Week 8

The Art of Autoethnography: Part IV

screen-shot-2016-10-29-at-12-45-57-pm

 

 

 

Below is a table detailing the assumptions I made of the assumptions I had after my first autoethnographic encounter and what was learnt through further literature research. While not all my assumptions were completely wrong I definitely still had a lot to learn.

What I am also finding is that the more involved I become in this autoethnographic study, the more interested I become in the cultural significance and background of the Bollywood film industry. this has unintentionally caused some of my research to go off in a tangent to some extent, relating less to language acquisition and more to the cultural language study of the Bollywood genre. I am finding that I either need to shift to topic of my auto ethnographic study or attempt to refocus.

Assumptions Reflection
The assumption that was made was in relation to the parameters od the autoethnographic research. Initially I set out that I would use multiple media texts in my methodology to obtain personal experience. I believe that this assumption was a little presumptuous. Even though I knew it would be difficult to learn some aspects of the language I did not realize how difficult it would be. I can to the realisation that little would be gain from this experience if I was to continue in the same fashion viewing multiple types of texts to acquire even the most basic level of language acquisition when starting from scratch. In reflection I believe that the greatest personal experience will come from focusing on one individual text and to absorb this text on a number of occasions and then focus my research around this. A number of factors play a part in the change of the parameters of my methodology. The first is the time period over which this research was conducted and the hours that could be dedicated to it. The most important factor was though the lack of a foundation of understanding of the Hindu language. Due to this I have now watched the same Bollywood film three times and each time I find myself picking up on some new words even if only for a moment and reaffirming the ones I have previously picked up. I also become more aware of different aspects of other communication aspects present in the film.
In my first notes I stated that the Bollywood movie Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani was produced using the Hindi language and that because it is a contemporary media text it would provide a context for the language that included slang and colloquial language. ‘Bollywood productions are today acknowledged as the generator of and vehicle for contemporary popular culture in India.’ (Goethe Institute, 2016). My assumption while correct was also limited and basic. The language used in Bollywood films is much complex then simply Hindi. English was used in the film not only when on location in an English speaking country but also the occasional modern words which are the same in both English and Hindi, for example the word internet. According to the Goethe Institute (2016) The language used in Bollywood films has a distinctive supra-regional integrative quality. ‘The code switches between sociolects, standard languages and distinct Persian and distinct Persian or Sanscrit features, jargons with regional variants right through to other Indian national languages such as Panjabi, Marathi, Gurarati and not least English’ This is throughout films in the Bollywood genre.
While this assumption is not related to language acquisition I thought it was important to note that when I first watched this Bollywood film something about the premise of this music seemed strange and stupid to me. Upon critical analysis of this observation I was able to gain a better understanding of why they premise of this musical seemed so foreign to me. I am used to watching musicals that are either produced on Broadway or in Hollywood. Musicals made in Hollywood and on Broadway tend to focus around entertainers because they are focused on making the musical aspect of the story seem as realistic as possible. Though according to research ‘Bollywood is not encumbered with adherence to realism’ (The Bollywood Ticket, 2016). This knowledge to make a better understanding as to why this this musical seemed so strange to me. Unconsciously I felt disconnected from the storyline because it lacked that realism that I am used to in musicals.
Never did I have the assumption that I would be able to gain a complete understanding of the Hindi language simply through studying media text produced in this language. Though I did assume that when were hear of people acquiring a language through media that it is all they have used. It is evident through the research conducted that while media texts provide a great tool in the acquisition of a language, it is simply a part of the process and other learning is needed this can take place through classes in a more formal context, though in a less formal one it could simply be researching on the internet. Aiping et. al. (2016) in the article Exploring learner factors in second language (L2) incidental vocabulary acquisition through reading, states that ‘second language incidental vocabulary acquisition through reading usually involves the process of through reading usually involves the process of learners noticing an unknown word, searching for its meaning, and elaborating upon the form meaning connection’. Learning a language through listening in this case is quite similar, it is all part of a process and in most cases further research is conducted to obtain a complete understanding of the language.

 

Resource List

Aiping, Z, Ying, G, Biales, C, & Olszewski, A 2016, ‘Exploring learner factors in second language (L2) incidental vocabulary acquisition through reading’, Reading In A Foreign Language, 28, 2, pp. 224-245, Education Research Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 29 October 2016.

