#research

Autoethnography: great in theory, confusing in reality

By the end of this weeks class I think it is safe to say that most people left more confused than when they arrived.

I for one most certainly was.

In theory, I (think) understand autoethnography.  Autoethnography aims to take note of personal experiences of a culture other than your own. By reflecting on ones own socialisation, an autoethnographer seeks to better understand the culture of another.

When Chris talks through the theory and after reading the Ellis reading I thought to myself “yeah okay, no worries. I can do this”.

For sure I can think about my own socialisation and how that has affected my worldview. Sure after acknowledging my cultural framework I can proceed to experience a culture quite unlike my own with absolute no judgement or other-ing thoughts.

However… when the class began to discuss this notion and what it practically meant, my confidence was shot.

A class member brought up an article about a Japanese man and his sex doll. I had recently read a similar article myself as I have been contemplating studying something around Japanese dolls. As I listened to Chris and this class member discuss the problematic tendency to judge and then to understand where that judgement comes from, I realised the very real challenges of this kind of research.

By nature I can be an extremely judgemental person and often the thoughts come without thinking about why. This lead me to thinking about how judgement or experiencing the unknown can lead to a sense of ‘other-ness’ for the new cultural experience.

I feel that this will be my most significant issue when undertaking my autoethnographic research. As discussed in class, research does not exist in a vaccum and comparisons from what I believe I know or feel will undoubtedly effect the research that I undertake and I am curious to what degree I will be able to identify that.

 

Autoethnography

As a university student, we are often told that in order to obtain quality qualitative or quantitive data, we must remain externally observant and completely uninvolved with the subject. Autoethnography challenges this concept.

“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 2010

As a process it is a method that employs both autobiography and ethnography. As an autobiographical practice, the method identifies epiphanies as points of understanding. As an ethnographic practice, the method studies cultural practices. Together, the findings portray a personal and emotive analysis. The product means the work is presented in a story like manner. This narrative structure does focus on communicating the truth. There are characters, scenes, events and plot progressions. The research presented aims to captivate the audience and share personal and interpersonal experiences.

Autoethnography’s use of such immersive methods has lead to academic debates. Potential criticism argue that it is not possible to understand a situation when one is a part of the setting, one is personally invested and therefore personal motives will interfere with research. Furthermore, there is a moral debate for relational ethics, specifically in regards to ensuring there is a healthy dynamic between all parties involved and matters of subject confidentiality.

Autoethnography argues that this personal expereince is exactly what enhances the research method. It is only through self reflection, self awareness and emersion into a setting that one can truly empathise, and in turn understand a subject. No two people will view or remember an experience, even a shared experience, in the same manner. The feelings and backgrounds of a subject are fundamental to understanding data. In the same way, the feelings and backgrounds of the researcher are just as influential. Autoethnography acknowledges this, but embraces that the individuals socio-cultural behaviours within a society shape perceptions, and reveal the essence of a subject – the researcher will only know this when close to or a part of the same subject.

Personally I value autoethnography for certain kinds of research, specifically when conducting qualitative cultural research. Sometimes being human means that sharing an experience is the only way to communicate.

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

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

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.

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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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 Underground Music

Autoethnography is a type of research and writing unlike any other. Combining the process of ethnography; the study of culture, and autobiography; the product of personal experience. It is the study of one’s own experience with a culture outside of their own. It is a fairly new research process, first becoming popular in the 1970s, which expanded upon anthropological studies of the past which were conducted in a far less personal, experiential, or reflexive manner. Autoethnography is seen as an ethical form of research as it focuses on ones’ own experience with a culture rather than making anonymous observations which may breach privacy, disrespect customs and simply be untrue.

As autoethnography is the combination of autobiography and ethnography it adopts elements of both practices in its methodology. In commencing an autoethnography one must ensure that they communicate with the community or culture they are studying, this is a matter of ethnically giving those who do not wish to participate a chance to voice their concerns and opt out if need be. As per traditional ethnography upon communicating intentions, the researcher must then interact with the culture, making note of observations and interviewing persons within the culture, becoming participant observers. In conducting an autoethnography one must also practice reflexive behaviour which is the practice of questioning their personal the biases and cultural framework that shape their observations. The aspect of autobiographical aspect of autoethnography refers to the epiphanies as to how one understands a culture; its social conventions, practices, values, and beliefs.

The Asian media I am interested in participating and observing is its underground rock, at this point in time, I am unsure of what region or country I am wanting to pinpoint in my practice as a researcher. My interest in the Asian underground music community has been spurred from this Vice documentary which focuses on a group of Indonesian street punks upon their release from a moral rehabilitation centre. As I want to limit my bias I will aim to avoid Indonesian underground music in my study as I would like to go into this study with as little preconceived ideas that may skew my observation, analysis, and insights as possible.

References

Wall, S. (2008). Easier Said than Done: Writing an Autoethnography. International Journal Of Qualitative Methods7(1), 38-53. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/160940690800700103

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

 

 

Autoethnography and the Power of Stories

this is claire

“Let me live, love, and say it well in good sentences” Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath lived a short life decorated with vibrant but dark emotions, before she succeeded in her second attempt at suicide. Her later pieces, written from a freezing cold flat in London, often between 1am and 4am whilst her young children slept, bring the grim reaper to life cruelly; he swoops about the reader like a cold, eerie chill.

When you finally look away from the page you’re reading off,  Sylvia’s depression takes a few moments to rest off your shoulders. The impact of her words is so heavy. She wrote so that others could understand her. When  I read her work I am whipped into her realm of loneliness and her sphere of pain. Sylvia used words to draw readers into her personal story.

“I am terrified by this dark thing that sleeps in…

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