Autoethnography

YouTube Eats

In terms of Asian travel, the closest I have gotten to it is driving to pick up some honey chicken from my local Chinese restaurant. Unfortunately, I am yet to fully experience travelling abroad to an Asian country and soak up all it has to offer within its culture.

Growing up in a small town, my exposure to Asian culture was minimal. I remember occasionally seeing some anime on TV, but I never actually watched it, I was more of a Saddle Club kind of girl. My family holiday in Melbourne as a child introduced me to Chinatown. The buildings were beautiful and the food we ate for lunch was even better. When I was 11 years old, two Chinese sisters started at my school. Being a town without much diversity, all the students were so intrigued by them and asked all sorts of questions about their previous home, we even wanted to organise an excursion to their village. Soon enough they pretty much became professional Mandarin teachers with everyone wanting to be their best friends. For most of us, it was our first real exposure to a culture outside our own, it was so innocent.

As I grew older and moved out into the world, I realised there was one main aspect of Asian culture I really enjoyed and couldn’t escape – the food. From sushi to tom yum we are spoilt for choice and it’s all delicious.

As much as I love what is on offer here in Australia, I am still intrigued by what else is out there. Video platform YouTube is where I do most of my research on these unknown foods. Japan is probably the most commonly featured country in my viewings I mean who wouldn’t want to try all those flavours of KitKat?!

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Or try canned bread from a vending machine? Maybe that isn’t for everyone…

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It is so interesting to see all the different foods and flavours I am yet to try. You can see the culture embedded within the products, they reflect the needs and wants of the nation in the form of flavour.

Over the past two years, a trend that started in South Korea has really taken over YouTube with ‘mukbang’s’ becoming common content on many popular vlogger’s channels.

The word ‘mukbang‘ is a combination of ‘meokneun’ which means eating and ‘bangsong‘ which means broadcast.

The individual’s film themselves eating while answering questions from their viewers or subscribers.

I think the exploration of food and its consumption via YouTube could be a good topic to study for my autoethnography project. Food is something everyone enjoys and can relate to, I mean we literally need it to stay alive.

Mukbangs: The West has hijacked South Korea’s hunger for watching strangers eat online

As I have stated in previous blog posts, my knowledge of ‘Digital Asia’ was limited to non-existent prior to this subject. Though, one topic I am vaguely familiar with is the online video trend of ‘mukbangs’, due to seeing similar content on YouTube by Australian creators. (more…)

Reading {J}ournal—contextual essay

View the Digital Artefact here: https://miasreadingjournal.wordpress.com/

Previous blog posts: (1) (2)

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Contextual essay

In the “Modern Life and Other Nonsense” section of the Penguin Book of Japanese Short Stories (2018), Jay Rubin has curated a wonderful, though small, collection of what is labelled in Japan’s literary theory as “popular literature” (Shaw 1935, p. 292). Marking the fourth turning points in the country’s literary timeline—the nineteenth century (Sanderson & Kato 1939, p. 211), these stories offer a refreshed view of the rich and diverse literary landscape of Japan.

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Luk Thung and the Sound of Siam – Digital Artefact

My digital artefact can be viewed here: https://soundcloud.com/appltones/luk-thung-and-the-sound-of-siam-digital-artefact

Contextual statement – task 3

Given the heart of this project being around the meaning and feeling of traditional Thai music and how I react and relate to it, it seemed only necessary to undertake an auto-ethnographic study in the form of a podcast.

Auto-ethnographic methodology

“When researchers write autoethnographies, they seek to produce aesthetic and evocative thick descriptions of personal and interpersonal experience.” (Ellis et al, 2011)

For the sake of authentic auto-ethnographic research, it was deemed fitting that reactions to the music, or at least some of the reactions, had to be fresh or live.

To achieve this, two things were ensured:

  • The podcast was done in one take
    • Although this was difficult and took planning to ensure timing and structure was well established prior to recording, it was an essential way to keep the methodology authentic, “aesthetic and evocative”.
    • Songs were chosen at random from the record to be listened to during the podcast
    • Another effort to ensure the listener was able to grasp how I, the auto-ethnographer was reacting to the music.