Goethe Institute (2016). Multilingualism – Languages Without Borders – Projects – Goethe-Institut. [online] Available at: http://www.goethe.de/ges/spa/prj/sog/ver/en5356222.htm [Accessed 12 Oct. 2016].

Thebollywoodticket.com. (2016). Introduction to Bollywood – The Bollywood Ticket. [online] Available at: http://www.thebollywoodticket.com/bollywood/beginner.html [Accessed 11 Oct. 2016].

Reflecting on Hindi TV as an Autoethnographer: Mahabharat and Hindu Epics

Watching the first episode of the 1988 Hindi TV-series Mahabharat and accounting for my experience by live-tweeting my thoughts and opinions on the show has left me with a lot of questions. Is television anywhere near as popular in India as a pastime as it is in Australia? What was the real message behind the show? Why on earth was Ganga killing all her children?

ganga-apr23

Ganga and King Santanu (Image Source)

With these questions and my cultural assumptions in mind, — which can be found in my first post here — reflecting on my autoethnographic accounts of a cultural phenomenon can be insightful and revelatory. Reflective analysis not only highlights “dominant narratives” and “ways of thinking” about culture but also pursues a deeper understanding of such experiences on a larger cultural scale (Warren, 2009). By scrutinising my initial comments and assumptions, and by conducting a little more research on all those postulations I tweeted about, here I am, trying to make sense of my Mahabharat experience.

My first enquiry is into the prevalence of television in India, and more precisely, the popularity of Mahabharat across the country. Researching this felt like a history lesson, but albeit an intriguing one. Television for me is a staple, and consuming programs on TV like there is no tomorrow is something I pride myself on. Television in India was introduced in 1959, however “transmission was restricted to areas in and around the capital city of Dehli for over a decade” (Kumar, 2006, p.57). With the arrival of the TV in the Indian family home came the inevitability of globalisation, and moreover a connection to “an increasingly mobile world around them” (Kumar, 2006, p.64). Television allowed families to share in entertainment experiences, created a bond between individuals and the characters they saw on-screen and moreover kept people informed.

As for Mahabharat, “the religious epic captured the collective imagination of Indian viewers” (Kumar, 2006, p.76) since its inception and release. Programs such as this have entrenched a sense of national identity for members of the Indian community (Kumar, 2012), and have been reflections of Indian values, mores and social and cultural norms. To say the show was successful would be an understatement, reaching a diaspora of over five million individuals. “Within weeks of its launch, the TV show became part of many Sunday morning routines” (Awaasthi, 2016). The Mahabharat series has since seen two modern adaptations released as a result of its popular reception in the past, with Lavanya Mohan (2015), writer for the The Hindu stating that “BR Chopra’s Mahabharat revolutionised Indian television of the nineties.

Now that context has been somewhat established and the history of Indian television successes has been explored, my next question is about the content I saw in the first episode of Mahabharat. There were several times throughout the course of the 40 minute show I was left scratching my head in confusion. Was this simply because of a cultural barrier or was the show itself confusing? My guess is the aforementioned.

Mahabharata — note the ‘a’ at the end this time — is one of the major Sanskrit epics of ancient India. Denoting information on the development of Hinduism, the poem was traditionally attributed to be the work of Vyasa. According to James L. Fitzgerald (2009) of Brown University, the Mahabharata presents sweeping visions of the cosmos and humanity and intriguing and frightening glimpses of divinity in an ancient narrative that is accessible, interesting, and compelling for anyone willing to learn the basic themes of India’s culture.” The sacred text was the basis for the television series Mahabharat, and the first episode I saw was regarding the story of Devavrata.

To put it briefly, the first instalment of the Mahabharat series shares the story of King Shantanu and the relationship he has with the goddess Ganga, with whom he marries in human form. She is described by her “superhuman loveliness” (Rajagopalachari, 1979, p.19) and Shantanu’s infatuation with her is duly noted. Following the birth of their children — they have several throughout the course of the first episode — Ganga drowns them in the sacred river Ganges. The first episode of Mahabharat doesn’t explain why Ganga does this, however it is believed that it was due to a curse. So, mystery solved? I think so.

