s of great value to me. Older generations mightn’t share the same sentiment, perhaps because of their vastly different experiences with telecommunications throughout their lives.
  • ‘Addiction’ isn’t really the right word to associate with this gaming. It’s actually a thing that requires training and active competition. I thought of it as an unhealthy kind of leisurely ‘playing’, but no. It’s actually $eriou$ bu$ine$$.
  • I don’t know whether it’s right to feel both sympathetic and unsurprised when the professional gamer says he no longer plays for the fun of it, but essentially for the money. I understand it’s a way of providing for his family. But he seemed bored. And 12 hours of training is intense for those eyeballs, man! But he also expressed how fulfilled he felt when competing successfully, and the gratitude he had for his admirers. It’s not really something I could relate to, though.

My autoethnographic experience of this South Korean gaming culture wasn’t about the games they played. It was an insight into the perspectives of those who identified with the culture, and of others who couldn’t quite understand it.

I think this narrative could’ve very well been Morgan Freeman’s genre.

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“Your experiences are valid.” (source)