reflection

Ellis, Epiphanies and Photography

Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyse (graphy) personal experience (auto) in order to understand cultural experience (ethno),” – Ellis, Adams and Bocher 2011.

In my previous post, with the benefits of hindsight, I narrated a past cultural experience. This was the beginning of an autoethnographic story. The analysis of both the experience and how I communicate my experience reveals my cultural framework. Once I recognise such frameworks and the related points of epiphanies,  will I be able to see how my cultural framework structures my project investigation.

I begin my previous post sharing a personal feeling. When reading back on my post, I can remember being hesitant in sharing this information. I know that it is normal to feel conscious about sharing feeling on a public space, but the fact that I did not shy away from the core of my project work shows that, when it matters, I am able to use language to openly communicate. The nature of an autoethnographic narrative encourages this emotive storytelling. It was interesting to do this in an academic context where we are usually not encouraged to share our feelings and personal bias.

I then in my previous post discuss how I regard travel. It is obvious from the beginning that I am using travel as both a way to recharge my personal batteries and also as an escape. I mention my passion for travel and that I value my privilege as a white person. This idea of being me describing myself as a ‘white person’ was interesting to read. I am a very brown female with curly black hair, raised in a very brown family. And in my day to day life in Australia I pride myself on being vocal about racism in Australia as I do often notice the differences (both good and not so good) of being a person of colour in a very white costal town. Here I realise that many aspects of my life, for example my medical care and travel access are defined by the constructs of my life as an Australian, not as a migrant in a white country.

I narrate that the first structured activity I do when arriving in a country was a visit to a historical site. Reading my previous post I reflect to recognise I was raised with the idea that to understand, respect and enjoy a culture, I must learn about their history, from their perspective, in their land. This is something that I have always done as a solo traveller, but did not previously recognise it was something that stemmed from familial travel routines.

I have always valued art. I grew up in a house of classical Indian music, foreign films, so much food from different parts of the world and different languages of literature. As a child there were many reasons I disliked travel with my parents – we never went to theme parks or stayed in luxury hotels,, Instead we were focused on history, art and food. I moved out of home at 17 and thought that I had left my parents travel habits behind (I do love rollercoasters and the very occasional night in a fancy hotel), but they had taught me so much about how to travel.

This cultural framework, being primarily my life as a first generation migrant and my rooted familial values, is what has structured my project. My access to travel and style of travel lead me to Cambodia and the S21 Museum. It was here that I was exposed to the nature of photography in Cambodia.

While epiphanies are self-claimed phenomena in which one person may consider an experience transformative while another may not, these epiphanies reveal ways a person could negotiate “intense situations,” – Ellis, Adams and Bocher 2011.

Autoethnography identifies these epiphanies as points of understanding. To put simply, it is only when something stirs or changes that we can recognise a shift. When reading the beginning of my narrative, it is clear that I had one of these epiphanies pushing me to seek something. It was an ‘intense situation’ that demanded reflection and action. At the time, my shift was to travel. In Cambodia I had epiphanies about how strong humanity can be. And about how humanity shares their emotional experience. It is this that inspired me to also use photography as a way to communicate loss.

…writing personal stories can be therapeutic for authors as we write to make sense of ourselves and our experiences,” – Ellis, Adams and Bocher 2011.

Writing and reading the previous post does feel therapeutic. Using photography as therapy is an extension of this autoethnographic expression as a form of therapy.

This TedxTalk by Bryce Evans provides an investing presentation on photography therapy and how it can help a person navigate through their mental health. Bryce Evans says in this video that – “Everyone knows how to take a photo…photos allow you to connect instantly on an uncurious level, without the stigma to of it (‘it’ being mental health),”. HIN both my previous post and the paragraph above, it is clear that I value maintaining a healthy mental health and believe creative outlets can help me achieve this.

My values framed by my family, my experiences as a migrant, unfortunate ‘intense situations’ in life, my love of photography and focus on mental health has evidently structured my DIGC330 final project.

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

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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.

