Autoethnography

Before this class Digital Asia, I had never heard the term or concept of  autoethnography, but after doing a little research it became clear that it is quite a controversial scientific method with varying degrees of respect from the scientific community. Carolyn Ellis and associates provide a detailed overview of the practice of autoethnography:

Autoethnography is a form of research that requires the author to immerse themselves in the subject matter and to “analyze their own personal experience in order to understand cultural experience”. (Ellis et al., 2011)

This definition and discussion in class took me back to year 11 psychology in high school, and the difficulty of studying a science that cannot be directly observed or quantified. Just like autoethnography, psychology was also perceived as an unprofessional domain as much of the research involves making assumptions and drawing conclusions without physical concrete evidence.

But I found this kind of study interesting, because it wasn’t simply a right or wrong answer, but instead a series of observations and connections that were specific to each expert.

I had the thought that it would be interesting to use the process of autoethnography as a tool for studying psychology, and it is actually quite a popular avenue. Peter McIlveen from the university of southern Queensland suggests the use of autoethnography as a reflexive research tool in vocational psychology (McIlveen, 2008).

‘The narrative approach in psychology represents an ontological and epistemological stance generative of theory, research, and practice which comprehends the person as a social construction perpetually formed and reformed in and of socially mediated discourse, talk, text, and image.’ (McIlveen, 2008) 

Because of the qualitative rather than quantitative nature of autoethnography in combination with reflexive study, many experts believe that this process is too bias to be counted as a reliable research tool. An individual whilst trying to remain objective may be ignorant of their own bias, much like actual ability and perceived ability in psychology.

As part ethnography, autoethnography is dismissed for social scientific standards as being insufficiently rigorous, theoretical, and analytical, and too aesthetic, emotional, and therapeutic (Ellis et el., (2011)

I believe that autoethnography can be a very informative and enlightening way of researching particular aspects that may not be as easy to quantify or nail down. As long as there an understanding of the process and potential bias is taken into consideration i could prove to be a very popular method of understanding cultural perspectives.

 

References

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

McIlveen, P. (2008). Autoethnography as a Method for Reflexive Research and Practice in Vocational Psychology. Australian Journal of Career Development, 17(2), pp.13-20.

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