Autoethnography

Autoethnography – Why it’s a good thing

Let’s start with the definition that will probably be included in every blog post this week.

“Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyze (graphy) personal experience (auto) in order to understand cultural experience (ethno)” (ELLIS, 2004; HOLMAN JONES, 2005).

In my own words, Autoethnography is the implementation of personal experiences and culture into the study and writing of things to help understand the researchers own personal context and the effects it will have on their interpretation of the material being studied.

I’m pretty sure I may have made it sound more complicated (haha) but this is the way that makes sense in my head. The phrasing of this is due to my personal history of extension history and research- which was all about using the information you’re given to present an argument based on your own ideas. Which I think is definitely similar to autoethnography.

After a quick flick through the Wikipedia page, it makes sense that if we want to study social aspects further, then we must look towards our own views and background to make sense of it, as well as to show new and improved concepts on past studies.

Somethings have already stood out to me as being autoethnographic-ish in this subject. Firstly, in week one with our study of Godzilla- I realised that due to my personal background, I had a deeper understanding of the Japanese culture and the importance of the signage and language format used throughout the film. I then used this in the blog post for that week to explain to other in the class, what it was in my personal context that allowed me to notice these details.

I think this is beneficial when it comes to research and the future of studying topics across cultures. It enables a better understanding of the culture being studied and also of how your own personal context can influence how you see things and interpret what you’re seeing. While more traditional research practices ask you to remain impartial and not choose sides- this is impossible and often leads you to read research papers without knowing fully the context of the writer of the work.

When it comes to the interpretation of film and media consumption- it’s beneficial and important to know the biographical details of both those who created the work and also those who are researching and passing on their opinion.

I hope this made sense, and I didn’t end up rambling too much!

autoethnography

Sources:

Autoethnography

Autoethnography is undeniably a big word. Which is why initially I was pretty intimidated by it. However, breaking it down with the help of the 2011 text ‘Autoethnography: an overview’ by Carolyn Ellis, Tony Adams & Arthur Bochner and class discussions essentially helped me achieve a good understanding of the term. Simply put, autoethnography is where an individual uses their own personal experiences in order to comprehend cultural understandings.

After establishing this understanding I then applied the term to my own life and realised something pretty extraordinary. Without even knowing it I have been an active autoethnographer for the three years I have download-1.jpgbeen at University. By starting my personal WordPress blog I have been using my own experiences to understand other cultures. However, the biggest struggle I have found with autoethnography is achieving an equal balance between self-perspective and research or in other words the equal balance between artful and scientific. This balance comes from within the word itself. Autoethonography derives from two separate words- autobiography and ethnography. Autobiography can make a text artful by using various authorial points of view. Ethnography brings scientific descriptions into a text and can rely on other people’s research and experiences.
Personally, I have always preferred relying on research to back my argument. But what I have recently come to understand is that you need your own experiences in order to generate epiphanies. From these we can then apply research and methodology to analyse these experiences.

According to Ellis’ text “Autoethnographers must not only use their methodological tools and research literature to analyze experience, but also must consider ways others may experience similar epiphanies; they must use personal experience to illustrate facets of cultural experience, and, in so doing, make characteristics of a culture familiar for insiders and outsiders. To accomplish this might require comparing and contrasting personal experience against existing research.” (Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. 2011, p.g. 2)

I hope to try and apply this understanding in my future research and attempt to achieve this balance.

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

Take a Look at Yourself

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The first step in autoethnographic research is taking a look at yourself, and understanding that everything that has happened to you makes you who you are, and impacts how you see the world around you. The second step is accepting that you can’t do anything to change that.

I’m sure the majority of people that read this, (my fellow DIGC330 students) are probably a little tired of reading the definition of autoethnography given in the Ellis reading (for everyone else, click the link in my references, it presents a vastly superior explanation of what auto ethnography is), so instead I’ll give my best go at a definition. Autoethnography is an approach to the research of human cultures, in which the researcher immerses themselves in that culture, and uses self-reflection to explore their own personal experience, while linking that with other qualitative research.

My first experience with autoethnography was last year in another one of my classes, Research Practices in Media and Communication. It was love at first sight. It just made so much sense to me, as much as anyone tries to be perfectly unbiased and analytical in qualitative research, it is an impossible task as a human being. Knowing that, isn’t it better to be open in showing where your potential biases are, and more importantly challenge your own thinking.

