UOW

The Art of Autoethnography: Part IV

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Below is a table detailing the assumptions I made of the assumptions I had after my first autoethnographic encounter and what was learnt through further literature research. While not all my assumptions were completely wrong I definitely still had a lot to learn.

What I am also finding is that the more involved I become in this autoethnographic study, the more interested I become in the cultural significance and background of the Bollywood film industry. this has unintentionally caused some of my research to go off in a tangent to some extent, relating less to language acquisition and more to the cultural language study of the Bollywood genre. I am finding that I either need to shift to topic of my auto ethnographic study or attempt to refocus.

Assumptions Reflection
The assumption that was made was in relation to the parameters od the autoethnographic research. Initially I set out that I would use multiple media texts in my methodology to obtain personal experience. I believe that this assumption was a little presumptuous. Even though I knew it would be difficult to learn some aspects of the language I did not realize how difficult it would be. I can to the realisation that little would be gain from this experience if I was to continue in the same fashion viewing multiple types of texts to acquire even the most basic level of language acquisition when starting from scratch. In reflection I believe that the greatest personal experience will come from focusing on one individual text and to absorb this text on a number of occasions and then focus my research around this. A number of factors play a part in the change of the parameters of my methodology. The first is the time period over which this research was conducted and the hours that could be dedicated to it. The most important factor was though the lack of a foundation of understanding of the Hindu language. Due to this I have now watched the same Bollywood film three times and each time I find myself picking up on some new words even if only for a moment and reaffirming the ones I have previously picked up. I also become more aware of different aspects of other communication aspects present in the film.
In my first notes I stated that the Bollywood movie Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani was produced using the Hindi language and that because it is a contemporary media text it would provide a context for the language that included slang and colloquial language. ‘Bollywood productions are today acknowledged as the generator of and vehicle for contemporary popular culture in India.’ (Goethe Institute, 2016). My assumption while correct was also limited and basic. The language used in Bollywood films is much complex then simply Hindi. English was used in the film not only when on location in an English speaking country but also the occasional modern words which are the same in both English and Hindi, for example the word internet. According to the Goethe Institute (2016) The language used in Bollywood films has a distinctive supra-regional integrative quality. ‘The code switches between sociolects, standard languages and distinct Persian and distinct Persian or Sanscrit features, jargons with regional variants right through to other Indian national languages such as Panjabi, Marathi, Gurarati and not least English’ This is throughout films in the Bollywood genre.
While this assumption is not related to language acquisition I thought it was important to note that when I first watched this Bollywood film something about the premise of this music seemed strange and stupid to me. Upon critical analysis of this observation I was able to gain a better understanding of why they premise of this musical seemed so foreign to me. I am used to watching musicals that are either produced on Broadway or in Hollywood. Musicals made in Hollywood and on Broadway tend to focus around entertainers because they are focused on making the musical aspect of the story seem as realistic as possible. Though according to research ‘Bollywood is not encumbered with adherence to realism’ (The Bollywood Ticket, 2016). This knowledge to make a better understanding as to why this this musical seemed so strange to me. Unconsciously I felt disconnected from the storyline because it lacked that realism that I am used to in musicals.
Never did I have the assumption that I would be able to gain a complete understanding of the Hindi language simply through studying media text produced in this language. Though I did assume that when were hear of people acquiring a language through media that it is all they have used. It is evident through the research conducted that while media texts provide a great tool in the acquisition of a language, it is simply a part of the process and other learning is needed this can take place through classes in a more formal context, though in a less formal one it could simply be researching on the internet. Aiping et. al. (2016) in the article Exploring learner factors in second language (L2) incidental vocabulary acquisition through reading, states that ‘second language incidental vocabulary acquisition through reading usually involves the process of through reading usually involves the process of learners noticing an unknown word, searching for its meaning, and elaborating upon the form meaning connection’. Learning a language through listening in this case is quite similar, it is all part of a process and in most cases further research is conducted to obtain a complete understanding of the language.

