#auto-ethnography

Autoethnography and My Diary.

I use my diary as often as I possibly can to jot down moments in time that have made a major impact on me in some shape or form, known as epiphanies (Ellis et al, 2011). From the birth of my nephew to a tough day at work, I describe and reflect on interactions with others and the world around me.

I often think of my diary as a time capsule that in which, I can read in the future and understand what once was for myself. It will enable others to explore the way in which I used language to show emotion and thoughts in the written form.

My epiphanies are uniques to myself and you may have some of your own. Ellis et al makes point that people view the world around them differently and I couldn’t agree more.  Ellis states that autoethnography was developed due to scientist wanting focus on developing research based in personal experience, stating “research would sensitise readers to the issues of identity politics, to experiences shrouded in silence and to representation that deepen our capacity to empathise with people who are differently from us” (2011).

In the future, someone or myself could look back at my diary or any diary in general, at the experiences written about to influence the way in which they understand different views of the world then their own.

Checkout this audio piece for a little more of my understanding.

 

Lauren.

 

REFERENCE

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1. Available at: http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095

My First Godzilla Experience

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Gojira (1954). Photo credit: The Focus Pull

I think this was the first black and white film, and first subtitled film I have ever watched from start to finish. Being a 21-year-old Australian, I tend to only watch films and television shows that originate in the US and Australia; sometimes ones from the UK sneak their way into the mix. Being exposed to a film that is as culturally diverse as Gojira, and as far from my comfort zone as can be, really opened my eyes.

While watching the film, I tweeted “what a cinematic masterpiece”… I’m not going to lie when I say I was being a little sarcastic at first but as the film went on and we were exposed to the film maker’s use of model work and post-film productions, such as the siren that alerted the city of Godzilla’s appearance, I really did start to believe that the film was kind of a cinematic masterpiece. Scenes like Godzilla destroying the obviously teeny-tiny train made me chuckle but still had me intrigued with the methods film makers had to use in times where technology was limited. Audiences from this time period probably found Gojira extremely dramatic, where a lot of us watching it in the tutorial found it quite funny.

I thought I was going to struggle to pay attention throughout the film as it was subtitled and I have a very short attention span – I think I have YouTube videos to thank for that now. I still remember sitting in my Year 9 Japanese class and not having any interest in the Japanese soap opera we occasionally watched. This, in turn, had me thinking that I wouldn’t have any interest in keeping up with what was happening and being said throughout Gojira but I found that even if I looked away from the screen for a period of time, I was still able to keep up. Most of this was due to the emotive acting and the loud sounds and near silence used throughout. I’m still quite amazed at how captivating the scenes that were entirely silent were. The overly staged and highly dramatic acting contributed to the viewing experience as it meant that I didn’t always have to rely on the English subtitles to understand what was happening in the scenes.

As someone who was never seen anything Godzilla related, I was completely ignorant Gojira‘s significant representations of historical and socio-political events. After the post film discussion in the tutorial and reading through both classes live tweets, it became blindingly obvious what Gojira, as a film and figure, stood for and represented at a time where Japan was struggling with who they were as a nation.

Godzilla, Cinema and Cultural Construction

In this blog post I will be delving into my understanding of the 1954 Japanese classic, Godzilla (ゴジラ). Using my understanding of auto-ethnography I will attempt to interpret this film’s cultural significance as an artefact of time.

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During the week I watched this film for the first time and live tweeted throughout using the #DIGC330 hashtag on my Twitter (@hazeldinesam).

Even as the film starts there is immediately a distinct feeling that you are watching an old film, the aesthetic of projection wobbles and jerking, grainy black and white film and jarringly sparse use of music and sound effects. This automatically places the viewer at certain point in time, which for me as a millennial creates more a sense of regressive novelty rather than a nostalgic reminder of my earlier years. My nostalgic ‘early years’ of experiencing film are best understood as the era of flip phones, Justin Timberlake with ramen hair and the beginning of the never-ending Fast and Furious saga. So context for me took a while to be understood and formed as the viewer.

As it progresses growing suspicions of the film’s didactic plot I perceived were to illustrate the devastation of World War II and atomic weaponry, moreover reinforce the need to avoid such destruction for future generations. This approach by the director to use cinema as a warning to future generations that ‘big actions have big consequences’ is a common idea which film has used for decades to establish popular narrative.

In particular, throughout Cold War era Hollywood there appears to be a necessity to demonise the enemy (usually Russia) and condemn any opposition to western cultural imperialism. Examples that immediately spring to mind are the Roger Moore and Sean Connery

James Bond films, which without exception have an oriental, middle eastern or soviet enemy – all of which remain alien cultures to dominant U.S. narrative.

This idea of cinema as a tool of persuasion is undoubtedly a powerful concept, I suggest checking out this article from Business Insider which goes deeper into Hollywood’s impact on the Cold War.

