Understanding my assumptions throughout It’s A Man’s Game:
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.