#Asian cinema

Social Media Research Proposal Review

In my initial research project proposal it’s possible I made some assumptions about both the methodology of autoethnography, and the core concepts behind the research itself. Below is a list of the possible assumptions involved in initial account:

  • In my initial post I assumed that Chinese social media was/is used exclusively, or at least “primarily” used by the Chinese population.
  • Those who have grown up in another culture can formulate an objective opinion/comparison through personal collection of data/first hand use only.
  • By analysing platforms created for another language in English, it is still possible to develop an accurate understanding of the culture without losing its nuances to the language barrier.
  • Assuming there is a comparison to be made at all between western social media and Chinese social media, it could be that they are almost identical, or used in very similar ways. This would render the comparison between the two a lot less interesting, and in a way void the meaning behind the research itself.

Further reading and research:

  • relational ethics – implicates itself heavily in this particular research project as it focuses primarily on social media; a means of connecting with others and building relationships. A common critique of the autoethnographic approach to writing is the ethical concerns and responsibilities surrounding the building of relationships for such projects. Researchers often create friendship and other relational ties with people which not only aid their inquiry but are also a simply by product of cultural immersion. This can lead to questions of how deeply can a researcher implicate their ‘friends’ in their writing and whether their relationship must be treated with a kind of sanctity or whether it can be mined for crucial information. In order to potentially avoid questions of relational ethics, I have chosen not to interview or personally engage with other users of these platforms, not to mention communicating with the vast majority of users on Chinese social media would require some knowledge of the Chinese language. Although this raises other concerns about the quality of my observations and whether they accurately represent the culture, I have instead chosen to use the literature to inform me. However, due to the nature of the research project this is not disadvantageous to an approach of this kind, as it is primarily a comparison between one’s known cultural experiences and one’s unfamiliar cultural experiences and how these differences in culture manifest across a range of social media platforms.

Despite these overwhelming assumptions, the autoethnographic approach still utilises a crucial methodology to develop and understanding of the culture through an immersion in it. It is through this approach that I believe I will gain the most data and knowledge to back up my research.

The Art of Autoethnography: Part I

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Part I- Autoethnography

A form of self-reflection and writing that explores the researcher’s personal experiences and connects this autobiographical story to a wider cultural-political-and social meanings and understandings’ (Collins Dictionary, 2013)

Autoethnography is a new and foreign concept to me, one that seems simple at first glance yet has hidden complexities and requires a greater deal of insight to result in purposeful authenticity.

This week’s reading Autoethnography: An Overview (Ellis, Adams & Bochner, 2011) details that autoethnography is to analyse experience through methodological tools, literature research and use personal experience to illustrate facets of cultural experience. Therefore it is under this guise that I shall share my process of autoethnography regarding the 1954 Japanese film Godzilla/Gojira.

 

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Observation and simply absorbing the text in all its glory, taking note of my observations were the only methodological tools used. A basic approach, but as this is my first attempt at autoethnographic research, basic is the best way to start.

Here are my observations, a summary of the running commentary of my thoughts during the entire film:

  • Constant shadows make it hard to see the emotions displayed of the characters faces.
  • I wonder what the subtitles meant by ‘firefighters’, I’m guessing firefighters given the context.
  • There is a lot of jumping from one scene to the other.
  • Little emotion is shown by the characters when announcing the deaths of the soldiers. They are stone cold statues.
  • There is this annoying bell sound throughout many of the scenes and it is starting to annoy me.
  • This storyline is getting hard to follow, there are many different characters being introduced and the scene jumping around.
  • The constant jumping around between scenes is leading me to disconnect from the text, and a computer screen in front of me provides an abundance of distractions from writing emails to scrolling the Facebook newsfeed.
  • It is so silent given the large amount of people in the scene, there is very little background noise. I am definitely not used to a movie score of this nature.
  • Now I’m thinking about food while watching a man handle a dead fish. I don’t think I am really invested in the film.
  • The scary noise they are running away from isn’t even that loud, their screams cover it.
  • Finally Godzilla/Gojira makes an appearance.
  • That appearance only lasted a second. That was hardly worth all the build up in that scene.
  • There is no visable destination that they are running towards. Then they just stop before the scene changes.
  • The picture of Godzilla/Gojira  is on the screen longer then he actually was.
  • They never actually seem that scared of it. Maybe thats just a cultural difference regarding the displaying of emotions.
  • How did they get the sand from Godzilla/Gojira’s body?
  • I got distracted again by emails. It’s not my fault they just pop up on my screen.
  • Why is the guy in the eye patch so serious?
  • I think that girl has the hots for the guy with the eye patch.
  • I didn’t pay enough attention to know any of the characters names.
  • New method found to slightly understand what’s going on. Watching the #DIGC330 twitter feed.