 

Resource List

Aiping, Z, Ying, G, Biales, C, & Olszewski, A 2016, ‘Exploring learner factors in second language (L2) incidental vocabulary acquisition through reading’, Reading In A Foreign Language, 28, 2, pp. 224-245, Education Research Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 29 October 2016.

Goethe Institute (2016). Multilingualism – Languages Without Borders – Projects – Goethe-Institut. [online] Available at: http://www.goethe.de/ges/spa/prj/sog/ver/en5356222.htm [Accessed 12 Oct. 2016].

Thebollywoodticket.com. (2016). Introduction to Bollywood – The Bollywood Ticket. [online] Available at: http://www.thebollywoodticket.com/bollywood/beginner.html [Accessed 11 Oct. 2016].

The Art of Autoethnography: Part III

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Studying languages comes easily for some and is a curse for others. I am one of the latter. I have friends that can speak multiple languages fluently and yet I can’t seem to get any further than my native tongue. I am somebody who has attempted to study several languages and not succeeded, even with the help of classes, tutors and so on. Because of this I find it fascinating that people could simply use a TV Show or a game to learn a foreign language. Whether is be stories of migrant learning a language through a TV Show or kids picking up a language through their favourite card game, the evidence for the success of the use of media as a tool for language acquisition is overwhelming.

These observations and stories of language acquisition success have brought me to form a topic for autoethnographic study in this area. Looking language acquisition through Asian language media texts. The answers that I am seeking to discover are not just simply can I learn any aspects of the language but also what can I learn about the culture of that language in the process.

Autoethnography is an approach to research that combines methodological tools and literature with personal experience to obtain a greater understanding of culture. (Ellis, Adams & Bochner, 2011)

To complete the methodology in this autoethnographic study I will combine literature research relating to the study of languages and testimonials/news stories regarding people who have learnt languages using media texts. This will be combined with the personal experience of using Asian language media texts in order to learn aspects and vocabulary of various Asian languages.

When looking online the extent of language learning resources and tips for learning languages can be overwhelming. To obtain some ideas about the types of media texts to use for this research I chose to collate some of the suggestions from a simple google search and the following table summarises what I found.

Brave Learning –       Listen to foreign language radio stations

–       Foreign language poems

–       Podcasts

–       Surf the web in a different language

–       Foreign language TV channels

–       Read a foreign language book

–       Write a foreign language blog post

–       Play games in a different language

Fluent U –       Browse reddit (thematically-orientated to one specific region)

–       Use region specific social media

–       Play online video games (use Twitch, language specific)

–       Date in the language (try tinder etc.)

Pick the Brain –       Television (Taiwanese dramas: Sugoideas.com, Korean, Japanese, Chinese Mandarin: Dramafever.com, Japanese anime: Crunchyroll.com)

–       Foreign film movies and trailers

–       Listening to music in your target language

Franglish –       Listen to music in your chosen language

–       Read foreign language comic books

This research gave me some great ideas for a starting point. I chose to not focus on the choice of language as a driving factor for choosing the texts but to simply find texts which interest me not matter the language which the text was done in. this research will not in no means result in me being fluent in a language but I hoped what I would gain from this research is some vocabulary in a language be it only a couple of words and no more. But what I also hope to gain from this experience is a better understanding of language in the context of these various texts.

What I needed to be careful of was as stated by Anderson (2006) not to allow this research to devolve into self-absorption and that would result in the loss of its sociological promise.

Autoethnography allows for creativity in regards to its presentation, going beyond traditional methods of writing. While my research will be writing it will take the shape of journal entries documenting my progress and research through blog posts on my personal blog these posts will simply provide a home for the Snapchat videos documenting my personal experiences throughout this autoethnographic study and allow me to expand and reflect upon my findings.

To start off this autoethnographic research I will include a brief account of my first autoethnographic encounter, learning a language through a Bollywood film. I choose a Bollywood film for three reasons.