Epiphanies

“When researchers do autoethnography, they retrospectively and selectively write about epiphanies that stem from, or are made possible by, being part of a culture and/or by possessing a particular cultural identity.” (Ellis et al, 2011)

Epiphanies are what make auto-ethnographic research so valuable. This experience was highly intriguing due to the observation that before beginning the podcast, only one epiphany had been thought of for discussion, however as the recording took place and the previously unheard songs were heard, more came to mind. This can be attributed to the personal and concurrent style of auto-ethnography, where the research relies on the ongoing reaction and feedback of the reader.

A perfect example of an auto-ethnographic epiphany is best seen in the reflection towards the end of the podcast where it’s discussed how it seems these songs have strong psychedelic influences, and it’s questioned whether this can be put down to the past drug culture of South-East Asia, or its simply the listener’s interpretation.

Personal touches

Auto-ethnographers “must use personal experience to illustrate facets of cultural experience, and, in so doing, make characteristics of a culture familiar for insiders and outsiders.” (Ellis et al, 2011)

Although this podcast was planned to be in a live, or fresh setting, it was always intended to keep in touch with a personal connection. While it often contains commentary on music features, much of the reflection is based on my own persona as a passionate music fan. Heavily reflected also are the links I find between my own common listenings, and the unheard, fresh sounds of Luk Thung, an important part of keeping in touch with personal, auto-ethnographic research and presentation.

References

Ellis, C., Adams, T. and Bochner, A. (2011). Autoethnography: An Overview. [online] Volume 12, No. 1(10). Available at: http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095 [Accessed 22 Oct. 2018].

Grand Finale Anime Food Project

insight

After a month of anime exploration, Japanese history lessons, kitchen decimation, and editing mishaps the illustrious Anime Food project has finally come to a close. This project which came about from my desire to learn more about Japanese food and pop culture was riddled with failures and minor successes. None the less the research project still resulted in what Ellis et al.(2011) would hopefully describe as an ‘aesthetic and evocative thick description’ of my own personal experience with the field site – or at least my attempt at doing so.

The process of conducting this project far outweighed my original expectations, as the time and effort needed to holistically research and interact with my field site quickly overcome what I had originally planned. After days of researching and watching anime, I then needed to conduct further research into the specific Japanese dishes and how they would realistically

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Going Out With a (Muk) Bang

Mukbang, Korean for ‘eating broadcast’, first arrived to the internet 10 years ago – and no one could predict the popularity it would garner. The mukbang has been defined as a ‘new and unique phenomenon developed in a specific socio-historical context of Korea’ which ‘breaks the norms of traditional food culture and challenges the social norms governing the body and subjectivity’ (Destefanis, p. 112).

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CLAUDIA MULLER: CHECK IN ON THE DA

https://claudialouisemuller.com/2018/09/21/625/

Bonjourno, (just quickly, you should read this before you continue on here)

Set the task of exploring a facet of a culture previously not experienced, I opened up to a type of research that prompts the researchers vulnerabilities (Ellis et al. 2011, 14.1.18) and cultural frameworks to gather insights typically unattainable. My field site being cosplay and its anime adaptions, I quickly realised that by immersing myself into the experience I felt vulnerable and certainly out of my comfort zone. Whether that be the idea itself as a daunting action, concealing your own identity as another’s for costume play, or whether it be the unfamiliarity with the field site itself, I was acutely aware that I was letting my feelings, thoughts, and vulnerabilities influence the way the project was migrating (Ellis et al. 2011, 14.1.3), in a way that other forms of research methodologies would certainly not allow for.

This investigation into cosplay originally was rooted in personal experience, but when I found myself hesitating to participate I found myself redirecting towards a more niche area of study; whereby perhaps there was a middle ground to find, whereby I could create looks that were alike to the characters from Studio Ghibli films, designing them to look like everyday pieces or at the very least curating costumes from everyday pieces that I already owned. Could I find a way to interact with a culture I was trying to understand in a way that was part of my own cultural framework?