As I was thinking about autoethnography this week, I remembered doing modern history in year 11, and my teacher consistently writing on my assignments, “You need to include blah.” (Obviously she didn’t actually say blah) I had assumed that I didn’t need to include certain information because I figured it was common knowledge. This was the first time I really thought about how people had different backgrounds, and how that impacts a person.

I’m super keen to conduct my own piece of autoethnographic research on Japanese stand-up. I absolutely love stand-up comedy. I probably watch at least three new specials a week. If I had to go on mastermind stand-up would be my specialist subject. In saying all of this though, the comedians I’ve watched are mostly from America, the UK, and Australia, so I’m curious to expand my horizons through my research on stand-up in Japan. How is it different to what I’ve already seen? What are the topics/themes? What style of comedy is predominant? How popular is it? These are all things I hope to figure out in my research.

References:

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

Apparently I’ve already conducted autoethography… who knew?

So I’m not going to lie to you here, writing blog posts in which I have to understand and reiterate my understanding of a concept or reading… well they scare the living heck out of me. I’ve always got the thought in my mind that… what if I understand it wrong and everything I’ve written is just messy and no one understands and oh god what have I done? Yet, the due date is looming so here we go.

Autoethnography. Not a new concept I’ve come into contact with. (That’ll happen when you’re in your fourth year of study). Through the years, the idea of reflecting through blog posts and researching has woven itself through my study. Deciphering this reading and trying to wrap my head around the content was surprising to me in the fact that it was much simpler to understand than I had previously thought. I have always understood the fact that everything I take in and all my beliefs are due to my upbringing and my background. Yet, it was quite jarring to understand that the way I react to certain cultures is also because of my own cultural context.

“Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyze (graphy) personal experience (auto) in order to understand cultural experience (ethno)” – (Ellis et al. 2011)

I personally understand autoethnography to be a form of qualitative research where the author immerses themselves and uses self-reflection to explore their personal experience. Though, I don’t believe it stops there. To really understand autoethnographic research, it is vital to connect the first reaction or reflection to a wider understanding, such as cultural, political or just social background. This form of research formulates personal connections between the researcher and the text, but then allows them to think about the text and themselves in a wider context. I believe that this type of research can be extremely rewarding, but it doesn’t mean that academic research isn’t also critical.

It also makes you wonder – you’ve probably been conducting some type of autoethnographic research at some level all your life. We’ve undergone new cultural experiences many times in our lives. Having digested this reading made me understand that without even knowing it, I was conducting autoethnographic research on my trip to Europe earlier this year. This was done through the use of video blogging (vlogging) where I documented my trip, my experience with new cultures and foods and many of the wonders of Europe. (I was really getting a head start on all this autoethnography business, so go me).

I believe that the issue of reflexivity is highly important when it comes to these studies. We need to understand ourselves and our own personal framework and how our own bias will enable us to understand and reflect on our autoethnographic research. I know 100% that my Italian background makes engaging with other cultures, such as Asian cultures different to those who are exposed to similar cultures.

My best friend is Vietnamese and it’s through her and her family that I have had the chance to be exposed to a lot more Asian media and customs than I would have been exposed to if we hadn’t become friends in High School. I remember once, she got be a Japanese Candy Kit (this one in particular was called Kracie Happy Kitchen), where you mix powder and water together and it makes mini food! I was honestly amazed. It tasted like an actual burger!! What the heck! I had never been exposed to this kind of thing before. Italians only had pasta and home made focaccia (hello, I was not complaining) but I was honestly amazed by this little contraption and wanted more.

I’m so excited to explore more into Asian Cultures. I am excited to create short videos of myself reacting to the types of products like the ones above, but also beauty related products such as the bubble mask (how cool!!). I think that Asian cultures can come up with a lot of cool products and I am definitely keen to check them out!

Autoethnography: My Understanding

The concept of autoethnography makes me challenge almost every ideal I’ve been taught during my school years. As a journalism student, we are taught to avoid bias and remain as impartial to the research and ideas explored in every article we write. We have to, to the best of our ability, provide both sides of every story for audiences to make up their own mind. Autoethnography allows me to challenge that notion and explore how I perceive particular experiences and instances. As mentioned in Ellis’ Autoethnography: An Overview, authors often find it therapeutic to write personal stories as it helps to make sense of ourselves and our experiences (Ellis et al, 2011). By taking an auto ethnographic approach, authors are also able to question themselves to improve and understand relationships and promote change (Ellis et al, 2011).

