culture

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BULA! Kava, Fiji and culture

My opening post on Kava was based on perceptions both personal and societal with minimal investigation. This post is almost completely research based. So what is Kava?

Kava is a depressant drug, which means it slows down the messages travelling between the brain and the body. Kava is made from the root or stump of the kava (Piper methysticum) shrub.’ – Dr Edward, Global Healing Centre.

To follow up on my personal interest of the Fijian beverage, I’ll be undertaking a cultural study of how the drink impacts the country’s lifestyle. When attending my brother’s wedding in Fiji, I’ll speak with locals and gather information from the region to assist in unpacking how this iconic drink fits into their society.

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Since my initial interest was sparked, I’ve had time to gather information and reassess my approach to the study. Initially my attention came from the side effects of Kava itself and the reasons why it is such a popular beverage in Fiji. This interest certainly still exists, however I’m becoming more fixated on the role it plays in Fijian society and how it impacts the local’s lifestyle and way of living.

My opening blog post proposed seven questions and beliefs surrounding Kava. After engaging in further research into the topic, I’ve come up with a few answers.

Q) The general belief is that Kava is said to contain a very high alcoholic content, so how strong is it?

A) Kava contains NO ALCOHOL! This was news to me. It is however a depressant like alcohol. It is classified as a ‘psychoactive beverage’ made purely from shrub native to Fiji. There are many different strands of Kava creations that have there own profile ranging from sleepy to numb to relaxed.

Q) Another conception of Kava is that it can act in the same way a psychedelic drug would in that it can impact the brain causing an individual to hallucinate. Is this fact or fiction?

A) Kava is not a psychedelic drug in any way and will not give you warped visions that allow you to see different things. The common perception of this derives from the fact that there are hallucinogenic beverages like Kava such as Ayuhuasca that are often confused to be Kava. This confusion has led to the misconception.

Q) Are its origins entirely Fijian?

A) Kava dates back at least 3000 years. While it is prevalent in Fiji, its creation isn’t entirely claimed by the country. The piper methysticum shrub that is used to create it is found across the Pacific Islands and the beverage itself is drunk in places such as Tonga, Hawaii, Vanuatu and Polynesia.

 

Q) The belief is that the beverage is consumed by all ages, is this true? If its alcohol content is as strong as it is said to be, this raises further questions.

A) As previously mentioned, Kava doesn’t contain alcohol. The age limit, if any, of drinkers was difficult to find therefore I’ll ask locals when arriving in the country.

Q) Why is it acceptable to consume alcohol at a young age in Fiji and why does this differ from Australia’s attitudes towards drinking restrictions?

A) As per previous answer.

Q) Most Australians seem to be aware that Kava is a mixture of water and natural plantation, so how is it made and what are its exact ingredients?

A) Kava comes from the root of the Yaqona shrub. The shrub is used in multiple ways ranging from strained, crushed, grounded or powdered with water into a very big wooden bowl. It is as simple as it sounds.

Q) Another myth suggests that the drinking frequency and strength of Kava contributes somewhat to the laid back attitude of the country. A big claim, but does it hold any logistical truth?

A) Another question that will need plenty of clarification from locals. However, its regular consumption at all times of the day and relaxed, sleepy impact on an individual suggests it may contribute. The fact it isn’t as strong as previously believed to be suggests it couldn’t contribute to a prominent portion of local’s everyday attitudes to any massive degree.

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Following up on my initial perceptions of the Fijian beverage I’ve become aware of the huge revelation that it doesn’t contain alcohol and I’ve also come to realise Kava is a VERY traditional and cultural element in Fijian society. The locals engage in ceremonies using the drink as a symbol and method of creating relationships and strong bonds between each other. The ceremonies centring around Kava have rich histories dating back centuries. I’ll aim to attend one of these ceremonies when in the country.

Another area I’ll research that is of new information is that it has many uses including medicinal, sedation, diuretic, muscle relaxant among many others.

Extending on my now base layer of knowledge on Kava I’ll look to further delve into its role in Fijian society. This will be aided by photographs, videos and hopefully audio interviews obtained from the locals.