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Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

Working in fashion retail and with a history of sewing projects behind me, could I take what I understood already and utilise it to imitate the feelings and processes associating with the action of cosplay? Furthermore, could I create a layered account of my experience by introducing my fondness and knowledge of anime produced by Studio Ghibli? These were all questions I set out to answer, and one that could only be facilitated by the means of autoethnography; a method whereby I could introduce an alternate voice amidst a construction of knowledge (Sturm, D. 2014).

 

As I went on to have my first swing at cosplay, or whatever it was that I deemed a variation of it, I began to realise that the research project was as much about myself as it was about the topic; “..autoethnographies offer a diverse body of works, with many often producing essentially autobiographical accounts of the self as both researcher and the researched” (Kien, G. 2007).

And so here I find myself, at a crossroads whereby I believe I have navigated down an alternate route, truly utilising my own cultural framework to gain a better understanding of other cultures around me. In translation, I will utilise the data I collect to create and curate wearable, everyday pieces that are cosplay, to a degree, and critically analyse the experience alongside further research into the area; a layered account (Ellis et al, 2011). The aspect to tackle now, I find, is distinguishing autoethnography as both a process and a product, a notion brought to my attention by both Ellis (et al, 2011) and Angus Baillie in our seminar conversation, and how they are to interrelate in this investigation.

 

All for now,

Claudia

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 14.1. Available at: http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095

Kien, G., 2007 A Western Consumer in Korea: Autoethnographical Fiction of Western Performance, Cultural Studies ⇔ Critical Methodologies, vol. 7, no. 3, pp. 264-280. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1532708614565454#_i2

Sturm, D. (2014) ‘Playing With the Autoethnographical Performing and Re-Presenting the Fan’s Voice’, Cultural Studies ↔ Critical Methodologies, pp. 214. Available at: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1532708614565454

Reflecting on the process

Establishing a process for this research project has been majorly back-and-forth. Following suit in the method outlined by Carolyn Ellis in Autoethnography: An Overview has been far more difficult than first anticipated. I now recognise that even this reflection is part of the auto ethnographic process, as I’m analysing my own personal experience to understand the greater concept.

Back-and-forth

Here I refer to the constant train of ideas my brain would conceive around my research project of Luk Thung, which would eventually have to be brought to a halt for the ensuring that they matched the auto ethnographic process.

Too often I found myself venturing a ways down the ethnography path, without incorporating the essential autobiography aspect. Epiphanies were initially not recognised as key moments in the research narrative, but simply ideas that could be explored throughout my work.

My brain was working productively to – well – brainstorm ideas useful to research, but left behind was the acknowledgment and logging of those points in time where an idea or change was conceived or enacted.

I had actually drafted a whole blog post based around background information for Luk Thung, including its history and meaning, until I realised what I really needed to be doing. I started over, and documented the epiphany I had while watching Sita Sings The Blues, and how the process flowed from that point.

Sarah Wall said that during the process of writing Easier Said than Done: Writing an Autoethnography, revealed to her once again was the value of experience and reflection (Wall 2008, pg. 50). I feel I can appreciate this notion with Wall more wholly now, after being forced to repeatedly review my functions as an auto ethnographer, I now understand the value of the process, and the reflection of that process, rather than just the product.

Auto

An integral part of this process I’m blabbing on about is me. As I mentioned, there came a point where I had to begin my piece again, and part of starting again was questioning where I belong in the narrative. Luckily, the answer was music, which is something I not only feel comfortable discussing at length, but something I actually enjoy. Acknowledging the importance of the auto was an integral part of understanding and practicing the ideas that Ellis and Wall present.

The realisation of my part in this narrative has actually motivated me, due to the fact this is more-or-less the first time I’ve undertaken a research/study in such a manner. Auto ethnography as Ellis details it, provides opportunities for exploring worldly aspects in a way that incorporates the storyteller, which is exciting because in this particular case – given my love of music – I’m able to enjoy the process, making it easier to detail the process and product of the narrative.