  1. It was easy to obtain
  2. I have watched Bollywood movies before and quite enjoy them
  3. And finally, as this was the first emersion into this research I thought I would ease myself in with the language through something that I was familiar with.

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My progress of language acquisition and the Snapchat videos detailing my personal experience will have to wait till my next post but a few things that I did note are;

  • Subtitles don’t always make sense
  • The pause and rewind button got a work out.
  • It was a lot easier to keep up with the dialogue then the songs due to the pace.
  • Attempting to learn aspects of the language and document it at the same time meant that I did not become involved in the storyline of the text at all and watching the movie took twice as long therefore I didn’t finish it because Bollywood movies are already two hours long.
  • The key words I found myself picking up are the ones which sparked my interest, random words which either stood out or were part of the sentences which had unusual sounding subtitles.
  • This approach to learning a language may help with understanding slang or colloquial phrases in a foreign language but it still only provides you with snippets of the language as a whole
  • It does not at all permit the acquisition of written language.

 

Reference List

Anderson, Leon 2006, Analytic Autoethnography, Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, Vol. 35, No. 4, pp. 373-393.

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].

Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani. (2013). [film] Johar, K. & Johar, H.

 

Reflecting on Hindi TV as an Autoethnographer: Mahabharat and Hindu Epics

Watching the first episode of the 1988 Hindi TV-series Mahabharat and accounting for my experience by live-tweeting my thoughts and opinions on the show has left me with a lot of questions. Is television anywhere near as popular in India as a pastime as it is in Australia? What was the real message behind the show? Why on earth was Ganga killing all her children?

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Ganga and King Santanu (Image Source)

With these questions and my cultural assumptions in mind, — which can be found in my first post here — reflecting on my autoethnographic accounts of a cultural phenomenon can be insightful and revelatory. Reflective analysis not only highlights “dominant narratives” and “ways of thinking” about culture but also pursues a deeper understanding of such experiences on a larger cultural scale (Warren, 2009). By scrutinising my initial comments and assumptions, and by conducting a little more research on all those postulations I tweeted about, here I am, trying to make sense of my Mahabharat experience.

My first enquiry is into the prevalence of television in India, and more precisely, the popularity of Mahabharat across the country. Researching this felt like a history lesson, but albeit an intriguing one. Television for me is a staple, and consuming programs on TV like there is no tomorrow is something I pride myself on. Television in India was introduced in 1959, however “transmission was restricted to areas in and around the capital city of Dehli for over a decade” (Kumar, 2006, p.57). With the arrival of the TV in the Indian family home came the inevitability of globalisation, and moreover a connection to “an increasingly mobile world around them” (Kumar, 2006, p.64). Television allowed families to share in entertainment experiences, created a bond between individuals and the characters they saw on-screen and moreover kept people informed.

As for Mahabharat, “the religious epic captured the collective imagination of Indian viewers” (Kumar, 2006, p.76) since its inception and release. Programs such as this have entrenched a sense of national identity for members of the Indian community (Kumar, 2012), and have been reflections of Indian values, mores and social and cultural norms. To say the show was successful would be an understatement, reaching a diaspora of over five million individuals. “Within weeks of its launch, the TV show became part of many Sunday morning routines” (Awaasthi, 2016). The Mahabharat series has since seen two modern adaptations released as a result of its popular reception in the past, with Lavanya Mohan (2015), writer for the The Hindu stating that “BR Chopra’s Mahabharat revolutionised Indian television of the nineties.

Now that context has been somewhat established and the history of Indian television successes has been explored, my next question is about the content I saw in the first episode of Mahabharat. There were several times throughout the course of the 40 minute show I was left scratching my head in confusion. Was this simply because of a cultural barrier or was the show itself confusing? My guess is the aforementioned.