 

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The literature research conducted on the topic of autoethnography. Autoethnography: An Overview (Ellis, Adams & Bochner, 2011) did two things for my understanding of autoethnography. Firstly it enlightened me as to what the process of autoethnography entails and what it produces; ‘aesthetic and evocative thick descriptions of personal and interpersonal experience’.

Secondly, what my first attempt at autoethnograhic research was not. Ellis et. el. (2011) stated that autoethnography was developed in ‘an attempt to concentrate on ways of producing meaningful, accessible and evocative research grounded in personal experience’. If I were to use this as a checklist, I could say that my work was very much grounded in personal experience as there was no other other facets to it and that by posting it in this digital format it is also accessible, but meaningful or evocative I am struggling to see that part coming to fruition.

 

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My personal experience with this film is that I couldn’t get fully immersed in the storyline. What is evident from my notes is that as the film progressed I became less content with watching and making observations. I found myself looking for distractions and had difficulty remaining focused.

Though in all honesty I have never;

a. Been  drawn to Asian cinema unless it was of a Bollywood persuasion

AND

b. Been able to become totally engrossed in a film in an educational context, it just seems unnatural.

For someone else, or if I had first encountered this film in a different context, the outcome might have been different, though this simply wasn’t the case and I am afraid that this will cloud my view of the film forever in my mind.

Reference List

Collinsdictionary.com. (2016). Definition of Autoethnography | New Word Suggestion | Collins Dictionary. [online] Available at: http://www.collinsdictionary.com/submission/10957/Autoethnography [Accessed 25 Aug. 2016].

Ellis, C., Adams, T. and Bochner, A. (2011). Autoethnography: An Overview. Forum: Qualitative Social Research, [online] 12(1). Available at: http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095 [Accessed 30 Jul. 2016].

IMDb. (2016). Godzilla (1954). [online] Available at: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0047034/ [Accessed 20 Aug. 2016].

Gojira might be the reason for Japan’s technological brilliance…

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Last week, I wrote about symbolism in Japanese art and how Gojira reflected Japan’s fear of nuclear power, something they also contributed to the creation of. The destruction and devastation of Nagasaki and Hiroshima haunts this nation yet they continued nuclear testing to the detriment of fishing boats such as Lucky Dragon 5. Brophy mentioned the Japanese propensity for technological fortification, which fuelled a new direction for my research.

It’s common knowledge Japan is the cornucopia of technological advancement. Richard J Samuels posits their emphasis on technology as “a fundamental element in national security, that it must be indigenized, diffused, and nurtured in order to make a nation rich and strong.” This is something seen very much as a part of Japan’s culture: the emphasis on technological development, education on its purposes and uses, and thorough understanding within its people. It’s probably a direct response to the outcomes of…

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And That’s The End Of That Chapter

Brendan Vs The World

Godzilla in a scene from the film 'Godzilla VS. The Smog Monster', 1971. Toho/Getty Images Godzilla in a scene from the film ‘Godzilla VS. The Smog Monster’, 1971. Toho/Getty Images

Summary time. In my first post I focused on just analysing Godzilla because I had no idea what I was doing. I just pressed record and talked for a few minutes about the movie. Luckily I came up with a point about language becoming white noise that made some sense so I thought I’d look into that.

For my second post I chose to focus on Language in Asian media using my Godzilla ‘white noise’ experience as a jumping off point. My original plan was to use research I found on language as a starting point and then go into examples of different kinds language in Asian media. But when I was recording I went off on a massive tangent about subtitles and their importance. And when I listened back to this I thought it was better…

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Pretence is a fool’s game

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There was never any pretence.

