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[BCM 320] Autoethnographic Analysis? Aha!

SQUAAD

One of the most critical components of the autoethnographic method and product is arguably that of the researcher’s self-reflexivity and reflection upon their investigation and information. Indeed, in the words of Ellis et al,“Autoethnographers ask: ‘How useful is the story?’” (Ellis, 2010). As such, the following blog post will be an analysis of my own autoethnographic narrated experience, directed by some of the key tenants of the research methodology posited by Ellis et al in ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’ (2010).

Re-reading my earlier Blog Post, I can see where my upbringing as a white, Anglo-Saxon male has influenced my approach to and rationalisation of, my Digital Artefact and the scope it entails. As an individual educated in a mainstream primary and secondary schooling system, many of my opinions, attitudes and beliefs regarding music, art and culture have been strongly influenced by small-Australian-town norms, my peers and a majority mindset, and…

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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.

State of Play

Note: Due to absence in week one I was requested by my tutor to blog on week two’s screening.

This week in BCM320 Digital Asia the movie screened was ‘State of Play’, released in 2013 and directed by Steven Dhoedt. The ethnographic documentary followed the competitive journeys of both professional and up and coming youth gamers in South Korea who played the popular 1998 computer game, ‘Starcraft’.

The area of Asian cinema or South Korean cinema to be specific, is a new concept to me. I have never really engaged with it before. Coming from an Australian background I have only ever really been exposed to Western media. Growing up with the internet and being a digital native meant that the world of Asian cinema was never really hidden from me or hard to find I just never sought it. It’s not that I do not have an interest in it I just became too comfortable in the concentration of Western media that I forgot there was much more to be discovered outside of it.

Live-tweeting using the class hashtag is encouraged and I think it definitely heightens the overall film experience. It allows fellow classmates to share and view extra information that provides a better understanding of the film with added context, such as the backstory of the game itself and the Korean gaming culture as a whole. Live-tweeting also allows the expansion on subjects discussed within the film, for example, gaming as a possible Olympic sport in the near future. It sets up a friendly and relatable space and online community that the class can use to come together as one to either discuss, educate or simply have a joke among one another in relation to the screening.

In terms of how I make sense of the film, luckily due to my involvement in gaming culture I could partially understand the passion and frustration within the roller-coaster of winning and losing. I think on a personal level as well it is easy to relate to their journeys of hard work the individuals put in to achieve their professional dream. This translates to our own goals we set out to complete in life which isn’t always easy.

Overall I think the film was an interesting take on how big the gaming industry is and its success to the point of providing professional employment with large salaries for those with talent. From my first experience with Asian cinema, I am definitely looking forward to what is next.

The Great Challenge: Group Work!

Hello! For the group auto-ethnographic study, I partnered up with Rose to do a viewing and in-depth look into the Chinese Reality show- The Great Challenge! We divided the different discussion topics between us, and both recorded our own initial reactions to the program via podcast. For this study, I’m looking at the international audiences of the show, and also the production/ how the show was created and formed.

Firstly, I’ll talk about how the show was created.

The Great Challenge, which can also be translated as Infinite Challenge- which is one of the most popular Korean TV shows of all time. Infinite Challenge in Korea holds over 17-18% of all viewership during its weekly timeslot, and the main protagonist of the show has even come to be known as the “nations MC”. The Korean Infinite Challenge was first broadcast in 2005, and has over 545 episodes to date. Due to my personal history with Korean media, I’ve been an avid viewer of this program for a few years- although I was never able to fully immerse into it.

The Great Challenge, is the Chinese version of this show. It’s creation was announced after MBC announced it would be taking legal action against ‘copy-cat’ programs that had been showing up in Chinese media. They announced the plans to take legal action, along with the news that they would be collaborating with one of China’s biggest TV networks CCTV1.

CCTV1 claims the greatest number of international channels in all of China, with an annual 1.2billion viewers. The Great Challenge only increased their viewership- when it rose to become the no.1 highest viewed TV program in China.