More relevant to the ideas shown in Godzilla I believe this film was a part of a recognition process in Japanese culture. What I mean by this – this period of history for Japan unquestionably shook the nation’s identity, being overpowered by the might of the western military in 1945 was humiliating for their proud culture. As part of the years following the war, this film helps to form a common recognition of the scale of devastation and loss – in the film this is manifested as WMDs and a mutant lizard. With the real life experience being the allied bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima resulting in similarly horrific circumstances.

Of course, this is an armchair analysis from someone who admittedly knows little about the Japanese cultural construct, however to be able to remain detached of emotion towards the ‘facts’ is half the battle. Furthermore, I believe that in the present era of information proliferation, it is exponentially easier to understand the inevitable two sides to every story.

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.

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…

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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…

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The Getting of Culture: A proposal for a non-linear exploration of the emergence of Bitcoin in China

My individual research project will explore the Bitcoin phenomenon in China. Introduced in 2009, Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer electronic payment system that bitcoin-mining-imageharnesses decentralised networking technologies to enable payments without the need for a central authorising agency (Bitcoin Group 2015, p.26). Bitcoin is often referred to as a form of cryptocurrency or virtual currency because it exists purely in an electronic form (Bitcoin Group 2015, p.26). Bitcoin is “mined” by supercomputers which solve difficult mathematical formulas to generate the currency (Murray 2016). As of 30 November 2015, 14.9 million Bitcoins had been mined (Bitcoin Group 2015, p.26).

In recent years, China has become a market for Bitcoin unlike anything in the West, fueling huge investments in mining farms as well as enormous speculative trading on Chinese Bitcoin exchanges (Popper 2016). Mines run by Chinese companies account for approximately 70 per cent of the world’s bitcoin processing power and Chinese exchanges…

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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 Tibetan Sand Mandala – Part One

Talkin' About Technology, yet not restricted to.

I was given the opportunity to choose an aspect of any Asian culture I would like to experience and then write and analyse about that experience from an autoethnographic viewpoint. Autoethnography being described by Ellis et al. “… is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyse personal experience in order to understand cultural experience”. Through minimal research of different topics, I came to an immediate interest in looking at the Tibetian Sand Mandala. The sand mandala is a creation from Tibetan Buddhists that signifies a representation of the world in divine form.


There is a Buddhist Temple that I can get to, the Nan Tien Temple, though making and designing of the Sand Mandala is not just a common every day activity and also not publicized on social media so my personal experience is limited to watching videos – like the one above…

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The Art of Autoethnography: Part II

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Part II- Autoethnography: A Further Reflection

In my last post I made a number of observations in regard to the 1954 Japanese film Godzilla/Gojira. My main observation that I had was that I did not find myself engrossed in the film given the educational setting. In this blog post some of the other observations made will be looked at further in an auto ethnographic context.

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Two observations made during the course of the film related to the display or lack of display made by the characters.

Constant shadows make it hard to see the emotions displayed of the characters faces.

Little emotion is shown by the characters when announcing the deaths of the soldiers. They are stone cold statues.

These observations are made from the view point of a 21 year Australian woman. Australians tend to be relatively open with their emotions and this is expressed in western cinema. Western actors display emotions through their body language and their facial expressions. The way that I interpret the displays of emotion in this film is very different to the way that a Japanese person interprets its.

‘Cultural contexts also act as cues when people are trying to interpret facial expressions. This means that different cultures may interpret the same social context in very different ways’ (Boundless Psychology, 2016)

This understanding of culture changes the way that I reflect upon my auto ethnographic research. Further literature research puts these observations into context. Not only does culture impact the way that we display emotion but it also impacts the way that we perceive and interpret emotion too. With this understanding, cultural nuances must be looked at. An article posted on the Association for Psychological Science titled Perception of Emotion Is Cultural-Specific (2010) describes Japanese displays of emotion. Emotion is more evident through tone of voice than through facial expressions in Japanese cultural.

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What this reflection makes clear is the process of autoethnography. Ellis et. al. (2011) made clear in their text Autoethnography: An Overview is the importance of the elements of methodological tools, literature research and personal experience. It is now clear to me the importance of that literature research in informing your personal experience, without this understanding, the research lacks substance and perspective.

Reference List

Boundless.com. (2016). [online] Available at: https://www.boundless.com/psychology/textbooks/boundless-psychology-textbook/emotion-13/influence-of-culture-on-emotion-411/influence-of-culture-on-emotion-263-12798/ [Accessed 1 Sep. 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].

Psychologicalscience.org. (2016). Perception of Emotion Is Culture-Specific – Association for Psychological Science. [online] Available at: http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/releases/perception-of-emotion-is-culture-specific.html [Accessed 1 Sep. 2016].