Autoethnography

Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyse personal experience in order to understand the cultural experience. Ethnography gathers empirical data which is checked and verified through observation with our senses and the evidence evolves from forms of field journalism.

Autoethnography will be a difficult process for me over the next few weeks. Typically, when given assessments or tasks to do the idea of including yourself and reflecting on your personal experiences is something that you don’t think to do (because you were told not to do it at school), so you don’t.

For example, I took a class a few years back at uni that looked at researching a topic that we found interesting or something that sparked our curiosity. Over the weeks we were mostly asked to remove ourselves from the study especially in regards to showing/writing up all the results. Bias is something that was very detrimental to research, it can really obscure the results and affect the way that people viewed the data collected. During this time the act of removing yourself from the results was quite comfortable and came naturally to me due to the fact that we would have to do this at school when writing essays or reports.

However, Autoethnography challenges the way that research and representing others is done. The practice in itself acknowledges and accommodates subjectivity, emotions and the researchers influence in the research, rather than hiding it or assuming it doesn’t exist

Autoethnography is a process that is quite new and interesting to me and somewhat challenging. Personal narrative ethnography, especially community ethnography is quite interesting as it enables the ethnographer to provide personal experiences and narrative to make sense of an experience.

This was something that I experimented with the first weeks of class when writing about the film Godzilla. When comparing the autoethnography to general research there is an obvious difference between them. I have concerns over the basic ideas of bias and creditability of autoethnography, especially when ethics are evolved or interpersonal relationships are kept throughout the process which could skew the results or harm the participant.

Ellias it all explains that “when terms such as reliability, validity and generalizability are applied to autoethnography the context, meaning and utility of these terms are altered” So with this in mind I guess the other areas like ethics, bias are altered.

I think the process of autoethnography is quite interesting as it embraces the views and opinions of the researcher which is something that isn’t common.

Autoethnography and My Diary.

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

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

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

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

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

 

Lauren.

 

REFERENCE

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

ゴジラ – Exploring Japan Through Film

I am a little behind the pack on this one, but here it is nonetheless – my reaction to watching the classic Japanese film Godzilla in class, whilst live-tweeting the experience.  The tricky thing about writing last is that all the most profound and insightful discoveries have already been stated by others, so I’ll be using my tweets to guide my response.

Godzilla, or ゴジラ as it is written in Japan, is one of the most iconic 海珠 (kaiju, or monster) films of all time.  I’ll admit that despite this, I’ve never seen the original, only the Hollywood remake featuring Bryan Cranston.  I have also never watched a black and white film outside of high school English studies – damn you, To Kill A Mockingbird!

I don’t know why I’m so surprised, to be completely honest.  As a white, atheist Australian woman with no direct links to anything across the sea, any culture I experience is new and foreign to me.  Perhaps that’s why I am so drawn to the Japanese culture, history and lifestyle – it is incredible to experience as an outsider.

I am very open to the idea of being absorbed in Japanese culture as it gives me a window of insight into the cultural nuances of Japan.  I love the works of Studio Ghibli, and I adored the J-drama series 花ざかりの君たちへ (Hanazakari no kimitachi e) when it was first shown to me by my Japanese teacher.  I tried to draw comparisons between the J-drama and Godzilla at first, before realising that they are completely different insights – it’s like trying to compare The Notebook to Transformers.

My early thoughts when watching Godzilla commented on the plot and acting, which I likened to Home and Away in its dramatics.  However, it wasn’t long before I began to notice the subtle details, such as the choice to keep non-diegetic movie scarce, and the number of women in the film.

As the film progressed, I found myself less distracted by the yelling-acting and the dated special effects, and began to appreciate the film’s nuances.  One scene in particular, with a mother comforting her two children in the moments before death that they would see their father in heaven soon, made me tear up more than it had a right to.  I didn’t realise how invested I was in the film until this point.

Once I appreciated the film and its story beyond its goofy effects, I discovered the underlying symbolism of Godzilla as the aftereffect of the nuclear bomb’s dropping on Hiroshima.  Once I understood this (around the same time as the rest of the class), the film takes on a whole new layer and depth of meaning.