As I was researching Japanese filmmaking in the 1950s, I found Philip Brophy’s postcolonial article on the Godzilla franchise. He makes the argument, “As puppet, doll and prop on a stage of special effects, his theatricalised unreality is never hidden.” As silly as it sounds, during my whole time watching Gojira it never occurred to me they never meant the monster to be realistic. The reality of a human-in-a-suit is in fact meant to be indicative of the cultural story that Gojira represents. Since humans meddling with nuclear testing caused the tragedies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, why would a 50 foot nuclear lizard destroying Tokyo be any different?

For some reason, discovering the monster is intentionally false legitimises Gojira in my mind. I suppose the experience is like trying to analyse literature and realising the metaphor was never meant to be believed in its entirety.

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Auto-Ethnographic Experience… GODZILLA

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Let me start off by saying I absolutely love Godzilla. I think he is such a misunderstood fellow and a total bad ass to boot. How can something so ginormous and scary who possesses a destructive power of unprecedented proportion also be so gosh darn adorable?

So, putting my love of the Lizard King into perspective, you can Imagine my reaction when I entered my first Digital Asia class (on my first day back at uni), only to find that we would be spending the entire two hour class watching the original 1954 Japanese classic.. Godzilla (or Gojira in Japanese). Immediately I began to feel like I was back in high school. You know those days where the teacher is sick and the whole class would cheer as an over-sized TV on a stand is wheeled into the room. Only this time we were watching something cool.

Being unable to read Japanese I had no choice but to look at the writing in the opening credits purely from an aesthetic perspective. I couldn’t help but think to myself that Japanese writing looks so much better than English writing and then I wondered if someone was out there thinking the same thing in reverse. By the time I was done with that strange strain of thought it was time for the film to begin.

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The movie has a quite a slow beginning so as I was watching I found myself just listening to words instead of reading the subtitles. While doing this the sound of familiar words kept transporting me into flashbacks of some of my favorite animes. Every time I heard someone say san at the end of a name I would in-vision an memory of The Straw Hat Crew calling out LUFFY-SAN! in respect and admiration to their Captain.

This was also happening during the dramatic moments of the film. I have noticed that in Japanese cinema the tear jerking moments always have some kind underlying moral lesson. For example when (Spoiler Alert) Daisuke dies at the end, that wasn’t just for evoking tears, the movie was making an important message about the abuse of scientific innovation. He had to sacrifice himself to ensure all traces of his weapon would die along with him. Through out the film moments like this kept reminding me of the many lessons I have accumulated from watching Asian cinema.

The moment Godzilla appeared the graphics almost had me in hysterics. For the time they were amazing but watching them now really changes the mood of the film. I can definitely see why the film has become such a cult classic. It is funny to think that this was my first time actually watching the film when it is certainly not my first time experiencing it in some form or another. Remakes, posters, street art, music videos, cartoon references, figurines… Godzilla has saturated the environment I have grown up in. This has made me feel as though I knew the movie well, despite never having seen it.

Tweeting and how it helps me analyse horror

It’s generally known that if you want your public announcements to have a significant effect you need an audience, and the bigger the better. The experience I had of me tweeting in real-time my Japanese horror movie views was slightly impaired I think because my twitter account has a very small amount of followers. Even though I have hash-tags specifying the tweets’ topic of analysis, I think they are unlikely to gain much traction because of their specificity. In having an audience, it would be nice to get some feed back though this was not my main focus for tweeting. I tweeted the experience to analyse what I found to be most important in the movie’s content. This was extremely useful for my research because it pin-pointed exactly how much value I was attaching to certain bits of the content, and made it easier to continue research later about what cultural significance this has.

However, I do in some ways regret not being able to foster a large audience, the amount of time it would take to build a existence on twitter though was realistically not in my timeframe. The most important thing about this though was not lost, and that is I was able to cultivate my fandom by actively engaging with the content. I analysed it and reacted to it with a textualised representation which I can later on use to contribute to my interpretation of what it is that makes Japan so influential in modern day horror fandom.

Twitter combine with blogging has allowed me to systematically organise areas of the content that I find controversial and perhaps socially damaging. By tweeting I can have a conversation with those that create the content, they may not hear it, though those who watch the content might, and perhaps they will agree with my disregard for the impunities awarded to certain cultural influences, and hopefully add to the causes striving to rectify these outcomes.

The accountability that comes from producing real-time thoughts on content I think will be important for my Storify blog when justifying why I chose to research the cultural representations that I did. The marker of my interest, these tweets will demonstrate how I originally constructed my cultural theories and perhaps make it easier for observers to determine how they feel about the research.