Mahabharata — note the ‘a’ at the end this time — is one of the major Sanskrit epics of ancient India. Denoting information on the development of Hinduism, the poem was traditionally attributed to be the work of Vyasa. According to James L. Fitzgerald (2009) of Brown University, the Mahabharata presents sweeping visions of the cosmos and humanity and intriguing and frightening glimpses of divinity in an ancient narrative that is accessible, interesting, and compelling for anyone willing to learn the basic themes of India’s culture.” The sacred text was the basis for the television series Mahabharat, and the first episode I saw was regarding the story of Devavrata.

To put it briefly, the first instalment of the Mahabharat series shares the story of King Shantanu and the relationship he has with the goddess Ganga, with whom he marries in human form. She is described by her “superhuman loveliness” (Rajagopalachari, 1979, p.19) and Shantanu’s infatuation with her is duly noted. Following the birth of their children — they have several throughout the course of the first episode — Ganga drowns them in the sacred river Ganges. The first episode of Mahabharat doesn’t explain why Ganga does this, however it is believed that it was due to a curse. So, mystery solved? I think so.

Watching the first episode of Mahabharat with absolutely no knowledge on traditional Hindu stories, the Mahabharata or Sanskrit epics proved challenging to say the least. Not only was it made clear that I was an outsider in this cultural experience, but it also highlighted how unfamiliar cultural phenomena can lose meaning when shared across transnational borders. As I tried to make sense of my Mahabharat experience my own understandings of Hinduism and India’s entertainment industry were confronted with new ideas and interpretations.

As I have acknowledged before, autoethnography demands self-reflexivity and openness to interpret a cultural experience. By researching my cultural assumptions and addressing my ethnically driven concerns with information from books, eminent media platforms and social and historical commentary, my experience and understanding of Indian television and the Mahabharat experience I encountered has profoundly changed. The next time I sit down to watch an episode of Mahabharat I won’t be so thrown by Ganga drowning her children, and I will be able to appreciate the cultural heritage present in the telling of a great Hindu epic.


References:

Walkman; An everlasting love?

Over the past couple of weeks, I have delved into studying the history of personal musical handsets, the way they were formulated into existence and the influence they have formulated into today’s generation of devices. As stated in the last post, these observations fall largely under the “Walkman Effect”; that is the influence that Sony’s device brought about from the late 1970’s and of which we still feel today.

The Walkman by no means was the first in it’s category to bring music portably to the individual; it was however the leader in a portable evolution, an evolution of our society and a revolution in technology. In 1978, Sony successfully consummated a compact playback device with lightweight headphones to create the first truly portable, personal technological device, as it was smaller and lighter than any other portable audio device on the market. In 1979, the ‘Walkman’ was introduced in the Japan, selling its entire stock of 30,000 units within the first three months. According to CBS;

“A Walkman cost $200.00 in 1979. Considering the average monthly rent in 1979 was $280.00, that’s a significant amount of money.”

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One thing I did not know prior to undertaking this research was that in an attempt to get Japanese students to purchase the Walkman during their summer break, which coincided with the release in July 1979, Sony employees would walk the streets of Tokyo offering students and young people free samples of the Walkman, such as allowing them to walk a block with it on and then return it, of which gave valuable, if not supremely truth worthy, product endorsement.

Hosokawa’s 2008 article “The Walkman Effect” cites a study undertaken in the mid 1980’s by French magazine, Le Novel Observateur, where they ask whether “men with Walkman’s are human or not; whether they are in touch with reality or separated from it?”, in which an interviewee responds that the question is outdated, that “these are the days of autonomy and an intersection of singularity and discourse” This observation came across quite strongly to me, as here is a respondent, aged between 18-21 years old in mid-1980’s France, who states an argument that has been the lightning rod of marketing campaigns of every technology and media marketing campaign, from Apple to Warner Bros. That is that devices, in this case the Walkmen, are beacons of self-government and expression, of taking control of your surroundings but not excluding you from the world you are in.  I strongly agree with this sentiment, for as I am a dependent of public transport to go to and from University, a necessity is my phone and earphones, which are far more pivotal than an Opal card.