Balancing my Yin and Yang Through Yoga; an Autoethnographic Experience

In my first autoethnographic response to yoga I’d begun analysisng my experience with the practice even though I’d already been doing yoga for quite a few months. I still find it fun, however since I’ve been practicing yoga for this project, my uni load has increased ten fold and I’m lucky to get to go once a week. They say if you don’t have time to meditate 20mins every day, then you should meditate for an hour. They obviously don’t understand how limited your time is when pulling all nighters to submit 3000 word essays.

I complete my practices at the Yoga studio down the road called Body Awakenings. The teachers are really helpful and nice and there is no judgement because everyone is just as terrible as you are. The classes do have a female majority of all ages but there are usually a few men who complete the practices regularly too (boyfriends being dragged along by optimistic partners?)

I love the yoga studio itself, you could just walk into that room and feel relaxed even if you don’t complete the practice. There are multiple scented candles, purple and white walls with a giant mandala painted on one and wooden shutters to keep the bright lights out, all of which sets a relaxing ambiance.

The classes run for approximately an hour with multiple styles to choose from including Hatha Yoga, Core Yogalates, Slow Yoga Flow, Yin Yoga, Yin Yang Yoga, Core Yoga Flow, Restorative Yoga, Core Pilates, Gentle Yogalates, Basic Yoga Flow, Roller and Release with Core Flow, Qui Gong, Meditation along with Teen, Prenatal and Mums and Bubs Yoga classes.

As there are so many classes I haven’t had a chance to try them all, (also not all of them apply to me seeing as I’m not pregnant or a teenager.) However I have tried Hatha Yoga, Yin and Yin and Yang Yoga, Core Yoga Flow, Restorative Yoga and Core Pilates.

My favorite for sure was Yin Yang Yoga because you can relax while holding poses for 2-5 mins while incorporating normal flow yoga where poses are held for 10-20 seconds. Plus it makes you feel cleansed and energetic afterwards.

I researched how this actually worked because the class just involved a whole lot of bending over and lying down and it just seemed to good to be true.

Yin Yang yoga style incorporates a balance between deep long stretches and a Hatha style flow. It’s designed to simultaneously release energy flow and expand flexibility through penetrating deep into connective tissue. Further developing muscular strength and stamina with the combination of the two styles.

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An artistic representation of the Yin Yang Ideology depicting the balance between night and day and the sea and sky. Credit Yogi Surprise, Pintrest

Many people are familiar with the ancient Chinese Yin Yang symbol which emphasizes balance and the cycle of life, how one force dominates and is thus replaced with the opposing force. This is often used a metaphors for life and death, heaven and earth, night and day, health and sickness, poverty and wealth and the cycle of the seasons (winter to summer). Known as the Tai Chi (or Taiqi) symbol, this ideology is mirrored through the yoga style as it balances stillness and movement throughout its practice. Ester Ekhart , describes Yin Yang as best for people who are tired, overstimulated, have overactive mindsets and erratic energy.  I feel this directly applies to me and was invented with myself in mind which must explain why this practice just felt right. My balance between work, uni and attempting to maintain a social life is all out of whack and my inner eye needed some ancient yin yang to work that out.

Here is a Youtube tutorial for a 35min Yin Yang class for beginners to advanced levels of yoga, aiming to release stress if you want further insight into the style by Yoga with Kassandra.

My research has also uncovered that Yoga itself originated in India, beginning as a spiritual process which had the ability to heal yourself and inner being. Many practices which are today defined as different yoga styles, originated in India around the same time that Hindu ideology begun to emerge, therefore the two are often associated with one another. Despite this, it is important to note that the two are separate as yoga is more a way of thinking and living instead of a religion. A Cure Joy editorial emphasizes ‘ It is wrong to identify yoga through religion- just as it is wrong to identify an American product as a Christian product’. I like this metaphor as it helps you visualize how the practice of yoga itself differs from the Hindu religion despite their similarities in ideology.

Yoga styles practiced in the west, can be traced back over 5000 years ago. However as early transcriptions regarding the practice were secretive and passed on orally and written on palm tree leaves which are easily lost or damaged, it is possible that the practice of yoga is over 10,000 years old.  There are 3 different periods which have influenced the creation of yoga as it’s practiced today in the west.

