week 4

The Art of Autoethnography: Part II


Part II- Autoethnography: A Further Reflection

In my last post I made a number of observations in regard to the 1954 Japanese film Godzilla/Gojira. My main observation that I had was that I did not find myself engrossed in the film given the educational setting. In this blog post some of the other observations made will be looked at further in an auto ethnographic context.

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Two observations made during the course of the film related to the display or lack of display made by the characters.

Constant shadows make it hard to see the emotions displayed of the characters faces.

Little emotion is shown by the characters when announcing the deaths of the soldiers. They are stone cold statues.

These observations are made from the view point of a 21 year Australian woman. Australians tend to be relatively open with their emotions and this is expressed in western cinema. Western actors display emotions through their body language and their facial expressions. The way that I interpret the displays of emotion in this film is very different to the way that a Japanese person interprets its.

‘Cultural contexts also act as cues when people are trying to interpret facial expressions. This means that different cultures may interpret the same social context in very different ways’ (Boundless Psychology, 2016)

This understanding of culture changes the way that I reflect upon my auto ethnographic research. Further literature research puts these observations into context. Not only does culture impact the way that we display emotion but it also impacts the way that we perceive and interpret emotion too. With this understanding, cultural nuances must be looked at. An article posted on the Association for Psychological Science titled Perception of Emotion Is Cultural-Specific (2010) describes Japanese displays of emotion. Emotion is more evident through tone of voice than through facial expressions in Japanese cultural.

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What this reflection makes clear is the process of autoethnography. Ellis et. al. (2011) made clear in their text Autoethnography: An Overview is the importance of the elements of methodological tools, literature research and personal experience. It is now clear to me the importance of that literature research in informing your personal experience, without this understanding, the research lacks substance and perspective.

Reference List

Boundless.com. (2016). [online] Available at: https://www.boundless.com/psychology/textbooks/boundless-psychology-textbook/emotion-13/influence-of-culture-on-emotion-411/influence-of-culture-on-emotion-263-12798/ [Accessed 1 Sep. 2016].

Ellis, C., Adams, T. and Bochner, A. (2011). 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 30 Jul. 2016].

Psychologicalscience.org. (2016). Perception of Emotion Is Culture-Specific – Association for Psychological Science. [online] Available at: http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/releases/perception-of-emotion-is-culture-specific.html [Accessed 1 Sep. 2016].

A Contextualised Note To Self – Who Said Professional Gamers Should Get A “Real” Job?

In my blog post from a few weeks ago, I introduced the concept and method of auto-ethnography and recorded my first encounter with the documentary State of Play (2013). This post will take my autoethnographic account one step further in interpreting and analysing my initial thoughts, assumptions and reactions to decipher their wider social and cultural meanings.

Autoethnography is based on the idea of experiencing “epiphanies” which are self-claimed liminal moments of clarity and emotional intensity perceived to have significantly impacted the trajectory of a person’s life (Ellis et al. 2011, p.2). When researchers conduct autoethnography, they retrospectively attempt to contextualise and make sense of these epiphanies by engaging in a critical dialogue with culture, history and social structure (Denzin 2016, p.131).

Epiphanies Epiphanies

In my first viewing of State of Play, I was surprised to discover that video gaming is an official profession in South Korea. This was an…

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In Retrospect: Autoethnography & State of Play

It was only a few weeks ago that I attempted to expand my horizons and experience Korean gaming culture with a set of fresh eyes. This autoethnographic experience was enlightening, and brought my attention to the fact that I was ultimately an outsider when it came to eSports, gaming and Lee Jae Dong. Despite this, here I am, trying to make sense of my initial assumptions and interpretations of my State of Play experience (which you can read about here).

As aforementioned, autoethnography as a methodology aims to “facilitate the understanding of a culture for insiders and outsiders”, drawing on “subjectivity, emotionality and the researcher’s influence on research” (Ellis, Adams and Bochner). Reflecting on one’s experience of a cultural phenomenon can be insightful and explorative. It not only highlights “dominant narratives” and “ways of thinking” about culture but seeks to understand such experiences on a larger cultural scale (Warren, 2009).  In my first auto ethnographic account of State of Play, I made several cultural assumptions and addressed ‘dominant narratives’ I felt were essential in the documentary. Re-examining my initial interpretation, and by conducting a little more research, I have once again become a more culturally aware individual. Read on, and you can be too.

After watching State of Play, I was admittedly astonished that gamers in Korea had such celebrity status and were afforded with privileges similar to those of professional sports players. Little did I know that gamers around the world, — not just in Korea, — earn millions when they put their skills to the test. “DoTA has actually gone on to host the largest tournament prize pool, with nearly $11 million for their 2014 International. That’s a larger prize pool than the Masters Golf Tournament” (Aaron, 2015). The above graph highlights this. Furthermore, gaming tournaments attract global sponsors and intrigue audiences in the millions — eSports are now broadcast on networks like ESPN, making them accessible to all. Gamers make similar commitments and moreover share in the sacrifices that other professional sports players make to create a career. By reducing these individuals to “just gamers” in my first experience I failed to understand the deeper meaning behind gaming culture.