I only shared one quote during my live-tweeting session, and it was the following:   “If we keep doing nuclear testing, it’s possible another Godzilla will appear, somewhere in the world”.  It’s a devastating moment in the film, where the film is trying to drive home their anti-nuclear and anti-war message.  To me, it sounds like a plea, the film asking the audience to understand the crushing realities of war.  I felt a little foolish for joking around at the beginning when the reality is that the film, for its time, must have been revolutionary.

Heading back into the man’s game

Understanding my assumptions throughout It’s A Man’s Game:
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Using our own culture and experiences to understand another is something that we all do on a regular basis; autoethnography puts this into an academic setting where we can use personal aspects such as perspective and opinion to contribute towards research to develop a deeper understanding. I attempted to tackle this unnecessarily-difficult-to-say word and the meaning behind it by recording my personal experience of Korean culture – my thoughts during the documentary State of Play. State of Play is a documentary that looks into the eSports profession in South Korea. It is centered not so much around the actual gaming, but more so around the hysteria that exists within the gaming industry: the fans, the hours of training, the huge stadiums, the money, the sacrifices the gamers make and, overall, the intense and fierce nature of the eSports scene. For me, it was difficult to concentrate on much else than the gender roles that were screaming at me. Literally. Women were only portrayed as screaming, adoring fans whilst the men were the talented, moneymaking gamers. Watching and recording how I felt was the easy part. Understanding how I came to my assumptions is the in-depth process, the autoethnographic process.

The most common thing I did throughout the viewing, was compare my culture to that of South Korea. For example, “but what isn’t obvious throughout the documentary is whether girls even try to compete at a professional level, whether any of them are interested, whether they just accept the gender norms, or if there are girls out there who are frustrated by the fact that men dominate the gaming industry and they are expected to just scream and squeal for the boys until their throats are sore, at which point they just fall to their knees and present the gamers with gifts, even when they’ve lost.” Words such as ‘them’ and ‘they’ provide obvious disconnections between myself and South Korean women, even though we share so much in common. It is my lack of experience with the gaming culture that creates my disconnection. But naturally, as a human being, I grasp on to any sense of familiarity by recalling memories of being a celebrity fangirl myself as a young teenager, as the South Korean girls are portrayed. This was how I made sense of what I was viewing, this is how my personal experiences shape my understanding. Ellis et al. describes this as they way we “systematically analyse personal experience in order to understand cultural experience” (2011).

It is interesting to consider how my assumptions throughout State of Play were sometimes very different to that of my classmates (see Digital Asia blog). This is where the individuality of autoethnography is so obvious: since every person has different experiences, different knowledge and different perceptions, the way that we perceive things can vary immeasurably.
For me, one of my biggest passions in life is gender equality, and so I tend to pull this out in every possible opportunity. Specifically in State of Play, gender equality was nowhere in sight, and so my personal understanding of South Korea shifted. Upon reflection and research, feminism is actually surging within this country. Leading the pack is Megalian.com, a website which uses technology to promote gender equality and to humorously bash the misogyny that exists within South Korea. “To see the misogyny that is today taken as acceptable social behaviour and spat at South Korean women every day: to turn it around so men and women alike can witness it in its honest, raw form – discrimination.” Having this new knowledge answers some of the questions I considered upon my initial viewing of the documentary: I genuinely did not know if anyone was interested in women empowerment or if traditional Korean culture was just happily accepted. With this new knowledge, my next viewing of State of Play would probably provoke all new assumptions, highlighting the nature of autoethnography and how each experience can hugely impact each perception.

Autoethnography allows us to critically understand the assumptions we make and what they say about our cultural experiences and understanding. It makes us consider why we feel a certain way about something to, in turn, lead to a deeper understanding and more useful and reliable research.

 

Commencing live tweeting on Japanese horror

Redmond (2013) discusses fetishism of the exotic and consuming the Other, Miike Takeshi the director of Audition is mentioned as a tester of (Western) decency. I know to some degree I have probably been involved in some exoticticising and consuming of the Other, however, through my research I seek to understand the origin of my interests and through this hopefully gather more of an idea of what it means to consume the Other.