The first time I saw the term autoethnographic, I was beyond confused. A quick Google search told me that it was a form of qualitative research used to explore personal experiences, while connecting to a wider meaning. Without any context to what we would be exploring in DIGC330, I still wasn’t quite sure what it actually meant. Ellis et al (2011) explained that autoethnography is made up of two research methodologies: autobiography (a history of a person’s life written or told by that person) and ethnography (a branch of anthropology dealing with the scientific description of individual cultures).

Through this new (for me) form of research, I understand that there will be a fine line between being too personal and not critical enough and being too critical and unattached and not personal enough. One of the main critical responses to autoethnography is that it can be ‘too artful and not scientific, or too scientific and not sufficiently artful.’ (Ellis et al, 2011).

‘We know that memory is fallible, that it is impossible to recall or report on events in language that exactly represents how those events were lived and felt; and we recognize that people who have experienced the “same” event often tell different stories about what happened’ (TULLIS OWEN et al., 2009).

The quote above really caught my eye during the reading as no two people will feel exactly the same about any experience. Thoughts, feelings and backgrounds are just a couple of the factors that impact how each individual sees the world and how they experience anything.

I will be continuing my autoethnographic research by exploring the popularisation of brush lettering, while drawing on the history of calligraphy.

References:

Ellis, C., Adams, T., & Bochner, A. (2011). ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12(1). Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.17169/fqs-12.1.1589

Understanding my world through Autoethnography

The idea of Autoethnography is so foreign to me. So far in my academic career I’ve transformed from the high school system “1st person is evil”, to welcoming how your cultural perceptions has shaped how you understand a situation. Ellis et al. defines Autoethnography as:

“An approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyse (graphy) personal experience (auto) in order to understand cultural experience (ethno)”

Therefore, this incorporates how a person understands a situation or event due to how their personal experiences have shaped their way of thinking. To be an autoethnographer, you must first explain your cultural upbringing to your readers/audience and then critically analyse how this has formed your understanding.

If you read my last blog, I attempted a little autoethnography, by critically analysing how I took meaning from watching Godzilla based on my cultural upbringing. It was a different approach to writing that I haven’t noticed myself using up to this point in my academic career. Yet, it makes sense to use this form of research and writing, because it can be used as a tool for further understanding of yourself and those around you.

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Photo I took of the beach (Otres Beach, Cambodia)

I noticed myself doing this in my recent travels to Cambodia. I was sitting on a beach, and women were walking up and down the beach selling foot rubs, manicures and pedicures to tourists. I was approached by one woman who was driven to make me buy something from her. I noticed the difference between the selling techniques used by advertising company’s in Australia and her persuasion techniques. She rubbed her hand on my legs and said “Oh! So hairy! You need threading”. I realised this must be how they try to persuade tourists to pay for them for a beauty service. Thinking back to how someone would sell me something in Australia compared to how things are sold in Cambodia is very different. This event made me interested in how the media sold products to Cambodians, and noticed a lot of downgrading their own beauty in order to sell their products. Most of the models on the packaging were white, or looked very similar to white people. This sets the standard of “beauty” in Cambodia and tells people that they aren’t beautiful unless they look white.

I think to how the media sells me products, and I notice a lot of the similar sort of advertising techniques. Therefore, I am interested in researching further into how the Asian advertising market sells its products as part of an autoethnographic project.

 

 

References:

Ellis, C, Adams, T.E & Bochner, A.P. 2011, ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, Vol. 12, No. 1, <http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095&gt;

Throw everything you know about research to the wind! Autoethnography is here.

We have been blogging our entire degree’s.

Reflective, observant, and critical. These are the tenets of good blogging practice.

Heavily lacing our work with respective anecdotes, embedded personal tweets, and ~poignant~ gifs, blogging has allowed us to imbed ourselves into the topics in which we are discussing. Although celebrated among the blogosphere, with the visible benefits of this authorial point of view shining through, auto-ethnographical approaches to study are heavily regarded as epistemologically damaging to research.

Although not shocking, it is alarming that the benefits of self-reflexivity is ignored among the general population of the research world.

Auto-ethnography, as defined by Ellis, is the process of acknowledging and accommodating for the subjectivity, emotionality, and personal influence of the researcher within research. This in turn provides varying insights into the work that could not have been investigated otherwise.