Usually, spin-offs have less success or there’s a lack of support from the original cast members and company, however, in this case, CCTV1’s deputy editor-in-chief stated that Infinite Challenge “reaches out to different sectors of the general public and is an excellent show that showcases the different sides of Chinese and Korean culture.” This demonstrates that rather than create a separate program to shove Chinese audiences into a program of their own- the separate program is still intended to be viewed by both cultures, and highlight the amazing cultural aspects of both.

This is also supported by the fact that the original cast of Infinite Challenge have openly supported the Chinese remake- Yoon Jae Suk (the main MC of the show) has often voiced his support and recognition of the program, as well as how well it’s doing in terms of viewership and interaction.

The next segment I was asked to discuss, was the international audiences that viewed this program. Rose and I watched the program via YouTube- which is very international in terms of who can access the content- however most of the comments appear to be in Chinese and the comments that aren’t in Chinese are English speakers asking for there to be more subtitles from now on. The fact that CCTV themselves have uploaded the series onto YouTube, and have taken the time to add subtitles demonstrates that they do in fact know there is an international audience, or at least they are trying to gain one. However, this could also just be a lead on from the international popularity of the Korean program.

Another thing to consider, was brought up in the comments, Chinese people who have immigrated or were born overseas may not know Chinese well enough to understand the language or subtitles of the program- CCTV could be targeting that demographic as well, since someone in the comments was arguing about it (video link). As well as within the program itself, with the Chinese subtitles throughout the program, it seems like communicating the content to such a large audience requires a lot of translating!

Lastly, here is my podcast. It’s not much of a comparison since I was trying to focus on what the program was showing me more than what I could match up with the Korean version (at the time of viewing, I didn’t know it was the official remake).

It was a pleasure to work with Rose, thank you for reading!

Reference list:

Saint☆Oniisan – What Did I Just Watch?

When you’ve been a die-hard anime fan for a while, you come to realise that there is something for everyone. You name it, there is probably an anime about it. For my original digital artefact, I wanted to focus on the depiction of the Chinese Zodiac across mediums. However, when I stumbled upon this GIF while scrolling through Tumblr, I found myself intrigued by ‘Anime Jesus’. Why had I never seen him? Where was he from?

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Saint Oniisan (Tumblr)

After some investigation (A.K.A googling ‘Anime Jesus’), I discovered that the GIF was from a slice of life/comedy manga series called Saint Young Men (Saint Oniisan).

‘Jesus Christ and Gautama Buddha, the founders of Christianity and Buddhism, are living together as roommates in a Tokyo apartment while taking a vacation on Earth. The comedy often involves jokes about Christianity, Buddhism, and all things related, as well as the main characters’ attempts to hide their identities and understand modern society in Japan.’ – MyAnimeList

Why did I decide on this anime? Well, growing up my primary education on religion was through scripture, which was spent as a bludge more than a time to practice Christianity. Religion is often something I would sweep under the rug as ‘complex’ and ‘unnecessary’. As someone who identifies as atheist, I am not tied to any form of religion. However, a common theme I have noticed in many anime, are the references of spiritual manifestations or religious entities. This theme is always something I passed as a spectacle and paid no mind in understanding it’s deeper context. For this experience, I thought to understand how Saint Oniisan touches on the influence of religious beliefs in Modern Japan.  Spending most of the anime discovering if it trivialises the relationship of the two religious worlds of Christianity and Buddhism when they collide.

Scouring the streaming sites, this series was adapted into both a 2 part OVA (Original Video Animation) and a Movie. I decided to watch the Movie, due to being easier to access on online sites such as KissAnime, Gogoanime and Crunchyroll. There were only subbed versions available and as it was later in the night and I had my fingers crossed that I could stay awake for the length of the animation.

Within the first few minutes, I could already notice that Saint Oniisan’s drawing style, especially of the characters, was quite different to what I was familiar with. Think a more proportioned, ‘realistic’ depiction. Despite their ethnic backgrounds being of foreign decent, Buddha and Jesus have predominantly Japanese features. Their ‘foreignness’ is emphasised in other ways during the animation. For example, the scene where Jesus is mistaken for ‘Johnny Depp. I found this scene particularly interesting, as in this reality, Japanese girls were more likely mistake Jesus as a celebrity rather than a religious figure.

