#auto-ethnography

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].

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].

A Contextualised Note To Self – Who Said Professional Gamers Should Get A “Real” Job?

In my blog post from a few weeks ago, I introduced the concept and method of auto-ethnography and recorded my first encounter with the documentary State of Play (2013). This post will take my autoethnographic account one step further in interpreting and analysing my initial thoughts, assumptions and reactions to decipher their wider social and cultural meanings.

Autoethnography is based on the idea of experiencing “epiphanies” which are self-claimed liminal moments of clarity and emotional intensity perceived to have significantly impacted the trajectory of a person’s life (Ellis et al. 2011, p.2). When researchers conduct autoethnography, they retrospectively attempt to contextualise and make sense of these epiphanies by engaging in a critical dialogue with culture, history and social structure (Denzin 2016, p.131).

Epiphanies Epiphanies

In my first viewing of State of Play, I was surprised to discover that video gaming is an official profession in South Korea. This was an…

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Researching China’s Social Media Platforms

Outline the scope of the individual research project and draw on the autoethnographic literature to indicate how the methodology will inform the investigation.

In my individual research project I’d like to look into a few different angles of social media. I’m going to look at Chinese social media, in particular their equivalences to western social media platforms, and more broadly, how their social media space differs from the west’s. To do this I plan to do a few things to help myself understand the platforms, primarily this will be using an autoethnographic method in that I will personally attempt to sign up to all the leading social media platforms and document my experience, possibly even record myself at the same time.

Source: Weibo.com login page

Source: Weibo.com login page google translated into english

In Brad Crawford’s documentary “100 Yen: The Japanese Arcade Experience” he often makes the comparison between the ‘traditional’ arcade scene and the ‘up-and-coming console generation’. To compare my personal research project to this documentary, social media platforms in China, like Weibo, Renren and Tencent are primarily used by Chinese citizens, or at least Chinese speaking people, that is they survive, and were developed off the culture surrounding the platform. Similarly Japanese arcades were created in Japan, to entertain the Japanese people, the culture surrounding the platform has kept it active, and when the culture changes, so must the platform.

  • Some reasons for autoethnography in my project/signing up to the social media platforms – to better understand the differences in approaches, execution and culture of the platforms and thus be able to better compare it to western social media platforms

–  To create an informed first hand experience of the new (to me) platforms. Subsequently, I will do some data collection to help be able to compare statistical data between the different cultures.

– To look into how a culturally driven service i.e. they tailor the product to the users change between vastly different cultures, cross cultural difference in standards and emphasis on communication in the case of the social media platforms.

– Without actually using the platform, you can’t compare it to an adequate standard. Such a social, diverse and changing environment – would not benefit from a static research method – this point lends itself to the nature of technology and social media in general i.e. to keep up with peoples lives in ‘real time’.

– Generate a personal opinion from personal use.

To use a different approach to analyse the different media platforms would surely leave out important details and intricacies in how exactly the platforms are used, for what purpose they are used, and who exactly uses them. Observing such a social and culturally involved activity would not do the analysis justice when comparing it to western media which I have extensive experience in. Likewise to use purely statistical data analysis on the different social media platforms would leave out the important social differences and thus the analysis would lack a human aspect. This is why using an autoethnographic approach to the research benefits the analysis/comparison most, as it provides a means to comparing the two cultures, and opposing media platforms to a similar standard.

Just look at the Renren homepage, if I didn’t know any better I’d say it’s some kind of scam page out to steal my data.

Source: Renren homepage

Source: Renren homepage

References:

Crawford, B. (2016). 100 YEN: THE JAPANESE ARCADE EXPERIENCE [English subtitles]. [online] YouTube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=saqXPY4K-t0 [Accessed 15 Sep. 2016].

Ellis, Carolyn; Adams, Tony E. & Bochner, Arthur P. (2010). Autoethnography: An Overview [40 paragraphs]. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12(1), Art. 10, http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs1101108.