This title, although a little pompous and verbose, is quite revealing with regard to the function of this form of methodology. The untraditional practice ‘seeks to describe and systematically analyse (graphy) personal experience (auto) in order to understand cultural experience (ethno)’. Although canonical and autoethnographical research methods are highly varied in their manifestation, they are both governed by a large range of conventions which influence their understanding and the way in which they were constructed. There are distinct parallels to be drawn between both modes of research, autoethnography just decides to acknowledge this bias.

But what is the incentive for classical researchers to transition, or even consider this line of methodology?

The intimate nature of the research may pose unique insights into issues regarding culture possibly overlooked, or out of reach to traditional researchers. Issues regarding identity, mental health, society. These are all very personal points of studying within sociology, one in which researchers have varying depths of interaction with. This introspection, helping the researcher make sense of his or her own experiences in relation to the point of study, is as a result of what Ellis defines as epiphanies.

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Image source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WjfHnCjy3Pc

Just like the intense moment Homer Simpson experienced in The Simpsons movie, autoethnographers voluntarily undergo a recurring period of critical self-reflection, with regard to the way in which they have interacted with their subject. Although sounding like what happens to everyone after sending a ‘risky text’, this methodology affords numerous benefits to the research and audience. It is apt in remaining transparent, revealing the binary established between researcher and researched, as well as the self and the other. Classical research studies assumes this dichotomy, but autoethnography aims to bridge this gap. Autoethnography further explores interaction, and insertion of the researcher as a means to reveal narrative nuances present within the subject being studied, acknowledging the present biases affecting the way both things and research operate.

As someone who has had limited, or very superficial interactions with Asian culture, it will be interesting to explore this line of research.

References:

Ellis, Carolyn; Adams, Tony E. & Bochner, Arthur P. (2010). Autoethnography: An Overview [40 paragraphs]. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research12(1), Art. 10, http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs1101108.

Méndez, Mariza. (2013). Autoethnography as a research method: Advantages, limitations and criticisms. Colombian Applied Linguistics Journal15(2), 279-287. Retrieved August 17, 2017, from http://www.scielo.org.co/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0123-46412013000200010&lng=en&tlng=en.

Wait, you want MY opinion? The research methodology of autoethnography

 

 

Biggest-bias

(Bastian 2016)

During my time at university I have been meticulous in keeping my personal views, opinions and experiences separate from my research. The second my rear end was planted in my seat in DIGC330, everything changed. Now before you ask, no, the Fire Nation didn’t attack. Rather, I was introduced to the practice of autoethnography, a research method that combines the well-established fields of autobiography and ethnography. The aim of autoethnography is to produce “meaningful, accessible and evocative” research that is grounded in one’s personal experience (Ellis et al. 2011, p. 2). The resulting research product seeks to deepen our ability to empathise with people who are different from us (Ellis et al. ibid). ­­

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(Hayen 2014)

As interesting as autoethnography sounds, how does one actually go about doing autoethnography? First of all, it is important that one understands the research methods that have been combined to create autoethnography – autobiography and ethnography. Autobiography, at its core, is an account of a person’s life in which the author retroactively and selectively writes about past experiences” (Ellis et al. 2011). On the other hand, ethnography involves a researcher becoming a participant observer in a culture that is different to their own and “studying the culture’s relational practices, common values, beliefs and shared experiences” (ibid).

My understanding of autoethnography, essentially the lovechild of these two practices is that an autoethnographer draws upon their personal epiphanies stemming from their own culture, and telling these experiences whilst simultaneously analysing them. Analysis is an absolutely crucial component of autoethnography because without it, the researcher is basically just recounting their life and experiences without any further examination or introspection. And let’s face it, anyone can give a bland and boring account of their life.

yes-yesplease-keep-talking-about-yourself-i-always-yawn-when-i-am-enthralled-0ad18

Don’t be that person – analysis of your personal experiences and bias is critical (Julie2233212 2014)

Analysis further authenticates autoethnography as a research method by forcing the researcher to exercise self-reflexivity and introspectively examine the reason why they feel or think the way they do about a culture that is different to their own.

By recounting and critically examining one’s own personal and cultural biases and applying this knowledge to how one understands another cultural group, autoethnography can serve as a therapeutic method of seeking to better understand ourselves and our relationships. Autoethnography can also assist with reduce prejudice and promote cultural change (Ellis et al, ibid). What’s not to love?

I am excited to engage in my own autoethnographic research journey when I complete my major project. I would like to examine how my active participation in cosplay and the subculture in Australia has shaped my understanding of Japanese culture. I also plan to interview my grandparents, who know very little about cosplay, to gain a deeper understanding of how understanding and perceptions of Japanese culture can be shaped through exposure to the cosplay subculture in Australia.