Watching the first episode of Mahabharat with absolutely no knowledge on traditional Hindu stories, the Mahabharata or Sanskrit epics proved challenging to say the least. Not only was it made clear that I was an outsider in this cultural experience, but it also highlighted how unfamiliar cultural phenomena can lose meaning when shared across transnational borders. As I tried to make sense of my Mahabharat experience my own understandings of Hinduism and India’s entertainment industry were confronted with new ideas and interpretations.

As I have acknowledged before, autoethnography demands self-reflexivity and openness to interpret a cultural experience. By researching my cultural assumptions and addressing my ethnically driven concerns with information from books, eminent media platforms and social and historical commentary, my experience and understanding of Indian television and the Mahabharat experience I encountered has profoundly changed. The next time I sit down to watch an episode of Mahabharat I won’t be so thrown by Ganga drowning her children, and I will be able to appreciate the cultural heritage present in the telling of a great Hindu epic.


References:

Japanese Pro Wrestling. Looking Back on

Going back on my assumptions and thoughts on watching my first match, and doing more research about Japanese wrestling specifically the history and the major parts and figures in the business I found that my assumptions were lacking a tad as i focused on some small things and didn’t give enough room to talk about what I was watching and how I was reacting to it.

So through this blog post I will analyse further what I noticed the most from my match, delve deeper into the cultural aspects of it and bring up new things that I had wondered and seen through watching the match again.

the first point that I brought up in when watching the match was the crowd, which was a whole new thing to me as there was so many older viewers and the crowd was split pretty evenly in sex. This led me to the assumption that professional wrestling is watched mainly by people older than teenagers in Japan and that it does not cater to one sex more than the other, which is extremely good seeing as wrestling in the western world has always been seen as a show for children and mainly focusing on males. 

Another reason as to why the audience may be split evenly is that female wrestlers in Japan are treated with much more respect by the company and the audience than their counterparts in the western world. Japanese wrestlers or Joshi puroresu are portrayed as being just as hard hitting and physical as the males, sometimes more-so because of their size and weight! The Joshi puroresu aren’t seen as being a draw because of their looks or the size of their assets, like some other companies do/did but have actually shown themselves to be a strong crowd pulling force and have remained stable while the male wrestlers have faltered in times of scandal. Some of the most renowned joshi puroresu are Kana, Bull Nakano, Aja Kong, Malia Hosaka and Akira Hokuto.

Another part of the show that I found to be a different was just how quiet the crowd was and how uninterested they seemed at times. I know that if I was there I would be jumping out of my seat with excitement and joy. I first thought that the reason for the quietness what that they were watching the match from a technical standpoint and like a theatre play, where they would gasp when they see something dramatic or laugh when they see something funny. And that is sort of what happens but in between those parts they are silent. After some research I found out that this is quite normal, apart from the few exceptions…

The usual ‘ohhing’, ‘ahhing’, applauding and laughing are seen throughout when they are called for, but the silence is seen as a cultural thing as they are showing respect to the performers, just like you would a theatre show like I mentioned. This notion of respect for the performers has taken me off guard as I am so used to the crowd involving themselves in the world created in the ring and trying to make the show about themselves. This can be seen in a lot of western promotions such as WWE and to an extreme extent (mind the pun) the original ECW.

I then talked about the styles of the matches and the rules that are accompanying it, such as the hard hitting strikes and the rules such as the 20 count for being out of the ring and the flow of the match being more about getting moves in, being as technically sound as you can be and having the fighting being the forefront of the story. This is a completely different way of producing pro wrestling to some of the other cultures as most others rely on extremely story based content and putting the actual wrestling on the back end to progress the narrative. From what I gathered, in japan the wrestling IS the narrative.

Kayfabe, which is the portrayal of staged events within the industry as “real” or “true,” specifically the portrayal of competition, rivalries, and relationships between participants as being genuine and not of a staged or pre-determined nature.(WhatCulture,2015)
While kayfabe seems to act the same in all cultures, in Japan they way that they use kayfabe to their advantage is completely different. Just like how western cultures tell their stories like soap operas with wrestling in between, Japan portrays its product with what looks like actual fights where the only goal is to hurt the other person and win. The match that I watched was so physical and the elbows and slaps they were giving each other seemed to really leave a mark. So why would they be enduring all this extra pain if it wasn’ to make the fighting look more real. I think that Japanese wrestling prides itself on being the most technical and ‘wrestling’ wrestling promotion in the world as the amount of submission hold and grappling I saw in the matches that I have watched have outweighed any other cultures.