The Indus-Sarasvati civilization in Northern India developed the beginnings of Pre-Classical Yoga and coined the term ‘Yoga’ in the oldest of the 4 sacred Hindu texts, the Rigveda which is a collection of ancient Indian Sanskrits. Yoga was then refined by the Brahman’s priests and Rishis who documented the practice in the Upanishad, consisting of over 200 scriptures. The Upanishad utilized the idea of ritual sacrifice and applied it to the practice in the sacrifice of individual ego through self-knowledge, karma and wisdom.  The Classical period of yoga begun in the 2nd century and is defined by Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras which were the first presentation of yoga that cultivated many different styles and conflicting ideas which were seen throughout the practice. Patanjali was the first to denote the idea of the Eight Limbs of yoga in the Yoga-Sutras. Because of this he is seen as the ‘father of yoga’ as many of the Sutras outlined still influence modern styles of yoga today. The Post- Classical yoga period saw yoga masters attempting to refine the practice futher to explore the physical- spiritual connection between the mind and the body as a means to rejuvenate the body and extend life. This period saw the development of Tantra Yoga, utilizing radical techniques to cleanse the mind and body and ‘break the knots which tie us to our physical existence’.

Modern Yoga was bought to the west by yoga masters in the 18-1900’s. Hatha Yoga which is the most common style practiced in the west encompasses many of the fore mentioned attributes including sacrificing individual ego, self-knowledge, karma practice, wisdom, The Eight Limbs and the separation of mind and body as alternate entities. The first Hatha Yoga School was opened in 1924 by Krishamacharya in Mysore in India. (Today is known as Mysuru) It wasn’t until 1947 that Indra Devi opened a yoga studio in Hollywood, and since then it has been embraced by stressed out white people like myself worldwide.

Brought to me by the ancient yoga masters in India, practicing yoga has helped me feel like I’m getting my life together, or maybe I’m just more clam as it’s falling apart. Regardless my experience with yoga has made me feel enlightened and I thoroughly enjoyed expanding my knowledge on the history and origins of the practice.

 

References;

 

 

 

 

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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).

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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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“E dua na bilo?” (`Try a cup?’)

BULA, BULA, BULA!

Fijian culture is epitomised by this single word that originated from the native tongue of the Pacific Island nation. However very few foreigners are aware of the actual meaning of Bula, they’re only able to associate it with the country.

Bula means life. It can be used in many contexts ranging from hello, goodbye, thank you, welcome, love among many other meanings. So when thinking of Fiji, you think Bula.

When engaging with the traditional Fijian way of life, there’s no more culturally enticing element of their society than Kava. When you think of Fiji, you think of Kava. But what do we actually know about the traditional alcoholic beverage? Common beliefs and questions arising with it include:

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  • The general belief is that Kava is said to contain a very high alcoholic content, so how strong is it?
  • Another conception of Kava is that it can act in the same way a psychedelic drug would in that it can impact the brain causing an individual to hallucinate. Is this fact or fiction?
  • Are its origins entirely Fijian?
  • The belief is that the beverage is consumed by all ages, is this true? If its alcohol content is as strong as it is said to be, this raises further questions.
  • Why is it acceptable to consume alcohol at a young age in Fiji and why does this differ from Australia’s attitudes towards drinking restrictions?
  • Most Australians seem to be aware that Kava is a mixture of water and natural plantation, so how is it made and what are its exact ingredients?
  • Another myth suggests that the drinking frequency and strength of Kava contributes somewhat to the laid back attitude of the country. A big claim, but does it hold any logistical truth?
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Fijian men in traditional clothing powder kava for a ceremonial drink.

Many Australians including myself ask these questions, so why is this?

Australia has a strong drinking culture dating back generations where binge drinking is an issue within society. Beer, wine and spirits are highly popular and a prevalent part of the country’s economy. So naturally, the idea of a strong alcoholic, possibly hallucinogenic foreign beverage appeals to our society. Is this a good thing? Probably not when considering the big picture, but it clearly reflects the Australian way of life. I’ll answer these questions to clarify the role and importance of Kava to Fijian society.

My personal interest surrounding Kava stems from several areas. Matt Whitehead, A close friend from Hay (country NSW), had a group of native Fijian men join the local rugby league team. The men were flown in from the country on a working Visa where they spent the next six months. Matt told me the men made Kava for him and his family from local growth and ingredients. He told me the alcoholic content was strong, the methods of how they made it and why they all new how to make it with such ease.