If you’re interested in seeing what came up of importance to me, my latest tweets on Japanese horror movies can be found here. https://twitter.com/4livetweeting

Horror – Showing you what you weren’t meant to see

What are we meant to see?… This is a question in horror that continues to interest me. Reality I think is based on continuity and I feel that Japanese horror in particular is good at analysing specific elements that we use to build our perceived reality, and then systematically tests them and asks why do we give these elements the right to build our perception of truth.

The movie Uzumaki or in english, Spiral, tells the story of a town possessed by spirals, yes that’s right, a symbol that has a malevolent intention for a whole town. The spiral is meant to symbolise a vortex whose sole purpose is to consume whoever gets too close. It consumes people in a way an obsession consumes someone, they start to see spirals in everything, in the way that if it’s possible to see a spiral in something they will find it, eventually those that are affected by the spiral curse will find a way for their body to also become a spiral. This often involves mutilating the body or grotesque mutations.

Lovecraftian horror wekipedia defines as ‘a sub-genre of horror fiction that emphasizes the cosmic horror of the unknown (and in some cases, unknowable) over gore or other elements of shock, though these may still be present.[1] It is named after American author H. P. Lovecraft (1890–1937).’

And one of its themes is described as

  • Preoccupation with viscerate texture. The horror features of Lovecraft’s stories tend to involve semi-gelatinous substances, such as slime, as opposed to standard horror elements such as blood, bones, or corpses.

The students in Uzumaki in their pursuit of things that are shaped like a spiral actual begin to turn into snails, which is safe to say pretty disturbing.

I find it interesting that cold and slimy and the body are big aspects for initiating fear, perhaps this is something to with us being mammals and our preference for dry soft warm things, then horror tests this idea through what we like to define as conducive to our rational state. As an example I think about what it would be like to have thousands of slugs all over me, and the idea is positively sickening.

The Spiral movie or Uzumaki was created from a manga series, Wikipedia gives two ways of referring to  manga, one Japanese and one English. Manga in Japanese refers to all cartoons, comics and animation. In English it refers to specifically Japanese comics. An art form that originated in the early 19th century it is highly regarded as an entertaining and an informative staple of Japanese culture.

I continuously get excited thinking about how rich and colourfully documented Japan’s history is, they have so many diverse intersections of human development. The last movie I looked at showed thousand year old samurai battles and was riddled with supernatural experiences, including intervening ghosts that can take body parts. This movie Uzumaki (Spiral) again has supernatural conflicts at its base, however, the general unknown force of a curse I feel is an even more abstract way of developing a horrifying idea, and then specifically using the authority that symbols have to test what we use to structure our beliefs.

Curses particularly are present throughout a lot of the Japanese horror movies I’ve come across. This belief that some unknown evil force outside of being controlled or predicted will determine your future is not something I ever considered as a real possibility. My theory behind this is that because my understanding is built upon scientific results, the fact that it doesn’t involve tangible results for its existence, I then experience difficulty in believe it. Although what I perceive as my reality is constantly being shaped by things that I have not yet learnt how to measure or understand, for example computer technology, so in this way perhaps in order for me to understand the supernatural world I would have to adjust my perception to a gauge that was comfortable with using the tools that are needed for measuring it, that is a deep understanding of how the supernatural world works, and belief that it does exist, one of which I am yet to have any experience with beyond movies, which are somehow able to suspend my belief, so if a movie can manipulate my reality, it stands to reason that unknown supernatural force perhaps could also do this. I don’t know, sounds strange but I think the unknown force of movies and technology could lead me to perhaps wanting to have more of an understanding of the supernatural, I wonder how I would frame my understanding if I believed both in science and the supernatural.

The biggest fear of all… the fear of being wrong!

What’s that saying…that you can’t see the forest from the trees? and it basically means you don’t realise the problem of the situation you’re in while you’re in it. It’s only when you reflect on it, that you see that you were actually doing the thing that you kept trying not to do. Or something like that.

 

Well, that’s what I’ve been doing. I realised that while I was frantically trying to express my experience of Japanese horror in a culturally relevant and engaging way, I was actually missing a very crucial point. That is, why was I doing it? the answer is Fear. To be exact the fear of being wrong and getting a fail for this subject was my prime motivator.