Although this is fictional, I believe there is some truth behind the attitude of community members such as the elderly and children towards the prominent religious figures. I couldn’t help but observe their ideas on ‘happiness’, ‘enlightenment’ and ‘revitalisation’. One of the more interesting characters in the anime, was the yakuza. We are introduced to him during the sauna scene, where his Buddha tattoo grabs their attention. Characterised by his criminal behaviour, he parallels Jesus’ historical experiences with his own.

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Yakuza with Buddha Tattoo (Gogoanime)

Modern means of expressing faith are challenged throughout Saint Oniisan. Presented by events, food, places and objects scattered throughout the anime. Buddha and Jesus are continuously seen wearing different shirts which I’m assuming had relevant virtues of their religions printed on them. I wasn’t aware of this until one of the community members commented on it and I was upset that these sayings were written in kanji so I couldn’t read them.

Like its name says, slice of life commonly presents the ‘every day’ experiences of a culture. Buddha and Jesus engage with places such as theme parks and spas in the location of Tachikawa. Contextualising their experiences to a specific Japanese suburb (which I had never heard of) presented it in an almost touristic nature. Despite these new and exciting adventures for the characters on earth, the place itself was not particularly new and exciting for me. The repetitive nature of slice of life was well… boring. Nearing the end of the movie, I found myself checking my phone every so often. Even having to re-watch parts as I was distracted by thoughts of hitting pause and going to bed. The one thing that kept me watching was Jesus and Buddha’s relationship, which I couldn’t help but label a ‘bromance’. Almost feeling borderline sacrilegious, it was hard not to wonder whether or not this was avoidable.

I was surprised how much this text made me think. I’m my next post I will be having a more in-depth look at what stood out as epiphanies during this experience.

South Korean Horror: An Autoethnographic Perspective (Part 2)

In the first part of my autoethnographic research series into South Korean horror, I described my experience of watching the South Korean psychological horror film A Tale of Two Sisters. This post, the second part of the series, will provide some background information on the text and will be analysing my experience of watching the film.

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When conducting some background research into the film, after watching it, I discovered that the film is loose interpretation of a well-known Korean folktale called “Janghwa Hongryeon jeon” (The Story of Janghwa and Hongryeon). In fact, there were already five adaptations of the tale prior to the 2003 version, and that’s excluding the 2009 Hollywood remake “The Uninvited”.

The folk-tale originates from the Joseon-era of Korean history and tells the story of two girls Janghwa and Hongryeon who, after being abused by their wicked step-mother, both perish at the hands of the step-mother and her eldest son. The sisters, as ghostly apparitions, then go on to kill every new mayor of the town, in the hope that someone would eventually discover their step-mother’s true nature. Eventually, thanks to one brave mayor, the sisters’ get their wish and the step-mother and her son are executed. As a result, this puts the sisters’ souls to rest and ends the haunting. The tale is much more complex, of course, but this is the general jist. With this in mind, I wonder how my experience of watching the film would changed, had I known about its source material prior to watching it. 

The aspect that stands out most to me in both the folk-tale and the film, but particularly in the film, is the representation of family. The film is essentially a horror film about domestic life and represents possible fears of a non-nuclear family.  The role that the father plays, in the film, is particularly interesting as he appears to completely passive and non-fussed about the whole situation and seems to be almost isolated from the rest of the family. This interestingly plays against the male-centric Confucian system, where fathers are generally seen as the head of the household and should be respected by every family member. Yet, in the film, it always seems like the step-mother is undermining his authority and that he has very little control over anything.

This experience in autoethnographic research has been much more enlightening than I had anticipated and has proved to be a good stepping stone for my major individual research, which will see me explore something that’s entirely unfamiliar to me: anime. I hope you have enjoyed these last two posts as much as I have enjoyed writing them.