Japan focuses on slow pacing through the matches where it starts of slow with minimal exciting spots and mostly ground work, then ramps right up to the end where people are flying everywhere. it flows so well that It brings you into the story of the match more than having a long backstory about why these two people are fighting because they were picked by Donald Trump.

 

 

The Tibetan Sand Mandala – Part 2

Talkin' About Technology, yet not restricted to.

Drawing from the information and my experiences in Part 1 of watching a Tibetan Sand Mandala being made (YouTube clip here) I will use an ethnographical understanding presented by Ellis et al as “an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyse personal experience in order to understand cultural experience” to make sense of my understanding as well as an understanding of the Tibetan Sand Mandala. Ethnography is quite challenging in itself as it deals with first experiencing an aspect of another culture, making note of those experiences and then reflecting on those experiences and how those experiences affect you by looking at your own culture and why those aspects occurred to you. As research and understanding of my first experience has developed there are observations that I did not notice on the first or next viewings or even include in my Part 1 blog…

View original post 872 more words

Unpacking Bitcoin: An autoethnographic analysis of the emergence of Bitcoin in China

In my previous blog post, I proposed investigating the current state of Bitcoin in China for my individual research project and recorded my initial thoughts, perceptions and reactions to Motherboard’s documentary Life Inside a Secret Chinese Bitcoin Mine (2015). The purpose of this post is to reflect upon, analyse and interpret this experience within its broader sociocultural context using an autoethnographic research approach.

Chang (2008, p.43) observes that autoethnography can be distinguished from other genres of self-narrative such as memoir and autobiography by the way it “transcends mere narration of self to engage in cultural analysis and interpretation”. In other words, autoethnography is not about focusing on self alone, but about searching for understanding of others (culture/society) through self (Chang 2008, p.43).

293305-junot-d-az-quote-if-you-want-to-make-a-human-being-into-a-monster

Hall (1973, p.30, cited in Chang 2008, p.34) argues that “the real job” of studying another culture is “not to understand foreign culture but to understand our own…to…

View original post 1,726 more words

Dal Bhat 2

 

I will begin this blog post by dot pointing reflections on my second autoethnographic experience. I will then pair reflections from my blog post (week 5) and this experience to highlight some key areas of research. I want to highlight again, that my research is based off Ellis et al’s (2011) ‘narrative ethnography.’ Furthermore, the purpose of my research is to reflect on the shared experience I have had in order to understand my time in Nepal and its culture and to also inform others. These ‘others’ will initially begin with my family (cultural strangers) and then to the viewers of my digital artefact (Ellis et al 2011).

Accounts from re-creation of Dal Bhat with my family

vid-screen-shot

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XNqKGUlwm-I&feature=youtu.be

  • The ingredients used to make the meal were gathered mostly from Coles, little to no attention was paid at where the food was actually sourced from
  • The dal bhat did not taste the same, some of the flavors were similar
  • Aama (my host mother in Nepal) made the meal with no recipe. However, as this was mine and dad’s first time making dal bhat we tried to follow a recipe
  • The whole time my dad and I were cooking the meal he was stressed about my little sister not liking the food, he almost made a second meal for her
  • Throughout preparing, cooking and eating the meal I was presented with multiple ephianies (that I had previously forgotten), they where:
    • Most international students I have met wash their rice before eating it where as domestic students do not
    • We used plastic cups and plastic bowls/ plates in Nepal
  • Everyone enjoyed the meal, my mum and dad even went back for a second plate of food
  • It was extremely amusing trying to teach them how to eat with their hands – however by the end of the meal they were enjoying it

Points from first blog post

After reading over my reflections from the first autoethnographic experience and after watching the re-creation of the dal bhat experience with my family I have decided to look further into the sourcing of foods. In Nepal, every item of food I ate was locally sourced (most of it grown just outside the doorstep of the house where I lived). Where as the food my parents and I cook with on a daily basis are not locally sourced.  I will also look at the introduction of Asian food into Australia, moreover the Asian contributions to Australian food culture.

