Ellis

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].

 

 

 

 

Ellis, Epiphanies and Photography

Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyse (graphy) personal experience (auto) in order to understand cultural experience (ethno),” – Ellis, Adams and Bocher 2011.

In my previous post, with the benefits of hindsight, I narrated a past cultural experience. This was the beginning of an autoethnographic story. The analysis of both the experience and how I communicate my experience reveals my cultural framework. Once I recognise such frameworks and the related points of epiphanies,  will I be able to see how my cultural framework structures my project investigation.

I begin my previous post sharing a personal feeling. When reading back on my post, I can remember being hesitant in sharing this information. I know that it is normal to feel conscious about sharing feeling on a public space, but the fact that I did not shy away from the core of my project work shows that, when it matters, I am able to use language to openly communicate. The nature of an autoethnographic narrative encourages this emotive storytelling. It was interesting to do this in an academic context where we are usually not encouraged to share our feelings and personal bias.

I then in my previous post discuss how I regard travel. It is obvious from the beginning that I am using travel as both a way to recharge my personal batteries and also as an escape. I mention my passion for travel and that I value my privilege as a white person. This idea of being me describing myself as a ‘white person’ was interesting to read. I am a very brown female with curly black hair, raised in a very brown family. And in my day to day life in Australia I pride myself on being vocal about racism in Australia as I do often notice the differences (both good and not so good) of being a person of colour in a very white costal town. Here I realise that many aspects of my life, for example my medical care and travel access are defined by the constructs of my life as an Australian, not as a migrant in a white country.

I narrate that the first structured activity I do when arriving in a country was a visit to a historical site. Reading my previous post I reflect to recognise I was raised with the idea that to understand, respect and enjoy a culture, I must learn about their history, from their perspective, in their land. This is something that I have always done as a solo traveller, but did not previously recognise it was something that stemmed from familial travel routines.

I have always valued art. I grew up in a house of classical Indian music, foreign films, so much food from different parts of the world and different languages of literature. As a child there were many reasons I disliked travel with my parents – we never went to theme parks or stayed in luxury hotels,, Instead we were focused on history, art and food. I moved out of home at 17 and thought that I had left my parents travel habits behind (I do love rollercoasters and the very occasional night in a fancy hotel), but they had taught me so much about how to travel.

This cultural framework, being primarily my life as a first generation migrant and my rooted familial values, is what has structured my project. My access to travel and style of travel lead me to Cambodia and the S21 Museum. It was here that I was exposed to the nature of photography in Cambodia.

While epiphanies are self-claimed phenomena in which one person may consider an experience transformative while another may not, these epiphanies reveal ways a person could negotiate “intense situations,” – Ellis, Adams and Bocher 2011.

Autoethnography identifies these epiphanies as points of understanding. To put simply, it is only when something stirs or changes that we can recognise a shift. When reading the beginning of my narrative, it is clear that I had one of these epiphanies pushing me to seek something. It was an ‘intense situation’ that demanded reflection and action. At the time, my shift was to travel. In Cambodia I had epiphanies about how strong humanity can be. And about how humanity shares their emotional experience. It is this that inspired me to also use photography as a way to communicate loss.

…writing personal stories can be therapeutic for authors as we write to make sense of ourselves and our experiences,” – Ellis, Adams and Bocher 2011.

Writing and reading the previous post does feel therapeutic. Using photography as therapy is an extension of this autoethnographic expression as a form of therapy.

This TedxTalk by Bryce Evans provides an investing presentation on photography therapy and how it can help a person navigate through their mental health. Bryce Evans says in this video that – “Everyone knows how to take a photo…photos allow you to connect instantly on an uncurious level, without the stigma to of it (‘it’ being mental health),”. HIN both my previous post and the paragraph above, it is clear that I value maintaining a healthy mental health and believe creative outlets can help me achieve this.

My values framed by my family, my experiences as a migrant, unfortunate ‘intense situations’ in life, my love of photography and focus on mental health has evidently structured my DIGC330 final project.

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

Autoethnography in social justice

Research through storytelling – personal experiences, histories, and stories combine with thoughtful collection and research methodology in autoethnography.

Autoethnography is an approach to researching cultures that focuses on personal experience to explore, illustrate, and research cultural phenomena or artifacts. It engages the personal experiences of the researcher and the personal thoughts and experiences of cultural member to provide a human and intimate view of culture, according to Ellis et al (2011).

Autoethnography: An Overview (Ellis et al 2011) is an introduction to help us understand what autoethnography is, why it’s used, and how to do it usefully and respectfully. Frankly, I’m still a little confused – part art, part research, part social science, and wholly difficult for me to visualise at the start of this venture.

As a feminist and self-described liberal, for me, this text brought to mind the writings of prominent social justice activists, particularly as they attempt to discuss issues like disability, race relations, or gender inequality.

When the authors of Autoethnography: An Overview talk about how authors use “personal and interpersonal experience” and stories to discern patterns in cultures and “help facilitate understanding of a culture for insiders and outsiders,” my mind goes to the fantastic writings that have helped me understand the social issues I care about through the eyes of those experiencing them. Similarly, when trying to discuss feminism with my small-country-town, blue-collar-tradie boyfriend, I’ve learned the best way to get him to understand the reality of the problems facing women is to tell him what I’ve been through.