 

Reference List

Bastian, H 2016, The biggest bias we have to deal with is our own, image, hildabastian.net, viewed 18 August 2017, <http://hildabastian.net/index.php/33-march-2016&gt;

Ellis, C, Adams, TE, & Bochner, AP 2011, ‘Autoethnography: an overview’, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, vol. 12, no. 1, pp. 1-12.

Hayen, T 2014, Empathy, image, Hayen Centre for Psychotherapy and Counselling, viewed 18 August 2017, <http://www.toddhayentherapy.com/empathy-in-relationship/&gt;

Julie2233212 2014, Yes, yes…please keep taking about yourself. I always yawn when I am enthralled, image, SomeEcards, viewed 18 August 2017, < https://www.someecards.com/usercards/viewcard/yes-yesplease-keep-talking-about-yourself-i-always-yawn-when-i-am-enthralled-0ad18/&gt;

 

 

My understanding of autoethnography

Falling into a habit of autoethnography for this subject is probably something I’ll have to get used to. Studying a bachelor of journalism, objectivity has been drilled into me relentlessly. Bias in journalism is frowned upon. The core of journalism is to report on hard facts and deliver the truth to the public. I did one class that focused on narrative journalism, a form of journalism that concentrates on emotive, narrative storytelling of true events. Sometimes the writer will put themselves in the story, reflecting on their own thoughts and experiences to further engage a reader’s understanding. But otherwise, news journalism relies strongly on unedited facts and straight-to-the-point writing structure. I’ve learnt not to write that someone believes something to be true, only to write what they have blatantly stated.

Autoethnography appears to be somewhat more accepting of our own revelations combined with meticulous research to explore a culture.

Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyze (graphy) personal experience (auto) in order to understand cultural experience (ethno).” – Autoethnography: An Overview (Ellis et al., 2010)

My understanding of autoethnography from Ellis’ account is that its a form of research where the researcher explores their own experiences as a focus of investigation. By sharing the researcher’s personal reflection of a culture they engage the reader. Whilst hardcore journalism may be separate from the autoethnography that Ellis describes I think some of the best journalism uses the process of autoethnography to capture both the factual and emotional aspects of a story, such as documentaries and literary novels. Sometimes the author or narrator places themselves in the storyline, including their thoughts and experiences of what is happening. Often they will have ‘epiphanies’, something which Ellis says are commonplace in autoethnographic research.

An example of this is the documentary series, States of Undress, which follows Hayley Gates as she explores global fashion and beauty standards and their relation to political and social issues such as gender and race. Her personal epiphanies are woven throughout the narrative, creating transformative moments.

Autoethnography allows the researcher to create a link between the reader and the content, further engaging the audience through their own transformative experiences.

Autoethnography can be cleverly used to promote cultural awareness or give voice to an issue or community that previously may not have been heard. However, autoethnohgraphy is often criticised by the social sciences. Ellis writes that, “autoethnography is criticized for either being too artful and not scientific, or too scientific and not sufficiently artful.” As such, many remain skeptical of it. However, as Ellis argues, autoethnography challenges the distinct binary between science and art, believing that research can be both analytical and emotional.

I think autoethnography can be done in keeping with truth, and as such is a powerful form of research that combines emotive storytelling of experiences with analytical examination of a culture. The researcher’s own epiphanies will hopefully cause the audience to reflect on the topic themselves.

References:

Ellis, C., Adams, T. and Bochner, A., 2010. Autoethnography: An overview. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, [online] 12(1). Available at: <http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095&gt;.

via My understanding of autoethnography —

Comprehending autoethnography through playing dress up

krisesandchrosses

Having meaningful experiences in life relate to your physical, mental, social and political contexts. Your past actions and decisions influence how you will take on changes, challenges and new experiences in the future.

This is what we describe as an auto-ethnographic relationship between one’s self and texts according to Carolyn Ellis, Tony E. Adams and Arthur P. Bochner. This paradigm of research and writing seeks to comprehensively construe and analyse social, political and cultural impacts in relation to an individual’s experience. The main purpose of this form of research/writing is to identify personal biases and prejudices and relate them to the understanding of a new culture. This may be through the route of text, technology, industry, subcultures, digital media platforms or even practice. It is through these avenues of research that epiphanies are born, creating a new direction of critical thinking or research for an individual. This methodology creates…

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