Evaluating my experience: Asian Hip-hop/Rap music

In my auto-ethnographic exploration of the diverse and intriguing Asian hip-hop/rap culture in the blog post; Everything Asia #1: Asian Rap Music I attempted to outline my personal bias, i.e. the lens I was consuming this media from. The ultimate goal was to understand and familiarise myself with this non-dominant media artefact.

“The radical, performance (auto)ethnographer functions as a cultural critic…His [her]…[autoethnography]  becomes diagnosis, not just of him [her] self, but of a phase of history.”(Spender, 1984, p. ix) [Accessed here]

I believe my original blog post achieved my goal through Spender’s process of diagnoses of a phase of history; in this case being the emergence of this [sub]genre of Asian musical culture into the wider consciousness.

However in understanding the need for generalisability and integrity of my writing, in this post I will evaluate the following important aspects of creating an Asian autoethnography;

  • Identifying and addressing the existence of orientalism
  • Dissecting and explaining any East/West comparisons
  • Reiterating any personal bias against or presumptions towards Asian culture

Ellis et. al (2011) place emphasis the eternal struggle of auto ethnography to appear ‘scientific whilst still being artful’. In other words; the author loses interest for the pursuit of the truth or presents an entertaining narrative with little factual basis.

I attempted to walk this line in my blog post by explaining my context in the beginning to set the tone for any possible imbalance in favour of subjective narrative. This combined with my initial skepticism formed a clearer framework to consume my writing and opinions.

As for East vs West, this is absolutely the most difficult part of this topic as the roots of Hip-Hop/Rap are embedded deeply in African-American culture since its conception in the 1980’s. An industry still heavily dominated by this demographic to examine rap as a cultural output is to examine ‘black’ culture. I made efforts to sidestep this tempting comparison by discussing the influence of U.S. imperialism and the effect it has had on all cultures particularly Asian, and not pitching modern U.S. rappers vs Asian rappers. Instead of imposing my perspective of the artists included, I simply embedded curated links for the audience to decide and explore. I did however, slip up and compared the flow of Rich Chigga’s “Glow like dat” to Cleveland rapper; Kid Cudi, an epiphany which I would welcome genuine disagreement on. Instead of allowing the East vs West comparisons to alienate listeners, I took the angle which asserts that many Asian rappers will struggle to break western markets into dominant media channels unless they alter their sound towards the current norm.

So what about orientalism?

Edward Said  understood the concept of orientalism to be that ‘Middle Eastern and Asian cultures are undeveloped and static societies compared to the west. Implicit in this fabrication, writes Said, is the idea that Western society is developed, rational, flexible, and superior.’

Thus, to have the slightest sense of orientalism in one’s writing, involves the comparison of the east to a culturally-imperialist west. Although there is passing comment made in the initial blog it is hard to see even a faint sense of cultural inferiority/superiority.

I am glad I chose to research and represent this topic in my blog as I have now been listening to more and more of this music and am beginning to realise just how easily this cultural output transcends language barriers, i am hooked on the artistic fusion of many of the artists introduced to me by the 88rising record label.

**All references are in the form of hyperlinks**

 

Corpse Party Final blog

The Pink Protagonist Writes

The idea for doing a lets play video as part of my own autoethnographic research seemed like a good idea at the time, however that is exactly what I lacked. Time.  And these games really do require time to get into to fully appreciate and enjoy them.

The game itself is actually not that bad. I think, given the chance, I would very much like to go back and try it again. But this time without the pressure to keep a video to a reasonable timeframe. This is a heavily story based game, and you’re meant to take in a lot of information and follow a fair few clues so you can get the ultimate ending. I adored the use of 2-bit animation, and the fact this was coupled with anime cartoons. It really was a well-made game and I can see why it has done so well.