It is this reliance upon my mobile to provide me and my travelling counterparts with an escape from the mundaneness of the bus ride and the never-ending trip down Appin Road that underlines the importance, not reliance but importance, of innovation and technology. This too is the very reason, as mentioned in the previous post, why Sony initially developed the Walkman, to allow users a slice of escape during whichever activity the like; be it flights, bus trips, roller skating or just walking through the city.

During my research into these devices, my Mum just so happened to have kept her PYE Companion 5000 Stereo Cassette portable radio from her late teens-early adult years. It’s large, chunky and heavy by todays standards, but you have got to appreciate the finesse that went into the device, from the deep blue leather case, to the spongey headset and the dual ability to play tapes and a FM radio. Below is a series of photos, and for a touch of the 21st century, a Samsung S5 belonging to my Grandmother, as this is Digital Asia and an iPhone won’t cut it.

 

As can clearly be seen, the size difference is astounding. Both devices have cases on them, however whilst you would need to clip the Companion onto your belt or into ones handbag, the Samsung can easily fit into your pocket or palm. The 16GB S5 can hold roughly 4,000 songs, which with the cassette player one would require roughly 266 cassette tapes as an equivalent. Try getting those onboard your next Qantas flight.

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266 cassette tapes? Impressive.

Speaking of experience, during my flight to Los Angeles last November, I was presented with the option to plug my phone into my inseat-enteetainment system, so if I chose to, I could listen to my music or view my photos via the tv screen in front of me.
So has the Walkman left a mark upon our society? Undeniably yes. In his book, Boy meets Boy, David Leviathan states “O Lord, as I walk through the valley of the shadow of doubt, at least let me wear a Walkman”, as the central character uses the device to provide motivation and an escape from embarrassment. According to former Apple CEO John Sculley;
“I remember Akio Morita (Sony founder) gave Steve and me each one of the first Sony Walkmans. None of us had ever seen anything like that before because there had never been a product like that… Steve was fascinated by it. The first thing he did with his was take it apart and he looked at every single part. How the fit and finish was done, how it was built.” 
Steve and John weren’t the only ones fascinated by it, as Sony gave both of them and the world the concept of personal portable music, and that is something I have come to appreciate whilst researching this topic. You see, the Walkman, as a device, has faded into history, being uncompetitive against the current iPod and mobile phone mp3 files of today; however, the Walkman, as a tool of social revolution, is still with us. It’s design concept is still here, a box with headphones, has not changed, for if you were to look at the images of the S5 and the Companion 5000 we just examined, the main difference in facial design is size.
It is also worth noting that the Walkman is an excellent example as a representation of culture, and in 1997 theorists studying the Walkman coined the term “Circuit of Culture” as a means of analysing the impact the device hashed on contemporary society. The 5 factors; Representation, Identity, Production, Consumption and Regulation are all interconnected with one another and rely on each other to perform. For example, the conception of the Walkmans identity formed the way the device was consumed by buyers, and the production of the device was guided by the regulations of the day, in particular what could be taken onboard aircraft, for which the Walkman was initially designed for.
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This concept is perhaps the most constructive and correct analysation of the Walkman, for it underscores the importance and impact it has had on our society, and it turn, the Circuit of Culture is now a standard model used to determine other impacts upon our society, such as the Playstation and the iPhone. Thus, the Walkman has undeniably left an everlasting, deep impact upon our social, technological and cultural industries, and 30 years on, it continues to do so.
Bibliography
Hosokawa, S. (2008) ‘The walkman effect’, Popular Music, 4, pp. 165–180. doi: 10.1017/S0261143000006218.
Du Gay, P., Hall, S., Janes, L., Madsen, A.K., Mackay, H. and Negus, K., 2013. Doing cultural studies: The story of the Sony Walkman. Sage.
Dodds, W.B. and Monroe, K.B., 1985. The effect of brand and price information on subjective product evaluations. NA-Advances in Consumer Research Volume 12.
Ellis, C., Adams, T.E. and Bochner, A.P., 2011. Autoethnography: an overview. Historical Social Research/Historische Sozialforschung, pp.273-290.
Ellis, C.S. and Bochner, A., 2000. Autoethnography, personal narrative, reflexivity: Researcher as subject.
Lloyd, D 26th June 2004, “A brief History of iPod”, ilounge.com, http://www.ilounge.com/index.php/articles/comments/instant-expert-a-brief-history-of-ipod/
Schlender, B 12th November 2001, “Apple’s 21st century Walkman”, fortune.com, http://archive.fortune.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/2001/11/12/313342/index.htm

