Autoethnography

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

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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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CLAUDIA MULLER: INDEPENDENT DIGITAL ASIA AUTOETHNOGRAPHY

https://claudialouisemuller.com/2018/09/11/claudia-muller-independent-digital-asia-autoethnography/

Ola mi amigos, time for another autoethnography project!

Utilising autoethnography as an approach to research can reveal qualitative insights into areas that may go amiss with traditional research methodologies, made evident by the hundreds of BCM students to pass before me. I can particularly see how the process assists many in Digital Asia, encouraging students to view Asia as ‘another’ rather than ‘other’ through immersing themselves into the culture or point of interest. This week, we were tasked with selecting a specific area of Asian interest to become literate in, prompting an account of our experience with a topic, text, product, service or platform of our choosing, to be broken down into a field site, a data type, speculative research area, and a communication format.

Now, if you ask me what the one thing of interest I have about Asia that I have yet to look into and better yet to barely begin to understand, its cosplay. I have always been aware of its existence and acknowledged its seemingly large following purely from interactions online, but with friends recently getting into it and my club having several interactions with the Universities’ Cosplay society, my interest has been peaked. Although, I was particularly curious to understand cosplay surrounding a broad spectrum of fandoms, but also that which surrounds styles adopted from Studio Ghibli. I’ll get to how I got to this point later in the blog, but growing up I didn’t get the chance to watch much anime at all, I was rudely informed only at the ripe old age of 20 that Winx Club was actually Italian and very much not anime (although it did apparently have a cult following in Japan in the 2000s).

Despite this, in high school my two best friends agreed that we should all watch the others favourite movie. While I picked Gatsby and our friend Tom picked Casino Royale, we were very lucky that our beautiful friend Georgie showed us Howl’s Moving Castle as hers. It was the beginning of my love for Studio Ghibli films. I have seen it twice more since that first movie night, and I have seen a few other cult favourites over the years such as Spirited Away and Kiki’s Delivery Service to name a few. Each and every time I have fallen in love with the illustrations, the colours, the settings, and the ability of the films to transport you elsewhere. This may stem from many years of art classes growing up, or from my studies in Design throughout uni, but I can never let my mind pass over the images without admiring them.

So here we are. Combine a need to understand and know more about the world of cosplay and an appreciation for the style and aesthetics of a studio’s animes and boom. You’ve got yourself a project. Not just any project, an

~** i n d e p e n d a n t   d i g i t a l   a s i a   a u t o e t h n o g r a p h y **~

The thought of tackling cosplay in a project like this is daunting to me, and it isn’t necessarily the idea of dressing up that scares me but the act of putting yourself in a vulnerable state perhaps? It is definitely not the costumes themselves, as I have always been fond of them for their excessive nature and the likeness to the imagination. I taught myself to sew growing up, and I was forever making weird and wonderful pieces that weren’t practical for everyday use. Most of which I have never shown anyone. I am curious, nonetheless, of cosplayers confidence when in character – I will make a very generalised assumption that it’s the ability to be someone who you are not that allows it to bloom, but who am I to know for sure? This fear of vulnerability may be perfect for this particular project, especially with the intended methodology. Ellis and Bochner (2006) support autoethnography ought to be “unruly, dangerous, vulnerable, rebellious, and creative”. My interest in anime, similarly, most likely stems from an appreciation for illustration and art; I was always drawing growing up.

Which brings us to the breakdown of this research project. I needed to set myself some guides as my mind does tend to wander when it comes to research, particularly ethnography.

Experience/Field Site:

  • Cosplay + Anime: wearable pieces?

Data Type

  • Reactions + feelings during experience
  • History and insights on cosplay
  • Physical clothing items and created pieces:
    (HMC) Calcifer earrings, skirt?
    (HMC) Sophie’s hat
    (HMC) Sophie’s dress
    (HMC) Howl’s wings – dress/top
    (Akira) Kaneda’s red jacket
    (SA) No face earrings or patch

Research/ to Speculate

  • Speculating that the fashion and aesthetic of anime often translates into cosplay which is a high level of commitment, is there a middle ground?