Research

The reason why the foods used to re-create the dal bhat experience are available is the Asian migration to Australia. These migrants have played major roles Australia-wide through the introduction of food crops (rice, green vegetables, tropical fruits, range of herbs and spices), food imports, fresh-food markets and restaurants (Wahlqvist 2002). A lot of people take advantage of fresh-food markets, Asian restaurants and imported food. As well as Asian migration, the introduction of international students to Australian universities also plays are a large role in Asian contributions to Australian food culture. In the 1950’s, following the approval of the Colombo plan an increased amount of Australians were exposed to Asian (in particular south Asian, Indonesian and Chinese) cooking techniques.

Despite the introductions of such foods and other contributions from the Asian culture, one must question if dinning in an Asian restaurant or making an Asian meal from supermarket ingredients is an ‘authentic.’ From my experience it definitely does not taste the same. In Nepal, everything cooked and prepared was from local sources. This gave the food a fresh taste. The reason for the food being locally sourced is partly due to the poverty level of rural areas. The host family and other neighbors in the village are unable to travel to the city to buy supermarket items so they’re restricted to whatever food they can make from the land. In my family home, every item of food is bought from the supermarket (other than the occasional herb grown in the garden). My parents can afford to travel to the supermarket and are too busy with work commitments to maintain their own grown food. However, both my parents grew up in Northern Ireland where their diet consisted mostly of potatoes, eggs, milk, meat, oats and fruits all grown within a sixty kilometer radius of their house.

After visiting Nepal and eating the same meal made from local produce every day as well as reflecting on my experience via this assignment I have come to realise that the majority of my friends and family have limited knowledge on where the produce that makes their breakfast, lunch and dinner comes from. There are many benefits from eating locally produced foods. These benefits are: supporting local farmers and producers, local produce is often fresher and tastier and less energy emissions and food miles associated with our food (click here to find more benefits).

From this post and the last post, I will produce a digital artefact built on my experiences, reflections and research.

References

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

Wahlqvist, ML 2002, ‘Asian migration to Australia: food and health consequences’, Asia Pacific Journal Of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 11.

Fight Like a Girl

It took me a long time to understand how to begin an autoethnographic study. The term itself is not hard to grapple but it is difficult to wrap your head around once you’ve spent almost four years at University taking yourself out of the equation and supplementing it with work from other people who are far more intelligent that you.

But after a lot of looking around, Hoppes (2014, p.64) summarised it perfectly, “autoethnographers’ methods vary, but generally include discussion, reflection, note-taking, emotional recall, and identification of categories and themes yielding a narrative that affords both the inside view of a research participant and the outside view of a researcher”.

 

Autoethnographic research is also somewhat of a Pandora’s box. It takes you on a journey way, way, way to the right so you are immersed in a different culture. But then spins you around and around and expects you to run all the way back in the opposite direction so you can tell people of your journey.

But as Hall (Chang 2008, p.34) eloquently suggests, the key to studying another culture is to not to simply understand a foreign culture but to better understand our own or to be better equipped.

This is particularly accurate for me as I am exploring tones of feminism through the text Sailor Moon. Initially I was annoyed that there was loud, huge sign that said, “here is the feminist part, ding ding ding”! On reflection, I feel quite stupid because there is absolutely none of that in my own culture so why would I expect if from another?

The genre that Sailor Moon falls under is Shoujo which often addresses a “girl’s first love, and the innocent excitement and sometimes painful drama that comes with it. It also deals with friendship and personal development” (Lai, 2015). Conversely, Lai (2015) says that another genre targeted towards female audiences is josei which uncovers what it means to be an adult, what it means to be a woman and with it a sense of maturity and readiness for adulthood.

This was interesting as I did not know that there were so many levels and areas of manga and anime. So maybe I am placing too much ‘pressure’ on Sailor Moon to be a feminist text much like you would not expect the Saddle Club to be teaching girls about what it means to be a woman.

Despite all this, Newsom (2004, p.58) does make a point regarding the Sailor Scouts who are powerful and feminine characters as well as their power being dependent on femininity. Femininity is a literal requirement of being a Sailor Scout.

Sailor Scouts also represent a planet and this is believed to be refelctive of their personality and behaviour.