After scrolling through more ‘research’, I became acutely aware that whilst there were no females battling for the tournament prize pool in State of Play, female gamers do exist. “According to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), 44% of all gamers in the U.S. today are female” (Gaudiosi, 2015). Perhaps most notably, “one of the great things about eSports is it’s one arena where there is no difference between men and women; they’re both equal in the game” (Gaudiosi, 2015). Just because the representation of women in State of Play was skewed, that doesn’t mean that women are missing from the global gaming ‘narrative’. Another cultural assumption bites the dust.

Autoethnography requires one to be self-reflexive and open in order to understand a cultural experience. By drawing on additional information from scholarly sources, media articles and social commentary my experience and understanding of Korean gaming culture has reached a new high. Adding layers of information onto my autoethnographic account of State of Play has shifted my perspective on eSports and the Korean gaming phenomenon dramatically.


Aaron, J., 2015, ‘The Controversial Dichotomy Between Sports and eSports’, The Huffington Post, Article, 19 April, viewed 29 August 2016

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P., 2011, ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1.

Gaudiosi, J., 2015, ‘This Company Wants More Women in eSports’, Fortune, Article, 17 November, viewed 29 August 2016

Warren, J.T., 2009, ‘Autoethnography’ in Encyclopaedia of Communication Theory, SAGE Publications, p.68-69.

State of Religion

After initially experiencing State of Play and observing it with autoethnographic research in mind, there were several processes, encounters and internal thoughts I experienced which I will analyses through self-reflective investigation. I hope to explore certain epiphanies and important moments within the text and in doing so, will hope to gain and convey a deeper understanding of the cultural nuances within the Korean e-sports industry.

As we begun the viewing of State of Play in class, the #Digc330 twitter feed sprang to life. This was an extremely interesting experience. Everyone contributing to the feed was simultaneously watching the documentary and thus commenting on the experience itself in live time. However, whilst this was all simultaneous, the ideas and issues that were being brought up all explored different aspects of the film.




The above tweets are just a few I pulled from the #digc330 feed to portray the variations in issues being discussed. This process of autoehtnography helps to explain a couple of things. Firstly, autoethnography and the research conducted by the individual will vary and depend on the individuals cultural back ground. Therefore within autoethnography, there is no “right” or “wrong” thing to be looking at, rather the individual draws from their own personal experiences and reflects on this in the hope of forming a greater understanding of the culture they have experienced. Yet viewing State of Play alongside a live twitter feed undoubtedly affected my understanding of the documentary and Korean e-sport culture, more so then if I had simply viewed the film alone. Therefore, autoethnography is more than just personal self-reflection, it also allows for the reflection of a group of experiences and observations.

As I already had some basic knowledge and exposure to competitive Korean e-sports previous to my initial State of Play viewing, I found myself actively searching for unfamiliar aspects within the film. Where I understood that the money, stadiums, huge fan bases, and team houses where a common part of e-sports, I was intrigued by the involvement of the family. By drawing on my personal experience I was able to relate to certain aspects of the Korean culture, while also noticing other aspects that I haven’t personally experienced before.

Taking note of the historical and spiritual/religious culture that came from the parents in State of Play, I was intrigued and wondered “Is this emphasis on religion part of the overall Korean culture, or is it simply a result of Jae-dongs culture?”

Looking at this paper, I am almost convinced that the emphasis towards spirituality and religion in Jae-dongs family, is not repeated throughout the entirety of South Korean families. Of the secondary school children surveyed in the “Spiritual State of the World’s Children, Executive Summary report for south Korean” 58% stated they have no religious affiliation and only 16% report weekly or daily prayer. These statistics suggest many families are much less involved with religion and spirituality when compared to what we see in State of Play. This is interesting as I have come to realise that State of Play is conveying quite an individual, unique story about an elite pro-gamer. This story isn’t what every pro-gamer has experienced, rather it is Jae-dong’s personal endeavour. In other words, we experience Jae-dongs journey through the cultures immediately surrounding him.



GOJIRA Revisited: the Impact of WWII and the changing role of Japanese Women

One of the main assumptions I made in relation to Ishiro Honda’s 1954 film, Gojira that I researched was in relation to the oxygen destroyer and Godzilla himself being metaphorical concepts related to nuclear warfare. As Umphrey (2009) highlights, “Gojira is a not just a monster laying waste to a city, but a commentary on environmental and nuclear politics.” This is an important concept considering that World War II had only just recently ended prior to the release of Gojira.