Communication & DA Format

  • Instagram account with vlog-style stories and photos to post. Photographs of alike finds, videos of creating processand/or blog posts to accompany.

To kick the project into gear, I began by creating an Instagram account (@cosplaystudies) to detail all of my data in a curated means, and begin to work my way through the topic. I started by looking for inspiration and put my ‘feelers out there’ but trawling through s o   m a n y   hashtags across Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr to see what people were actually cosplaying as. I feel that I mustn’t let my own preferences get in the way of understanding cosplay as a whole, rather than a specific alley of the culture itself. A true testament to the ability of autoethnography, as Rachel E. Dubrofsky & Megan M. Wood (2014) dictate “privilege participation in the form of self-reflexivity and active fashioning of the self” can act as an extension of the data or rather as a constraint. A starting point nonetheless, there’s much more to be investigated. I am most looking forward to getting to what I hope to be a very tactile part of the project.

 

That’s all for now,

Claudia

Dubrofsky R. E., Wood M.M., (2014) Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies Vol. 11, No. 3, September 2014, pp. 284

Ellis C., Bochner A. P. (2006). Analyzing analytic autoethnography: An autopsy. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, pp. 433.

The Overzealous World of Anime Food

insight

As a connoisseur of fine – although technically take away – food I can safely say I have had my fair share of experiencing different foods from a number of varying cultures. All be it the often-watered-down western version of these traditional dishes that are either delivered along a sushi train or in a paper bag in a takeaway container. Never the less I’ve always been open to a wide array of different foods and open to trying new dishes despite my stereotypical Australian tastebuds that would often take a glass of milo over most other drinks or actual food.

DjkUtSOUYAEAY-R

One particular facet of international cuisine that I take a particular interest in is traditional Japanese food. Growing up out west over the blue mountains there were never any Japanese restaurants or small sushi hubs – or really anything other than old Jaza’s bakery and pie shop – for me…

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Simply Surviving Akira (1988)

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Despite the plethora of anime I have had the chance to binge-watch at the peak of my procrastination none have been quite as provocative and genuinely insane as the 1988 cult film Akira. Going into this film blind, knowing close to nothing about the intense plot and complex cast of characters, I can now safely say I had vastly underestimated what this film was about and how chaotic it would become.

In response to this film I was tasked with taking an autoethnographic approach to analysing it, essentially having to critically reflect on my own experience of watching Akira. Autoethnography is a research approach that attempts to describe and critically analyse personal experience in order to understand cultural experience (Ellis, C. et al. 2011). This approach is aimed at looking reflexively upon your personal experience and producing a ‘meaningful, accessible, and evocative’ insight into your…

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Auto-ethnographic methodology and the complexity of Akira (1988)

Ray Nguyen

“Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyse personal experience in order to understand cultural experience” (Ellis, et al, 2011). In simpler words, the way we view a culture is reflected on our own perspective and cultural background.

Come to think of it, I did have a chance to practice autoethnographic methodology last week as I used my personal framework and cultural background to reflect on my understanding about a Japanese film, Gojira. When I watched that film in class, I was searching for the similarity between Japanese pop culture and my own culture and simultaneously analysing those cultural values that I have already been familiar with to understand the meaning of this foreign film, despite the language barrier that existed in the film itself.