By being caught up in trying to create an authentic auto-ethnographic analysis I think I forgot the point completely, which I think is for me to know why I was analysing Japanese horror in the first place, and then to anaylse that. So even though my motives are shallow in that I wasn’t genuinely originally fascinated with Japanese culture only slightly intrigue by its horror movie success, I have, however, through blogging grown to have a much greater appreciation for Japanese culture, and my fear of failure is not a completely unrelated aim to analyse either, because the fear that I have of getting a fail does actually relate to horror movies, in that they are both centered around fear.

So do I go down the deep dark rabbit hole that seeks to find out what aspects of fear are most relevant to my immediate society? well, I think that would take a very long time, but I will peek inside it and look around.

 

So now I am looking at fear more closely, I want to know what is it in Japanese horror films that I classify as scary? what is it that other people see in them that they think is scary? Fear can touch just about every aspect of our lives, how then are Japanese directors specifically so good at conveying it? What are they doing that makes me actually fear for my safety after viewing a movie?

There is a lot involved in these questions and there is no way I will really discover what fear is, though I know it is multi layered and slightly different for everyone. However, with the help of my tweets that I record while viewing Japanese horror, I should be able to get more or an idea of what stimulates my fears and perhaps this will explains other peoples and then perhaps allude to the reasons why Japanese horror resonates with so many.

 

I also am vowing to take more care in my next film choice, and hopefully discover one that will frighten me. Then again fear is relative so there is a chance that even if I get several confirmations that the film is scary I could still be left unfazed, it will be interesting anyway seeing what is determined with increased research.

The reason for this is that the last film I blogged and tweeted about I didn’t really have any idea whether it was scary or not (as much as is possible without previously seeing it). I don’t regret watching the last movie I blogged about, the film Kwaidan was beautiful and gave me some important insight into Japanese history. However, I think I should be examining what it is that I actually find culturally engaging in Japanese horror, not just taking direction from an internet top ten list. Even though they are helpful, I think something that I really know is going to be scary would be more appropriate for an auto-enthnographic study, because this is part of the reason why I was intrigued with Japanese culture in the first place, their success in scarying people.

Slightly Immersive Experience in Kwaidan (1964)

That digital output of Japanese movies is to say the least pretty extensive, so in choosing the horror film from Japan that I was going to view I went straight to an internet list. You might say that was callous, and that if I was serious about trying to find a scary Japanese horror film I would do more research than an internet top ten list. And you would be correct.

The first eye opener on this journey is; if you want to watch a scary movie, get a few more confirmations than an internet list before deciding to deem it scary. OK that being said my live tweeting experience of  the film Kwaidan was enjoyable, but not scary. #Ifellasleep

The main reason I opted straight for Kwaidan is that it was made in 1964 and as you probably know the 60s was a pivotal political period, so I was hoping the film might indicate what Japan was facing politically. Looking over my tweets, which you can see here, from my brief overview of them it seems to me that political tensions concerning gender and possibly more can be found in the films content. However I will be looking into this more deeply for my digital artefact to see where exactly the film stood politically and if there was any social and political controversies that could be noted to add more depth to the picture I have.

Tweeting the experience did feel exciting and it gave me more of an appreciation for the film, the process though was stifling, I didn’t feel that I got fully immersed in the what Kwaidan was trying to convey. I had to stop the film sometimes to tweet what I was seeing/feeling and it felt like a detachment from the event each time.

Not as immersed as I would like to be, it seems from the tweets that I liked the film mainly for its aesthetics and knowledge. The dialogue appears to have particularly burdened me. What I did get though, was a new found interest in Japan’s very rich history. And when I say rich I’m talking thousands of years, compared to little baby Australia’s 300 years or so recorded history, Japan’s is epic, and glorious… samurais, battle scenes, samurai clans, baby emperors, it’s thrilling! which would be an indication as to why their films are so good. My digital Artefact will investigate this theory more.

My main problem though throughout the film was pacing, I had real trouble remaining focused. There were so many beautiful images on screen, they just didn’t seem to be leading to anything quick enough for me. For my digital artefact I want to unpack this, the pacing of films has changed quite a bit over time, I would like to research what experts have commented about this and develop more of a clearer understanding of its social, cultural, and political implications.

Reference

Kwaidan 1964 by Masaki Kobayashi