Autoethnography, as I understand it right now (and this may change as I go along) seeks to make research accessible and help readers empathize by humanising the culture, experience, or issue it’s discussing.

Ellis et al also talk about acknowledging your own bias and experience as a researcher, and recognising how it colours your research, rather than pretending to be totally impartial, cold, and scientific. For example, as a feminist, I will constantly ask “where are the women?” My personality and my history affect the questions I ask and the things that excite me when I do research – Autoethnography says that this is not just OK, but it can be useful.

While I anticipate many more questions and redefinitions of this style of research, Autoethnography has helped me draw a parallel between an academic field and a style of writing that has sparked outrage over so many social issues and causes and motivated me personally.

 

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

Autoethnography – Why it’s a good thing

Let’s start with the definition that will probably be included in every blog post this week.

“Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyze (graphy) personal experience (auto) in order to understand cultural experience (ethno)” (ELLIS, 2004; HOLMAN JONES, 2005).

In my own words, Autoethnography is the implementation of personal experiences and culture into the study and writing of things to help understand the researchers own personal context and the effects it will have on their interpretation of the material being studied.

I’m pretty sure I may have made it sound more complicated (haha) but this is the way that makes sense in my head. The phrasing of this is due to my personal history of extension history and research- which was all about using the information you’re given to present an argument based on your own ideas. Which I think is definitely similar to autoethnography.

After a quick flick through the Wikipedia page, it makes sense that if we want to study social aspects further, then we must look towards our own views and background to make sense of it, as well as to show new and improved concepts on past studies.

Somethings have already stood out to me as being autoethnographic-ish in this subject. Firstly, in week one with our study of Godzilla- I realised that due to my personal background, I had a deeper understanding of the Japanese culture and the importance of the signage and language format used throughout the film. I then used this in the blog post for that week to explain to other in the class, what it was in my personal context that allowed me to notice these details.

I think this is beneficial when it comes to research and the future of studying topics across cultures. It enables a better understanding of the culture being studied and also of how your own personal context can influence how you see things and interpret what you’re seeing. While more traditional research practices ask you to remain impartial and not choose sides- this is impossible and often leads you to read research papers without knowing fully the context of the writer of the work.

When it comes to the interpretation of film and media consumption- it’s beneficial and important to know the biographical details of both those who created the work and also those who are researching and passing on their opinion.

I hope this made sense, and I didn’t end up rambling too much!

autoethnography

Sources:

Now That I’ve Got Your Attention…

As Eric Cohen noted in his piece ‘Flooded: An Auto-Ethnography of the 2011 Bangkok  Flood‘ auto-ethnography  is essentially a focus on the researcher and ‘his/ her position and involvement in the field’, whichever field that might be. My first attempt at this method involved the viewing of Gojira (1954), which I initially felt was an inherently flawed exercise due to my having already seen the film multiple times. I persisted nonetheless, and tried to distance myself from it and focus on details I hadn’t noticed before, tiny things like Japanese light-switches always being flicked up to activate and not down.

This first post was an attempt to distance myself from my previous experience with the film in order to create a fresher source of observations to analyse in the future (see: now). Yet at the same time, I didn’t want to appear totally clueless because that would be insincere so I instead filtered my remarks through a mental screen that asked ‘have I ever made this point?’ or just to play the Devil’s Advocate. For example, I noted that many shots are actually edited in a fast manner whereas others are as expected: slow and deliberate. As a self appointed guardian of Gojira’s reputation I staunchly rebuked the notion that the suit ‘looks fake’. Indeed, Godzilla buff James Rolfe, I argued, states that CG in the 2014 movie Godzilla is faker.

This is my ‘pattern of cultural experience’, as Ellis et al proposes. My previous experience with the film in an educational capacity,while holding a continued personal interest in afterwards, led me to produce observations that were at odds with those of a first viewing. As such, I tweeted obscure gifs of things like particularly bizarre shots from a later film, as well as one of Godzilla water-skiing in a Snicker’s ad. Moreover, as an admittedly easily amused young man, these goofy, irreverent episodes juxtaposed against the literal and metaphorical destruction of culture in Gojira proper amuses me in a ‘how far he’s come’ kind of way.

As an exercise, the structure of auto-ethnography as a tool to write about a particular experience and the impact of it is uniquely positioned to give the reader a deeper understanding of the writer’s thoughts and a invaluable glimpse into their perspective. For myself, the process of recording my initial thoughts and now revisiting them with a broader understanding of what auto-ethnography is has helped me better understand why I recorded what I did at the time and what motivated me to do so.

It is clear now, for example, that my remark of ‘it didn’t appear to be your average soulless ‘summer blockbuster’ film’ was preempted by my understanding of the film as a cultural touchstone that does mean more to people than would initially be believed. I wasn’t aware how much my previous viewing and studying would affect these kinds of statements, but returning to them it is clearly influenced by repeated viewing and not an merely innocuous off-cuff remark.

That concludes my auto-ethnographic deconstruction of my earlier, but not earliest, ruminations on Gojira (1954). Refreshments are at the back.

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