History.com Staff, 2009 “The first Sony Walkman goes on Sale”, A+E Networks, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/the-first-sony-walkman-goes-on-sale

Sandoval, G 26th October 2010, “Goodbye Walkman; Thanks for the iPod”, cnet.com http://www.cnet.com/au/news/goodbye-walkman-thanks-for-the-ipod/

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.

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].

In Retrospect: Autoethnography & State of Play

It was only a few weeks ago that I attempted to expand my horizons and experience Korean gaming culture with a set of fresh eyes. This autoethnographic experience was enlightening, and brought my attention to the fact that I was ultimately an outsider when it came to eSports, gaming and Lee Jae Dong. Despite this, here I am, trying to make sense of my initial assumptions and interpretations of my State of Play experience (which you can read about here).

As aforementioned, autoethnography as a methodology aims to “facilitate the understanding of a culture for insiders and outsiders”, drawing on “subjectivity, emotionality and the researcher’s influence on research” (Ellis, Adams and Bochner). Reflecting on one’s experience of a cultural phenomenon can be insightful and explorative. It not only highlights “dominant narratives” and “ways of thinking” about culture but seeks to understand such experiences on a larger cultural scale (Warren, 2009).  In my first auto ethnographic account of State of Play, I made several cultural assumptions and addressed ‘dominant narratives’ I felt were essential in the documentary. Re-examining my initial interpretation, and by conducting a little more research, I have once again become a more culturally aware individual. Read on, and you can be too.

After watching State of Play, I was admittedly astonished that gamers in Korea had such celebrity status and were afforded with privileges similar to those of professional sports players. Little did I know that gamers around the world, — not just in Korea, — earn millions when they put their skills to the test. “DoTA has actually gone on to host the largest tournament prize pool, with nearly $11 million for their 2014 International. That’s a larger prize pool than the Masters Golf Tournament” (Aaron, 2015). The above graph highlights this. Furthermore, gaming tournaments attract global sponsors and intrigue audiences in the millions — eSports are now broadcast on networks like ESPN, making them accessible to all. Gamers make similar commitments and moreover share in the sacrifices that other professional sports players make to create a career. By reducing these individuals to “just gamers” in my first experience I failed to understand the deeper meaning behind gaming culture.

After scrolling through more ‘research’, I became acutely aware that whilst there were no females battling for the tournament prize pool in State of Play, female gamers do exist. “According to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), 44% of all gamers in the U.S. today are female” (Gaudiosi, 2015). Perhaps most notably, “one of the great things about eSports is it’s one arena where there is no difference between men and women; they’re both equal in the game” (Gaudiosi, 2015). Just because the representation of women in State of Play was skewed, that doesn’t mean that women are missing from the global gaming ‘narrative’. Another cultural assumption bites the dust.

Autoethnography requires one to be self-reflexive and open in order to understand a cultural experience. By drawing on additional information from scholarly sources, media articles and social commentary my experience and understanding of Korean gaming culture has reached a new high. Adding layers of information onto my autoethnographic account of State of Play has shifted my perspective on eSports and the Korean gaming phenomenon dramatically.


References:

Aaron, J., 2015, ‘The Controversial Dichotomy Between Sports and eSports’, The Huffington Post, Article, 19 April, viewed 29 August 2016

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

Gaudiosi, J., 2015, ‘This Company Wants More Women in eSports’, Fortune, Article, 17 November, viewed 29 August 2016

Warren, J.T., 2009, ‘Autoethnography’ in Encyclopaedia of Communication Theory, SAGE Publications, p.68-69.

