More About Mukbangs

Although mukbangs originate in South Korean digital communities, they have recently expanded into the global mediascape, as discussed in my previous post (my last post will be frequently referenced throughout this post, so it might be a good idea to check that out first). Despite having a limited knowledge about ‘Digital Asia’ prior to this subject, I had come across the phenomenon of mukbangs on YouTube. Albeit, not the South Korean version, but the Westernised version.

My previous post detailed the epiphanies I experienced when viewing authentic South Korean mukbangs for the first time. Throughout that post, I was engaging with the self-reflexive process of autoethnography. According to Ellis et al (2011), “When researchers do autoethnography, they retrospectively and selectively write about epiphanies. However, in addition to telling about experiences, autoethnographers often are required…to analyse these experiences.” By becoming a “participant observer” (Ellis et al, 2011) in the experience of mukbanging in my previous post, I noticed several cultural differences between the Asian and Western versions. It is these observations, or ‘epiphanies’ that I will focus on analysing today, particularly in relation to my personal cultural framework.

As recommended by Ellis et al (2011), “[Autoethnographers] must use personal experience to illustrate facets of cultural experience, and, in so doing, make characteristics of a culture familiar for insiders and outsiders.” The two epiphanies that stood out to me during my mukbang research were regarding my viewing preferences. Firstly, I have a strong dislike for ASMR; and secondly, I prefer a conversation or Q&A component to the mukbang, rather than simply eating in silence. Acknowledging these personal views led me to consider some key questions posed by Pitard (2017): “Where did I gain this belief? And, how does this belief influence the way I react to situations and people?”

I am instantly able to recognise that both of my epiphanies related to my mukbang viewing preferences are directly informed by my childhood upbringing. My mother teaching me correct table manners and dining etiquette from a young age ultimately influences my feelings about ASMR. (This has likely contributed to my self-diagnosed ‘misophonia disorder’). My personal cultural framework also influences my other self-realisation, that I prefer a conversation style mukbang, which is more common in the Western version. Throughout my life, my family and friendship groups have placed a significant focus on gathering together around a table to eat. For me, dining has always been an inherently social experience, whether it is out at a restaurant or in the home. As suggested by Pitard (2017), my beliefs have influenced the way I react to the new experience of Asian mukbangs, food and eating behaviours.

I will be further exploring Asian food and the mukbang format in an upcoming group digital artefact. We will be producing a mukbang style video that will incorporate “thick description” and personal epiphanies to “help facilitate understanding of a culture for insiders and outsiders” (Ellis et al, 2011). This project will be guided by Ellis et al’s (2011) recommendations that by producing an accessible text, the autoethnographer may be able to reach a wider and more diverse mass audience. I am hopeful that this experience will develop my personal “Asia literacy”, as coined by Leong & Woods (2017), as well as that of the audience.

Reference List:

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., & 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

Pitard, J. (2017). ‘A Journey to the Centre of Self: Positioning the Researcher in Autoethnography‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 18(3), pp.108-127.

Leong, S. & Woods, D. (2017). “I Don’t Care About Asia”: Teaching Asia in Australia, Journal of Australian Studies. Special Issue. pp.1-13.

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