My fandom of Japanese cinema is fairly recent and not very deep, I actually have a  bigger history of researching it academically than as just a naive observer, as it were. This concerns me because I think that it will impact how I view the films, in such a way that I may get caught up in analysing and then whatever I reflect may turn out to not be my genuine thoughts, but instead I would contrived them in a way that would avoid falling into the traps that I had previously read about.

Watching films and discussing it with friends has been for me something that happens after the event, however, so I can get more of perhaps an honest idea of what I think of the films I will be live tweeting as I watch them.

Narrowing my field of research to only Japanese horror was chosen mainly because it specifically has garnered a particularly large Western audience and I want to see if my tweets plus my research will give any indication as to why this is happening.

I have not chosen the films I will be watching yet, however, in the pursuit of the extreme only those that are reviewed as indubitably scary will make the cut.

It should be known that I was not always a thrill seeker of movies, mostly I liked to laugh and have thoughtful reflections, it was the study of film that brought out my desire for horror. Something about knowing more about how something is made I think makes you want to explore all the options it can offer.

My method includes tweeting what I see then reflecting on these tweets and this will then all be incorporated into a storify blog. I am using this platform particularly because it will make it easier to include other media sources that may become relevant while discovering insights.

I have experienced immersion I think in fandom culture once before, this was in music. Redmond (2013) talks of the director Kitano as being ‘a body-without-organs’ (p.11) and of his fluid existence in films by way refering to his celebrity identity that occupies many personas (‘grude comedian, film director, violent actor’) . It would be great if I could find out through my tweet analysis whether my identity, it being more solid than Kitano’s fluid one, was in fact able to be immersed or not. I would like to test this and watch it develop.

 

References

Redmond S 2013, The cinema of Takeshi Kitano; flowering blood, Columbia University Press, New York

Let’s (not) Play JRPGs

Field Report:
Accessing YouTube to watch let’s plays of JRPGs poses few problems in relation to gateways or hoops to jump through. The first notable experience was choosing what to watch, as searching broard terms like “JRPG” or “Let’s Play” will yeild very different results to what I needed, so while looking through YouTube I will need to know what I want to find already.
I decided on ‘Eternal Sonata’ as it is a game I have wanted to play myself for a long time, but it is impossible for me to find something new as it simply won’t come up in the search. I am reminded of the new Extra Credits video on how search engines relating to games are woefully outdated, and the fact that Asian style games generally flop in Western spheres makes this even more of a problem.
As I said before I did search specifically for ‘Eternal Sonata’ and was immediately presented with a new problem. There are no ‘good’ (readas: well known) Let’s Players that have done videos on ‘Eternal Sonata’ as a result of the low exposure of the game, the post popular video in the first page of results is a smidge more than 6500 views, which is minisqule for YouTube.
The problems with the quality are immediately apparent within the first 30 seconds with laughing and banter between the two players in the video with no discussion yet. The comments tell me that they talk through the cutscenes without needing too and I can quickly tell that this isn’t going to be a smooth process that is professionally or entertainingly done.
There is another big problem with Let’s Plays of JRPGs that I realised quickly, namely that there will take a long time for them to become interesting due to the slow nature of the JRPG genre and the focus on story over gameplay. They aren’t particularly accessable through Let’s Plays unlike other shorter or quicker games.
This on a whole, doesn’t shed any light on why JRPGs work as the experience is an overall negative one. It doesn’t help that one of the Let’s Players doesn’t like the game before he has even started, but as I said before I am woefully lacking in choice for consumption.

Reflecting:
– I made a comment about the fact that Asian games generally flop to the Western audience. That is not always going to be true. Thinking the success of many of the Final Fantasy games, while I was thinking about things like Eternal Sonata and Nino Kuni when I was writing the post.
– I also made an assumption that they will all not be enjoyable as a result of them taking a long time to ‘warm up’ however that doesn’t have to be true as there are variations in the JRPG genre that might be accessable, and if the games are enjoyable then someone playing probably would be if it was done with better quality.