Celebrity Directors to Philosophical Insects, what a week…

Sticking on a similar theme to last week’s Blog, this week I have been looking at the Director of Dark Water, Hideo Nakata. He is most well-known for his directing of Ring (1998) Ring 2 (1999) and directing the American remake of his own film, The Ring Two (2005). Nakata has gained a sort of cult following by ‘J-Horror’ “Enthusiasts” with him being labelled “the Ring Master” in an interview with Off Screen in 2000 and “The Godfather of J-Horror” by the Japan Times earlier this year. Despite his fame, Nakata’s ‘Ring’ was by no means the beginning of Japanese Ghost and Horror Stories.

In his interview with Off Screen, the interviewer brings up the “older tradition of Japanese supernatural stories … Such as Kwaidan or Ugetsu”. Nakata replies, saying that he has studied them both along with an old Kabuki theatre production Yotsyua Kaiden.

I’ve come across the film Kwaidan (1964), literally translated to ‘Ghost Stories’ (Which, incidentally is the name of an anime series, which is totally worth its own study in cross cultural production of content and meaning), in previous weeks as I’ve been searching for influential and important Japanese horror films to watch. I’ve seen the trailer, and have downloaded a copy (tsk tsk) to watch this week. Doing more research on the film, I learnt that it was based on the writings of Koizumi Yakumo, who was also known as Lafcadio Hern. Hern was born in the Ionian islands of Greece in 1850 and emigrated to Ireland with his family in his early childhood. In 1869 Hern Travelled to America where he lived and worked as a writer until 1890 when he moved to Japan as a Newspaper Correspondent. His book ‘Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things’ is his English interpretation and recolouring of old Japanese stories from Japanese books “such as the Yaso-Kidan, Bukkyo-Hyakkwa-Zensho, Kokon-Chomonshu, Tama-Sudare, and Hyaku-Monogatari”, interestingly and strangely followed by a semi-scientific and definitely philosophical study of Insects.

After reading his story “THE DREAM OF AKINOSUKE“(of Chinese origin), his study of insects has become more clear. The story uses a butterfly and an ant as metaphors. The three drunken characters in the story discuss how what these insects might mean in relation to the dream that Akinosuke has in the story. Herns discussion of insects at the end of his book seems to be a study of their potential meaning in Asian literature.

Right… so that didn’t exactly focus on the role of celebrity, but more a flow of research for the week. I’m looking forward to reading more of Herns stories and deliberations on insects when I have time, and seeing if any of these themes or ideas, flow through to modern day Asian horror films.

My Experience of Dark Water “Honogurai mizu no soko kara”

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Last Friday I was invited to go and experience my friends’ new home theatre room. Armed with a six-pack of James Boags, an armful of Thai food and my bright yellow fox onesie, I was ready for a long night of thrilling theatre. 
Descending the stairs to their once creepy basement, now beautifully carpeted theatre room, the group was presented with our choice of films for the evening.
Amongst our selection was; ‘Hansel and Gretel and the 420 witch’, ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ and ‘Dark Water’.
Being aware of the potential for Japanese horror to mentally scar us, we opted to watch Dark Water first and then sooth ourselves with the other two movies afterwards.

Settling down into the dark theatre room, I began to devour a healthy serving of fried rice with chicken & cashews as my friend proceeded to put the movie onto the big screen. Beginning to feel the flow of alcohol, we joked and carried on throughout the beginning of the film, trying to keep up with the introductions of the characters and the general basis for the story

In brief, the movie follows a mother and her young daughter who have recently moved into an old apartment block after the breakup of their family. The apartment has problems with water leaking from the ceiling (Dark water), and the mother starts seeing a ghostly figure of a small girl around the apartment. As the story unfolds we began to learn that this ghost child used to live in the apartment block and had gone through a very similar situation to the real child, facing the possibility of being neglected and forgotten during her parents’ divorce.