I’ve always had an interest in Kava stemming from Matt’s experience without ever acting on it. Fortunately for my personal interest the Digital Asia subject coincided with my brother’s wedding, conveniently in Fiji mid-semester.

During my week stay in the country I intend to investigate Kava for the final assessment task of the subject. I will aim to convey the importance of Kava to the Fijian people using a multimedia project including images, Tweets, video and local knowledge. I will analyse how and if the beverage is advertised and sold to the general public. I will speak with locals about the manner, volume and frequency in which they consume Kava. I will provide a gallery of original images to aid the presentation of how the Kava is made. Raw video footage will also be gathered to further enhance the appeal of the project as well as audio from interviews if the locals are willing to comply with the recording.

Furthermore, I will create a comparison with popular Australian beverages such as beer and wine. I will compare the different attitudes locals have towards alcohol and how each fits into both their lifestyle and economy. I will provide a brief study of alcohol consumption and production in Australia as a reference point to Kava’s influence on society in Fiji. With alcohol playing such a huge role in Australia and being the source of numerous debate topics in the country, this cultural comparative study will shed light on the issue.

The large majority of my autoethnographic encounter won’t be available until the trip is completed, allowing me to come back to Australia and reflect on the experiences.

Watching Hindi TV as an Autoethnographer: Mahabharat and Live-Tweeting

I have been a fan of Bollywood film ever since I was first introduced to the three-hour classic Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham in high school. I can quite clearly remember being amazed by the intricate details in the costumes, the set designs and the drama throughout the course of the film. Last year I even dedicated my DIGC202 project to my Bollywood film experiences through the form of a YouTube channel.

Wanting to stick with something somewhat familiar to me — that being my growing appreciation for Hindi culture, —  I decided to focus my autoethnographic research project on my experience of Hindi television. In doing so, I hoped to further heighten my understanding of Indian culture and thus become a more culturally aware individual.

 

Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyse personal experience in order to understand cultural experience.”  By live-tweeting my personal experience of a Hindi television show — an aspect of Indian culture entirely foreign to me — I hoped to produce an authentic account of my experience that could enhance my understanding of Indian culture. Autoethnography as a methodology aims to “facilitate understanding of a culture for insiders and outsiders,” and whilst viewing Hindi TV for the first time, my status as a cultural outsider became painfully apparent.

Upon deciding on experiencing Indian TV for my autoethnographic research project, I was then tasked with finding an appropriate Hindi television program. It was here that I became awfully aware of the fact that I was an outsider looking in. When choosing an Indian TV program to watch, I found it incredibly hard to locate a show online that was both accessible in Australia and had English subtitles. I initially wanted to watch a TV show called Comedy Nights with Kapil due to its SNL parallels and comedic value in India, but after several failed attempts to find an episode with English subtitles, I gave up and chose something completely different. Due to its universal accessibility — meaning it was available with English subtitles on YouTube — I chose Mahabharat as the field site of my autoethnographic research.

Mahabharat, produced and directed by B.R. and Ravi Chopra, was first aired in India in 1988. It tells the story of the Hindu epic of the same name, abounding in religious, social and political history and commentary. The 94-episode series falls into the historical-drama genre and was well received by audiences across India and made popular transnationally thanks to the diversification of Indian diaspora.

In order to share my autoethnographic experience of Mahabharat and provide a detailed account of my thoughts, feelings and interactions I decided to live-tweet whilst watching the first episode. Twitter has been utilised among many as a tool for interactive communication, accessible to the masses as a way to actively participate in conversation and debate (Kassens-Noor, 2012). In choosing Twitter as the outlet for my initial accounts of Mahabharat I was aware that my unfiltered commentary would be readily accessible to any user who happened to search the Mahabharat or DIGC330 tag. It is believed that live-tweeting “promotes connections with real-life learning, thereby encouraging critical reflection and fostering enhanced understanding” (Kassens-Noor, 2012, p.11). I wanted the live-tweeting process to not only enhance the cultural experience I was immersing myself in, but to ultimately challenge the way in which I “see how every day communication produces cultural norms” (Warren, 2009). Some of the tweets I shared whilst encountering Mahabharat for the first time — and the first impressions, cultural assumptions and opinions I had on the show — have been included below.