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AKIRA: Autoethnography

https://claudialouisemuller.com/2018/08/11/akira-an-autoethnography/ 

https://giphy.com/embed/VcRAN8c8wwOC4

This week in BCM320 we were right on to the next viewing for Digital Asia; ’88 famed anime, Akira. First, bring yourself up to speed on the film that arguably brought Japanese culture to the West; a story that follows the destruction of Neo-Tokyo at the hands of a warfare between teenage motorbike rebels and a group of kids with telekinetic powers. Set in 2019, the parallels between what was predicted from a post-cold-war produced film and how the world looks now peaked my interest. They got some things right when it came to their eerie foresight of hosting the Olympics and the sheer scale of the cityscape that Tokyo boasts nowadays, however, might have been a little off when it came to hovering police cars…

It was a little hard for me to be able to watch the film in entirety, as we were tasked to respond to the film in live time and I found it sometimes meant I missed important parts of the film. To aid this, we watched the watched the English dub version of the two-hour film – controversially as I later found out. Oddly enough, I found I stumbled into the controversy before I was fully aware of its existence. Given that I was meant to be responding to Japanese media and digital culture, I expressed that I almost felt I was cheating by watching the English dub, and that I felt I was already projecting too much of my own culture that tainted how it was originally intended to be consumed;

I was reassured that the task was to interpret the film using the tools from my own cultural framework, and so this blog post was born. I came into this scenario not knowing much about anime or Japanese films at all, apart from my **very extensive** list of animes I had already seen:

    1. Howl’s Moving Castle

 

 

 

 

 

 

I remember seeing Howls Moving Castle for the first time after a friend convinced my begrudging ass to watch it with her, and I remember immediately falling in love with the artistically aesthetic aspects of Every. Damn. Frame. There is something so visually stunning that doesn’t compare to any Hollywood film I have seen, animation or not. I am someone who will watch a film for the second time just to take in the details and the costumes come again, so I understand how I was bewildered with the thought that goes into the likes of Akira and Howl’s Moving Castle. They are visual masterpieces of their time and made me love them all the much more for their uniqueness. These are the kinds of films that make me wish I watched more anime and had a greater depth of desire to actively watch several more.

https://giphy.com/embed/ROUXN6hzDgyf6

Of course, as far as these films stray in artistic variation from Hollywood films, I found myself recognising the likes of similar scenes from Western action films. From a personal standpoint, although the narrative was complex and unlike any another story I had heard, I found myself using films like Fast and the Furious, Transformers, and Avengers to make sense of the film. The latter more so in relation to the likeness to Neo-Tokyo streets a swarm of explosions, shattered glass, and upturned vehicles to depict the mass destruction of the cityscape. I wasn’t alone in this. Watching on as friends live-tweeted their experience of the film, I found the best way to fully understand and interpret it was through our own cultural cues and popular references. Modern-day memes and even references to an earlier viewing of Gojira made jest of the cultural gaps that may have segregated many when watching this film.

The film also had a familiarity that I couldn’t pick until I discovered I had seen it before; not just within Vin Diesel blockbusters, but in fashion, art and music. Re: Kanye Wests’ Stronger and Michael Jackson’s entire wardrobe. I also couldn’t help but wonder how much the product placements would have impacted the production of the brand-heavy film, although that is just the marketer in me analysing. Had I seen this film in a less-analytical context, would I have appreciated its depth and significance? Perhaps not.

Final thoughts on Akira leave me feeling protective, although adopted in fine channels throughout Western culture, I enjoyed the film so much I see myself raising an index finger to Hollywood: DON’T TOUCH THIS ONE HERE, IT’S PERFECT AS IT IS

References:

 

‘A Country Bumkin Confused in the Presence of Culture’

insight

Western culture is a hard thing to escape.

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Growing up the main contributor to my knowledge of other cultures came from the golden chalice of all morning TV programs – Toasted TV.This gem of my past may have fuelled my obsession with Nickelodeon, but it also sparked my interest in cult anime classics such as Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh, all be it the watered down ‘4Kids’ versions of the original anime. Other films such as Empire of the Sun and the Last Samurai also helped to shape my easily impressionable perception of Eastern culture, however, looking back there is a common theme across all of these narrative and that is the looming presence of western culture as many of these shows were still filmed or altered to be presented from a western viewpoint.

This western glazed frame that I viewed most cultures from was also influenced by my…

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