As it turns out, this ghost child was referred to as ‘Kawaii’ throughout the movie. I assume that was her actual name, but as slightly inebriated children of the internet generation we could not stop making jokes about how cute ‘Kawaii’ was in all of the jump scares and ‘frightening’ scenes of the film. While these scenes were definitely well directed and horrifying, as a group we laughed our way through the terror, yelling at the screen and enthusiastically enjoying the film.

Interestingly our collective understanding (or Misunderstanding) of the Japanese term ‘Kawaii’ shaped our experience of the film, regardless of how insignificant its use seemed to the overall story.
As I understand it, the term ‘Kawaii’ means adorable or cute and has been attributed to a section of Japanese popular culture that embody these qualities. In the context of this film, it seemed odd to name the ghostly apparition that was depicted as threatening and horrifying, after a term that was used to describe things that were cute and innocent.
Looking back at the ending of the film and the motivations given for the ghostly girl, the name Kawaii seems slightly more apt to the character and was probably a conscious decision by the film makers.

-Nathan Smith

I’m Lost in a Sea of Strangers, and Someone Told Me They Were Sexist

Updated: to format references correctly.

Over the past week I have been lurking on the Reddit board r/anime (Reddit 2014). Every day, I have been perusing the top 100 posts in an attempt to familiarise myself with anime beyond what is shown on Australian screens. In short, the experience was isolating.

Scrolling through the posts felt like walking past strangers. The content I viewed was varied but seemed to be primarily focused on image. Characters were presented either in stills or as fan drawings, with little explanation to where they are from. Reddit, as a platform, is well-suited to this sort of image heavy board (Fenn 2013). But this format made it harder for me to engage with the content and the community. It is easy to scroll past strangers, just as it is easy to dismiss dialogue you don’t understand and jokes you are not apart of. As it is rightfully allowed to be, the board and community within is clearly geared at an experienced viewing audience, rather than hooking in new viewers. Perhaps, for this reason alone, it is not the best place to start my viewing experience.

Aside from the board layout, I also suffered from my own bias. Last semester, I conducted a small-scale research project with another UOW student into Reddit’s AdviceAnimal memes (Bauer & Shalavin 2014). The results showed that some of the memes did show women in a negative light but were deemed not offensive as they were of a joking nature. As such, I began viewing the board with the assumption that some content would in fact be misogynistic. This accusation has been thrown around the anime community before with fans pointing out the hyper-sexualised construction of female characters (Cross 2014). However, while I believe I was searching for this over the past week, I do not believe I found it. While most image-based content featured female characters, they were hardly ever represented as overly-sexualised. Instead, they were largely drawn in empowered stances or situations and praised in the comment sections

My experience was hindered by both myself and the site I attempted to engage in. It is, of course, not the community’s fault that I felt isolated as I was a novice nor that I walked into experience with a poorly informed view of female representation in anime. Perhaps this is a site to return to after I have begun my viewing experience. 

Reference List:

Bauer, E & Shalavin, C 2014, ‘Gender and Digital Dissent Followup’, presentation, 14 May, Prezi, viewed on 12/8/14, <http://prezi.com/slmouolsnvmf/gender-and-digital-dissent-follow-up/&gt;

Cross, K 2014, ‘Sexist Static: How a lust for misogyny is hobbling an important artform’, weblog post, 24 April, Feministing, viewed 12/8/14, <http://feministing.com/2014/04/24/sexist-static-how-a-lust-for-crude-misogyny-is-hobbling-an-important-artform/&gt;

Fenn, M 2013, ‘Reddit is becoming an image board – Here’s why’, 20 March, The Daily Dot, viewed 12/8/14, <http://www.dailydot.com/news/reddit-imageboard-pics-study/&gt;

Reddit 2014, ‘Anime’, Reddit, viewed 12/8/14, <http://www.reddit.com/r/anime&gt;