  • My initial commentary on the gender roles presented in Mahabharat reflected a disparity between men and women:

  • The significance of religion and spirituality in Mahabharat was addressed on several occasions:

  • Ideas and thoughts I shared on issues of translation in Mahabharat, or concepts I simply did not understand revealed my status as a ‘cultural outsider’:

  • My final tweets regarding the conclusion of the episode summed up the messages or lessons I interpreted throughout the program:

In my attempts to discern unfamiliar cultural meanings and contexts, I have been able to expand on the knowledge I had previously possessed on Indian social values and norms. Moreover, by participating in my viewing experience of Mahabharat I have been able to question my own place in the world, and how this in turn shapes the way in which I interpret or make sense of others. Mahabharat as a field site has consequently both enlightened and challenged my “assumptions of the world” and has hopefully made me a more culturally appreciative and understanding individual.


References:

  • Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P., 2011, ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1.
  • Kassens-Noor, E., 2012, ‘Twitter as a teaching practice to enhance active and informal learning in higher education: The case of sustainable tweets’, Active Learning in Higher Education, 13(1), Michigan State University, Sage Publications, pp.9-21.
  • Warren, J.T., 2009, ‘Autoethnography’ in Encyclopaedia of Communication Theory, SAGE Publications, p.68-69.

Kon’nichiwa Australia! Looking at the prevalence of Japanese culture in Sydney.

Another blog in the machine.

Australia is a multicultural nation. We pride ourselves on diversity and being open to new cultures and the Japanese culture is no exception. In recent years manga, anime, cosplay and all things Japanese have all exploded into Australia culture and the cultural and media exports make Japanese culture a soft power deserving of our attention. Through my digital Asia studies I have discovered how much Japanese culture is available for consumption in Australia and it’s popularity among Australian audiences.

There are some who believe that the rising popularity of the socially constructed ‘cool Japan’ and products that have an essential ‘Japaneseness’ about them serve to reduce bad feelings toward Japan that came after WWII (Allen 2006). What creates this idea of ‘cool Japan’ are the innovative technology and interesting cultural products that Japan are able to export to Australia, and Australian consumers can’t get enough of them. From sushi and…

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Reflecting on my Autoethnographic experience: Traditional Japanese Origami

The one thing that I have to mention first off is a mistake a made in my previous post of which I am attributing to my lack of knowledge and understanding of the Japanese art origami.  After starting my research, I quickly became aware and slightly devastated to learn that the figures that I created and documented in my first post were in fact dove’s, not crane’s.  There is a distinct difference in the final product of each figure, as well as the process of creating a crane being a lot more complex than that of a dove.

 

Regardless of this mistake, I have continued to research into the assumptions I made in my first post.

The exact origin of origami has often been debated due to the fact that paper degrades quickly leaving no trace as to where origami originated from and who first invented it. It has been said that paper was first invented in China by Cai Lun (also written as Ts’ai Lun) in 105 AD, whilst archaeologist evidence suggests that paper was invented even earlier than this. Paper was then brought to Japan by Buddhist monks in the sixth century AD.

Interestingly, in relation to my curiosity about the importance of the ‘crane’, I found out that the oldest known document written about origami surfaced in 1797 and was called the Senbazuru Orikata, which translates to ‘How to Fold One Thousand Cranes’. In Japan, the crane is a mystical creature and is believed to live for a thousand years. Culturally speaking, in Japan, China and Korea, the crane represents good fortune and longevity. Perhaps this not only answers my query about why the crane is so important but it also provides a reason why in the movie ‘Sadako and a Thousand Paper Cranes’ the main character Sadako tries to make a thousand origami cranes. Maybe this is because she is hoping that she will overcome her leukaemia and therefore prolong her life.

Further to this, the crane has developed a worldwide symbol of children’s desire for peace, however this concept has developed over time in conjunction with the traditional meaning of good fortune and longevity.

The meaning behind the crane then led me to consider if there was a meaning behind the floral prints on origami paper. I was able to determine that the two most prominent flowers, at least in the origami paper that I bought, are the cherry blossom and the Japanese lotus flower. Cherry blossoms are actually Japan’s national flowers, (I feel like I did know this) whilst the Japanese lotus has lots of different meanings depending on the colour, although generally involves the concept of rebirth.