  • Sailor Moon/Usagi Tsukino  – she is extremely protective of her friends and the Moon is supposed to be the ‘Queen of Astrology’ and represents our emotions, moods and thoughts.
  • Sailor Mercury/Ami – Mercury represents communication and is often associated with intellect. Ami  is possibly the most intelligent girl of the whole group and often berates the group for not doing their homework
  • Sailor Mars/Rei Hino – Mars is passion. It also represents assertiveness and action and can have aggressive urges. Rei is the hot-tempered, aggressive chacrter who ofen finds herself in the midst of an argument
  •  Sailor Jupiter/ Makoto Kino – Jupiter revolves around expansiveness. They desire new experiences and getting to the top. Makoto is independent and after her parents died while she was young, she’s been taking care of herself and others.
  • Sailor Venus/ Minako Aino – Love & pleasure is the name of the game for Venus. The most important theme about Venus is harmony in interpersonal relationships. Minako is the stereotypical pre-teenager who is often dreaming about finding love.

sailor moon crew.jpg

The winning combination of these girls enables a stronger connection with the characters as you are able to identify yourself with at least one of them. Similar to the Spice Girls who were also riding the wave of Girl Power in early 2000s. Everyone knew if they were Sporty, Baby, Posh, Scary or Ginger.

It truly is a coming of age piece that exemplifies what it means to have friends and that they will have your back no matter what. The only other observation that I have recently made was the fact that the evil woman Queen Beryl is wonderfully evil and has the greatest cackle ever. I was apprehensive when I saw that many of the female characters who are evil tend to have submissive males, as I thought it really could go into the realm of misandry. But it has not from the little that I have observed thus far.

Overall, this show is all about amplifying the ‘girls only club’, the power of friendship, kicking some evil butt and all whilst looking fab-u-lous in those outfits, heels and with hair always on pointe – yes, that was supposed to be sarcasm. I still loathe it.

Chang, H, (2008), ‘Autoethnography as a Method’, Eastern University,  http://www.academia.edu/1244871/Autoethnography_as_method

Cooper-Chen, A, (1999), “An Animated Imbalance: Japan’s Television Heroines in Asia,” International Communications Gazette, vol.61, no.3, pp.293-310

Ferris, A, (2014), ‘Why Sailor Moon Is One of the Greatest Feminist Stories Ever’, The Absolute Mag, accessed 19 September, http://theabsolutemag.com/26731/longreads/why-sailor-moon-is-one-of-the-greatest-feminist-stories-ever/

Hoppes, S (2014), ‘Autoethnography: Inquiry Into Identity’, New Directions fro Higher Education, vol. 2014, no. 166, pp. 63 – 179

Lai, A, (2015), ‘Looking at female characters in Anime and Manga’, The Mary Sue, http://www.themarysue.com/female-characters-anime/

Newsom, V.A., (2004), ‘Young Females as Super Heroes: Super Heroines in the Animated Sailor Moon’, Femspec, vol.5, no.2, p.57 – 81

Revisiting Japanese Game Shows

reneeschwarze

Using autoethnographic methods to reflect on my initial experience with Honmadekka will allow me to understand Japanese cultural experience. By drawing from, and expanding on my personal experience I will uncover common cultural assumptions and how they affect our understanding.

“the world of Japanese game shows is best known as a technicolored whirlwind of half-naked bodies, sadomasochistic physical challenges, and the occasional whimsical bunny rabbit head. In short, any reasonable person would assume they couldn’t be real.” (Huffington Post)

Game shows first begun when television broadcasting in Japan started in 1950.To begin with, these game shows were ‘tame’, but became more complex as time went on.

Takeshi’s Castle (launched 1986) was the first Japanese game show to receive global syndication. This show’s contestants were regular people (unlike the celebrities that compete in most other Japanese game shows), and the show was produced to look like contestants were forced into…

View original post 1,766 more words

Dissecting Mixi: A Reflective and Critical Review

When I first set out to join the Japanese social media network Mixi and document that experience, I was operating based on assumptions and opinions that I’ve come  to question after having engaged with a plethora of  sources that have expanded my contextual understanding of Mixi. To that end, Norman Denzin wrote that ‘the critical, performance ethnographer is committed to producing and performing texts that are grounded in and co-constructed in the politically and personally problematic worlds of everyday life’ (2003, p.270), and so my further research has focused on the evolution of Mixi.