I was definitely…

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South Korean Horror- An Autoethnographic perspective (Part One)

If you read my last blog post about autoethnography, you’ll be aware that I had the intention of using J-Horror as the topic for my autoethnographic research. However, as I was browsing the research done by previous Digital Asia students, I noticed that J-Horror had been covered extensively, which led me to consider other possible topics. Although I have been exposed to South Korean horror,  through films such as the excellent Train to Busan (dir. Sang-ho Yeun, 2016) and The Wailing (dir. Hong-jin Na, 2016), I am much less knowledgable on South Korean horror than I am on J-Horror, which therefore influenced me into changing research topics. So, in forming this autoethnographic research, I decided to watch the psychological horror film A Tale of Two Sisters (dir. Jee-woon Kim, 2003). My autoethnographic response to the film will be split in two parts:

This week’s post will describe, in detail, my personal experience when watching the film. Next week’s post will be an analysis of my experience and provide some background information on the film. 

How I felt watching the film:

Although I did eventually manage to actually settle properly and concentrate on the film, I initially spent a large amount of time playing ‘Football Manager’ on my phone and pausing the film every 5 minutes for various reasons (mostly internet surfing). Furthermore, since I was watching the film through SBS On Demand, I had to deal with several ad breaks, which managed to break the flow of the film (although I will concede that since the streaming service is free, advertising is necessary for it to keep running).

The first thing to say about my experience watching this film is that I found it to be incredibly scary, both viscerally and psychologically. In fact, there were a few times where I had to distract myself with games on my phone, just to help cope with the film’s intensity.

A Tale of Two Sisters

In terms of the visceral horror, which has more to do with the technical aspects, I found the sound design to be particularly frightening. The creaking of the wooden doors and the scratching of the walls proved to be incredibly effective in drawing a physical reaction from me. I’ll admit, I jumped a few times, and while I usually hate that tactic, the film used it in a clever and restrained way. The techniques used reminded me enormously of those used in J-Horror films such as Ringu (1998), which deal much more with supernatural horror, as opposed to the psychological.

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The psychological aspect of the film, however, was far scarier and dealt with ideas that aren’t often addressed in Western cinema. The main aspect, which I refer to, is the fear of non-nuclear family. A large part of the plot revolves around the two titular sisters’ deeply unstable relationship with their step-mother. I cannot recall the last time I saw a film which explored non-nuclear family life in such a manner. Personally, I found myself relating with the two sisters, as the step-mother was indeed terrifying. Every look that the step-mother gave, particularly to the sisters, was sinister and nothing she did indicated a genuine attempt to form a bond with them. I often found myself shocked at the step-mother’s actions and even more so at the father’s reluctance to react on said actions. It’s only in the film’s final revelations, that I then understood the what I had seen (more on that next week). However, I was undeniably shaken by the film’s unique exploration of family relationships through a horror-sensibility.

 

Autoethnography and Me

“…Scholars began recognizing that different kinds of people possess different assumptions about the world” (Ellis et al, 2011).
I believe that this is, at it’s core, what autoethnography aims to reveal.

When I first heard the word autoethnography I was excited. I’m a fan of etymology (the study of words and their roots) and as such I like to take apart words. I know auto refers to ones self or the ability to do things on their own, such as in autobiography and automobile. I also knew that ethnos refers to nations of groups of people, and that the –ography suffix is about the study of such things. So putting that together, autoethnography is about the study of the self, combined with/in the context of a group of people, or something like that.

Chris told us that it’s also a portmanteau of autobiography and ethnography, meaning we’ll be looking heavily at ourselves and using qualitative data to do our research. I find this particularly interesting as I’ve always been taught that “facts don’t care about your feelings”. While I like that phrase, I’m not sure I’ve ever fully believed it, as it’s pretty noticeable in the world that the world is full of assumptions and “rules” based upon how people react to certain elements.

I believe that autoethnography is about finding that personal reaction to another culture. It’s about studying the culture, not from afar with a telescope, or up close under a microscope, but by using your own eyes to really feel the culture.
I think autoethnographic research is going to be a welcome breathe of fresh air for me. Having hated Math in high school because it was too “there is only one answer”, yet also not enjoyed English because I had to pander to how the teacher wanted me to write, I think I’m going to enjoy expressing my own views and experiences, regardless of what is “right” or “wrong”.