Ellis, Adams and Bochner (2011) make reference to autoethnography as being a useful tool for helping yourself and others understand different cultures. This is attained through describing and analysing your own personal experiences in order to unpack a cultural experience. By researching a culture and its practices, values, beliefs and shared experiences as a ‘participant observer’ you essentially help both insiders and outsiders reach a better understanding of the culture. By expressing hindsight of your experiences you can help others tackle some of the pre-conceived judgements, misunderstandings or false impressions that often come when trying to understand another culture.
I have been having some trouble with researching North Korea auto-ethnographically. Firstly, my understanding of autoethnography is still in the ‘confused stage’. Secondly, I have not been consciously aware or taken note of my experiences and feelings during my research (whoops, will try harder). This may be because I am often so involved, focussed and interested in discovering what is going on in North Korea I become distracted by the existing research, and forget to compare and contrast this with my own experience. Also, I don’t think I am very good at talking or expressing how I feel… more often than not I just make jokes and try and change the conversation, which is probably evident in my blog posts. Thirdly, I find it hard to connect with a cultural experience through a computer screen. Because I have chosen a topic I can interact with in really no other way I am not faced with first-hand, impulsive emotion (not complaining, just sayin’). I spend so much time researching global events and am often presented with harrowing images and videos. While I take all of this on board and everyday it helps broaden my global perspective, I believe this type of second-hand research and the visual evidence that comes with it, often has less of an emotional impact on me, or for me these feelings aren’t as close to the surface.
While auto-ethnography may not be my cup of tea, I haven’t given up yet! I will try and embrace my personal feelings, thoughts, stories and observations more so in the next few weeks, and make these thoughts more visible in my blogs and my digital artefact. This post has been helpful in understanding where I stand with autoethnography and will certainly help me move forward in my final project. I definitely need to work on how I can absorb more autoethnography into the visual aspect of my digital artefact, which at the moment stands as a Prezi tracking the information and technology flows into and out of North Korea. Even if in the end me and autoethnography don’t work it out, I will still be happy in knowing that just a few people have a greater understanding of how difficult it can be for North Koreans to access the technology and free information that we, most of us media students, spend so much time using to broaden our own knowledge.