Having been written in the early 2000’s, the reading mentions the periodic paradigm shift of ‘connections between the public and the private… being dismantled’ (p.260). This is an interesting insight, as Mixi and Facebook’s launch the following year embodied this transition. However, the behavior exhibited on Mixi historically has been different from that of Facebook. User’s were noted to operate mostly anonymously because they often felt uncomfortable freely speaking their mind.

I had also assumed in my earlier post was that both Mixi and Facebook were fundamentally the same service, catering to different regions, however from my own experience Mixi relies heavily on interacting with groups of like minded people rather than ‘real-life’ friends. The promotion of communities and specific threads, almost like a forum, feels like a mix of some services that I’m familiar with like Reddit and NeoGAF mixed with the functionality of Facebook. Because of this focus on tightly knitted community, there existed a place on Mixi to talk about the Australian city of Dubbo in 2005, whether as visitors or citizens. By  contrast, the official Facebook page was created in 2012, just 4 years ago.

This was an epiphany for me; realizing Mixi wasn’t just a place to talk about Japanese culture. Having said that, one of the motivations for Japanese netizens to venture beyond Mixi and embrace both MySpace and recently Facebook was to escape what’s popularly referred to as ‘Mixi tsukare’ (a fatigue of the service). To free themselves from ‘Japanese cultural norms’ as Philip Seargeant & Caroline Tagg explain, these alternatives gained traction. Professor Toshie Takahashi, speaking to users of both Mixi and MySpace concluded that ‘MySpace is about me AND them, and Mixi is about me WITH them’ (2010, p.453). This correlates with the fear of standing out from the crowd should you speak against the accepted narrative.

As I wrote in my earlier blog post, and should have passed-off as simply wanting to approach the website as objectively and expectation free as possible, my initial lack of research into choosing a suitable website meant I chose one that happened to be on its way out. By the developer of Monster Strike‘s (2013) own admission, Mixi as a social network was ‘on its knees‘ and the demise was inevitable. Monster Strike saved the company at the 11th hour. The author compares this unlikely reality to ‘Myspace creating the next Angry Birds’. A particular point of interest to me, is that the hit game was developed by the producer of Street Fighter II (1987) & II (1991), Yoshiki Okamoto. Perhaps more broadly relevant, the article states that the company hasn’t bothered trying ‘to tie Monster Strike to its own fading social network’, which seems to suggest that Mixi is irreparably doomed.

to_safari_title1

The unexpected savior

When digging up some of the history of  Mixi, I found this YouTube video by a teacher at the Osaka Jogakuin College in Japan. From 2007, when Mixi still was the predominant service, it’s conveniently in English and interestingly illustrates a familiar attitude emerging from young social media users on Facebook: a push-back against older generations who try to join their social circles. Functionally there’s two social media landscapes; like a ‘kids table’ and ‘adults table’ that are barely separated.  Additionally, seeing the service in its early years is helpful as it highlights some similarities and shows where the service has come from.

In addition to it already fading rapidly in popularity, perhaps caused by this, one of the key epiphanies was the realization that Mixi requires the possession of a phone with a number registered in Japan. I had ignored the fact that there was no official English interface for the website and assumed it was just because they figured no-one outside of the Japanese focused community would want access. This realization told me that, unlike Facebook, Mixi as a social network wasn’t concerned with servicing other markets. Facebook’s Country Growth Manager Nikkei Trendy states their service is a ‘real’ social network (real names), but also a personal advertising opportunity. Moreover, Facebook acts as an ‘infrastructure’ due to it’s pervasive APIs weaved into other sites which makes international market penetration, I imagine, easier. Mixi’s response from exec Tsuji Masataka stated their users valued the ‘stronger ties’ and values closed community. This experience surprised me; I’d assumed that any social media would embrace open accessibility to gain and maintain users.

McLaren declared that true ‘reflexive, performative ethnography’ values many subjective accounts, has no established, authoritative narrative, and doubts accounts given by historically privileged voices (1997, p. 170). As a person entirely dislocated contextually and culturally from the target audience of Mixi, it makes my assessment of it undoubtedly flawed and so I’ve done my best to align my thoughts with others’ and try to comply with Denzin’s ideal critical ethnographer: ‘…committed to producing and performing texts that are grounded in and co-constructed in the politically and personally problematic worlds of everyday life’ (2003, p.270).