References

Ellis, C., Adams, T. and Bochner, A. (2018). 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 16 Sep. 2018].

Wall, S. (2008). Easier Said than Done: Writing an Autoethnography. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, [online] 7(1), pp.38-53. Available at: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/160940690800700103 [Accessed 16 Sep. 2018].

 

 

 

 

Luk Thung, Thai Funk, and Sita Sings The Blues

Initial experiences with my chosen field site in one word: Revelation.

Luk Thung, or literally translated to child of the fields, is the genre of Thai music I will be auto-ethnographically investigating, along with some of its relating and neighbouring genres. For lack of a better description, let’s call it Thai folk music, however I’ll later get into why I believe it’s far more than that.

You’re probably thinking, why the hell would someone choose to investigate Thai folk music? Sita Sings The Blues, that’s why. However, please don’t be mistake – I despised the film. I wholly and openly accept there was probably a deep and well thought out plot beneath the madness, however my brain simply couldn’t handle the visual mess the film presented, destroying any opportunity to enjoy – or even understand – the film. There was just one element that saved it for me, one element that could even be enjoyed if one shut their eyes (ขอบคุณพระเจ้า), and that’s the soundtrack of Annette Hanshaw.

(Peep a taste of the film and Annette Hanshaw’s work)

I’d like to think I’m a wide listener of music as a whole, and this film’s score only widened that listening scope. Although Hanshaw is American, AND the music she produced for SSTB has some strong Western influece, it’s the sound she birthed for this film that inspired my research. My ears sent thanks for the warm production pairing beautifully with the bright, angelic vocals, and it’s impossible to not love plentiful use of the sitar.

Enough drooling, now some inspiration had formed. I searched high and low for the genre I wanted to look at, until I finally landed in South-East Asia. The epiphany came while listening to the record of one of my favourite bands in the world – Khruangbin. They actually genre themselves as Thai Funk, which isn’t exactly Luk Thung, but there’s some undeniable links there.

(Enjoy them on this funky number via Night Time Stories)

For the sake of a flowing research process, I’ll be limiting my field sites (as the scope of the genre is rather broad) to some of the sub-genres of Luk Thung that are a little more niche, and contain some interesting links to my own personal tastes.

My main focus will be a record, or compilation, called The Sound of Siam: Leftfield Luk Thung, Jazz and Molam in Thailand 1954-1975. It’s more-or-less a mixtape of traditional Luk Thung, along with some groovy variations, some a little more jazzy, and some with a psych-rock edge you’d otherwise find on a Pink Floyd track.

I was able to give the compilation a thorough rinsing as my Sunday mornings are traditionally spent by putting on an album and listening through as I nurse a hangover or make a big breakfast, which is exactly what I did.

What’s interesting is my own pre-research interpretation of the sound of the songs (obviously not the lyrical interpretation as I don’t speak Thai) somewhat matched the supposed meaning of the music, which is hardship, pain even. It’s the music of the working people, those in the farm, or the field (child of the field)… and I felt that! Or at least something along those lines. I found it incredible that music with such beauty in the loud, high-pitched vocals can carry such a melancholy meaning.

This is something I look forward to investigating further through my auto ethnographic research, because:

  1. The music rules
  2. The music rules
  3. I want to know more about Luk Thung and the craziness in its history and meaning.

Stay tuned Thai jazzers…

 

 

 

 

Touching Base – Anime Food Project

insight

Touching base – a term which here means updating on what I have – and mostly – have not accomplished since my last blog post as well as what my masterful plan is moving forward through this research process. Currently, I am at the second and third stage of the autoethnographic research process which involves gathering data and identifying key epiphanies.

After partaking in a flamboyant soiree of ‘food’ themed anime I can safely say I had greatly underestimated the extent to which anime could dramatize humble food. Without diving too much into the topic as it is something I will cover in later blog posts – the flamboyant and often dramatized depiction of traditional Japanese food in anime is something that only seems to make sense when categorised as ‘traditional spontaneous over the top anime’ – a genre of anime I needlessly created to make sense of…

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