Research then led me to the film Sadako and a Thousand Paper Cranes to try and revisit and understand the meaning behind the film. It turns out the film is based on a true story in which a young child called Sadako developed leukaemia as a result of being exposed to radiation as a baby during the atomic bomb of Hiroshima in 1945. The tradition was that if you created one thousand cranes and made a wish after each one was completed, then your wish would come true. Although there are conflicting stories that she either died having made 644 cranes or completed the one thousand cranes and then later died at the age of 12 from cancer is also debated. I personally want to believe that my recollection is of the second choice.

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Sadako memorial piece in Peace Park Seattle which is always draped in paper cranes.

Sadako actually wished for world peace instead of her own health and I can’t help but notice a clear link with the text of my first blog task, Gojira, which also had an underlying message surrounding the negative effects of war, atomic bombs and further nuclear testing.

This concept has really challenged me to consider my naive reaction to the frustrations of origami making. While yes it might be difficult for a beginner to grasp the difficult folds, twists and creases of an origami sheet, it is important to stop and look at the whole picture and see why origami has such a powerful cultural resonance with Asian countries. Whilst I was also pondering the importance of the crane and its traditional meaning in an Asian setting, I stumbled across this wonderful quote by Yoshizawa Akira, who has been acknowledged for his creative origami, which I think really explains the beauty of origami:

You can fold a simple quadrilateral paper into any shape as you want. I wished to fold the laws of nature, the dignity of life, and the expression of affection into my work…Folding life is difficult, because life is a shape or an appearance caught in a moment, and we need to feel the whole of natural life to fold one moment”.

Hence through my research I have discovered that origami paper itself is an intricate story of Japanese culture, with importance given to colour, floral patterns and design. I also learnt that the gold of origami paper represent love and loyalty whilst silver represents elegance. Clearly I had no idea of the traditional meaning behind the different elements on origami sheets, although I did and still do appreciate the beauty of each individual sheet of paper. Not only this but the importance of each shape or figure that can be created with the paper no doubt has an underlying cultural significance in an Asian setting that I was not aware of. Perhaps this is because my cultural experience has been hindered by lack of understanding and limited access to Japanese in general. Thus I am quite happy to conclude that my autoethnographic encounter coupled with research has allowed me to address my assumptions whilst also answering some unanswered questions presented to me in my first blog on origami.

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References

Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki 2016, history.com, viewed 14 September 2016, <http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/bombing-of-hiroshima-and-nagasaki>.

Cherry Blossom Meaning 2016, enki village, viewed 15 September 2016, <http://www.enkivillage.com/cherry-blossom-meaning.html>.

Echo, A 2016, Sadako and the 1,000 Paper Cranes, image, Emaze, viewed 15 September <https://www.emaze.com/@ACLQIFLW/Sadako-and-the-1,000>.

Goldstein-Gidoni, O 2005, ‘The Production and Consumption of ‘Japanese Culture’ in the Global Cultural Market’, Journal of Consumer Culture, vol. 5, no. 2, pp. 155-179.

History of Origami 2016, Origami Resource Centre, viewed 14 September 2016, <http://www.origami-resource-center.com/history-of-origami.html>.

History of Origami 2016, Origami Instructions, viewed 14 September 2016, <http://www.origami-instructions.com/history-of-origami.html>.

Meaning of The Origami Crane 2012, JCCC Origami Crane Project, viewed 15 September 2016, <http://www.jccc.on.ca/origami-cranes/pdf/meaning_of_the_origami_crane.pdf>.

Origami 2016, Japan Zone, viewed 14 September 2016, <https://www.japan-zone.com/culture/origami.shtml>.

Lotus Flower Wallpaper 2016, image, pcwallart.com, viewed 15 September 2016, <http://pcwallart.com/lotus-flower-wallpaper-3.html>.

Sadako Sasaki 2016, image, Activity Village, viewed 14 September 2016, <http://www.activityvillage.co.uk/sadako-sasaki>.

Williams, R 2006, The Invention of Paper, Institute of Paper Science and Technology at Georgia Tech, viewed 13 September 2016, <http://ipst.gatech.edu/amp/collection/museum_invention_paper.htm>.

Wallpaper HD 2016, image, Schone Wallpaper, viewed 15 September 2016, <http://www.schonewallpaper.de/wallpaper-hd/page/8>.

 

 

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.

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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].

autoethnography

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].