References not linked:

  • McLaren, Peter, 1997, ‘Revolutionary Multiculturalism: Pedagogies of Dissent for the New Millennium’, Boulder CO: Westview
  • Denzin, Norman, 2003, ‘Performing [Auto] Ethnography Politically’, EBSCO Publishing

 

K-Pop 101

Even as someone who has been following the K-Pop scene for years, the industry still holds many secrets from me and even with the music itself, the language will always be a small barrier to my complete understanding. Although my sister will be the one participating in the autoethnographic study, researching deeper into the industry and the music videos has shown me that the ideals and themes are absolutely teeming with Korean culture – even more so than I initially realized.

The final product for my digital artefact will be Prezi which will include not only my sisters experience with K-Pop, but also a breakdown of what are the most important parts of the music and a small case study to give a relevant example. One question that I chose to look at was whether K=Pop is actually Korean. My initial reaction was yes, of course it is. It comes from Korea, the choreography and fashion trends that become popular because of their video clips is not something seen in American music charts, and just the sheer size of some these groups is unheard of in Western culture. But then I delved a bit deeper and found that it is definitely more Westernised than you’d initially believe.

When the latest wave of K-Pop rose in the 1990s, artists began incorporating popular styles of American music like rap and techno house while simultaneously following an American song model. There are quite a few K-Pop songs out there that are essentially covers of popular American tracks although the lyrics are changed to Korean and a memorable choreography is also included. Girls Generation have done this several times and to great success with a track called Run Devil Run which was originally sung by Kesha. Surprisingly, I actually heard Girls Generation cover of the song first since Kesha’s version did not gain much traction on Australian billboard charts and I wasn’t a big enough fan to listen to her full album. It was interesting to learn that this had initially been an American song, but in my mind, with the addition of the music video, Girls Generation definitely changed it to a K-Pop track.

Although the music is influenced to a degree by American music, the K-Pop industry itself is unique to what you would find in the USA and this can be be attributed partly due to the differences in culture. Even in Australia, we grow up with an “every man for themselves” mindset while Korea holds a more collectivist culture which can be reflected through the way the K-Pop industry operates. Being a fan, it has been clear for me from the onset of my interest that solo artists are definitely the exception rather than the rule and many of those who end up moving towards a solo career were often in groups beforehand. However, I didn’t look further into this unique characteristic and, as it turns out, there’s actually quite a few reasons why Korean music companies prefer larger groups.

Even if you haven’t experienced it first hand, many music fans would have had to deal with a cancelled concert due to an artists sickness or even injury. With the large amount of performers that these K-Pop groups have, if a misfortune befalls one of the members the rest of them are still able to continue a concert allowing for more flexibility for the label. Recently JinE, a member of group Oh My Girl! was put on hiatus because she has been suffering from anorexia nervosa and her label felt it was best for her to receive the treatment she required. However, since the life of an idol is kept busy with promotions and performances, the rest of the eight-member girl group will continue with their activities. This example raises questions about beauty standards in Korea and the pressures idols receive to maintain an ideal look, but that is a whole topic within itself.

Apart from the focus on groups, K-Pop artists tend to hold lower agency over their work. When I was approached with this idea, it made me think of record companies and how in the Australian industry, making music independently from any label is seen as a badge of honour. Then, when I thought about the K-Pop groups I followed, I realized that every single one was part of a larger entertainment company. This means that K-Pop songs are heavily regulated and prepackaged which you can see through their pin-point choreographies and the similar fashion they wear in music videos. Although fans will have their bias (favourite member of a group), it is only through variety shows and sometimes live performances where viewers actually get a better glimpse of individual idols personalities.

It was interesting to find that even after years of following the K-Pop industry, my knowledge was still quite limited and, in some ways, I was still an outsider looking in. I was aware of the typical themes found in K-Pop such as the choreography, fashion and those memorable English phrases scattered throughout the songs – after all, this is what drew me to the genre in the first place. However, there will always be things I don’t understand simply because of cultural and language barriers; some of the translations may not be exact in English and there are some cultural references that I would never have heard of before. Luckily, completing this digital artefact will hopefully fill in a few holes of missing information and allow me to continue enjoying K-Pop, just on a more detailed level.