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Miniature sets were used in Gojira

Wilson (2013) outlines that in the 1950s, Second World War films were very popular. Such films often relied upon either original footage from US sources or specially built models and miniatures as was seen in Gojira. It is also interesting to note that Ishiro Honda directed other war related films prior to Gojira such as ‘Taiheiyo no washi’, which translates to Eagle of the Pacific and ‘Saraba Rabauru’ (Farewall Rabaul). Wilson further outlines that the popularity of war films in Japan were due to the nostalgia inflicted in viewers which provided great cash flow and commercial gain for the films. Interestingly though, war films during this time seemed to appeal to men more so than women (Wilson, 2013), so perhaps this explains Honda’s decision to incorporate a love triangle in Gojira in the hope to attract the female Japanese population.

godzilla and director

Ishiro Honda’s films around the 1950s were heavily influenced by the nuclear warfare issues of World War II

Godjira also represents the inconceivable destructiveness of the new atomic age (Brougher, 2013). Similarly also does the oxygen destroyer. Hence my assumption that Dr. Serizawa’s hesitation was due to the terrible implications that could have been far reaching if his creation was found to be in the hands of the wrong person. It was essentially a metaphor for power and nuclear war. Further to this, Gojira represents the destruction of Japan caused by the awakening of the American “monster’ of war and nuclear weapons during World War II. Hence the movie is trying to outline that nuclear war cannot be ended or solved by further experimental and atomic bomb material (the oxygen destroyer). However in the end Dr. Serizawa has to use the oxygen destroyer to help Japan, which ultimately results in his death to prevent the wrongful use of his creation.

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The Love Triangle

Lastly, as Shapiro (2002) highlights, Emiko struggles with the interest of two rival men chasing her. There was great emphasis during the 1950s on the importance of family, often with arranged marriages still taking place (Friedman, 1992). However the evolving role of women is most apparent in Emiko’s attitudes toward marriage and the family system. Multiple sources that I visited suggested that Emiko was actually engaged to Dr. Serizawa, until she broke off her engagement with him when she went to visit him at his lab, in order to be with Hideto Ogata. Research has allowed me to understand that the role of the Japanese woman was changing around the 1950s towards giving women a voice whereas previously they were perceived as the subservient gender.

Following my research, I have come to really appreciate the influence World War II had on the film as well as the depicted changing roles of women around that time. I now understand that the movie is an important part of Japanese history, rather than simply a confusing movie about a giant looking dinosaur and a highly emotional woman in a love triangle.


  • Brougher, K 2013, ‘Art and Nuclear Culture’, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, vol. 69, no. 6, pp. 11-18.
  • Friedman, S 1992, Women In Japanese Society: Their Changing Roles, viewed 19 August 2016 <http://www2.gol.com/users/friedman/writings/p1.html>.
  • Shapiro, J 2002, ‘1945 to 2001: Japan’s atomic bomb cinema’, in J Shapiro (ed.), Atomic Bomb Cinema: The Apocalyptic Imagination on Film, Routledge, New York, pp. 283.
  • Wilson, S 2013, ‘Film and Solider: Japanese War Movies in the 1950s’, Journal of Contemporary History, vol. 48, no. 3, pp. 537-555.
  • Umphrey, O 2009, ‘From Screen to Page: Japanese Film AS a Historic Document’, PhD thesis, Boise State University.

State of Play- The tool of tourism

As mentioned in week 2 of blogging, Autoethnography is a self reflective documentation of experiencing a culture (in this case) other than your own in order to understand that culture in your own individual way. This is done with an honest opinion while drawing on elements from the culture and narrating them. Some even describe it as analysing epiphanies or a ‘stream of consciousness.’

Analysing the documentary, state of play ,as discussed in blog post two, I will focus on three specific concepts that I experienced during my viewing of this South Korean documentary.

Korean food, was not in short supply during this documentary, with a lot of the central celebrations surrounded by food and family. This is interesting to view however after I read that during the beginning of 1995, there was a crisis in food shortages all around North Korea. This could describe the feeling of food worship, as well as the idea of using it as a celebration when the gamers came home. A blog post by Nick Rose who experienced the food in South Korea stated ‘I think they believe that people will spread the word that North Korea is a prosperous society, where people are happy.’ With this being said, small samples of food are often served, so people can enjoy an array of dishes. The portrayal of the food within this documentary, could be used as a marketing tool, to sell South Korea to the viewers.

The film was very confusing for me due to never even hearing of E-sports culture before, that’s why when characters started to compare the culture of E-sports with soccer, I understood the basic concepts such as, winning, losing, rivalry and patience. This created a universal understanding, reaching out to those in different cultures. There’s even a specific website that can help you compare sports you like, so you can pick an e-sport game that best reflects the sport you are familiar with. Here is an example of a Autoethnographic experience regarding Korean music through a American experience. The way E-sport was portrayed during the film felt as though South Korean culture as a whole was very welcoming, drawing on westernised elements, in order to make every culture feel welcomed and accepted even in a culture that is extremely traditional. Again could this be another tourism concept?

The coherent universal story of father and son relationships, as well as most relationships within the film, seemed to be constructed in a westernised way. It was very easy to follow along due to the multi-layered elements which were easily relatable. I mean, I think every teenager has been asked by their dad ‘what are you doing with your life?’, as well as preparing you for failure in the nicest way possible. I took to google to understand the Korean Family dynamics, and was quite surprised. I think what effected me the most was I thought parents were supposed to be clingy and want to know what you are up to, similar to the Korean dynamics, but I based this on my family interactions and the way I was brought up rather than a culture as a whole which may experience family differently.

Fair isn’t fair

So this post will be a little bit different to my others ones simple because of I will be discussing something I am already somewhat familiar with thanks to growing up with a Filipino mother. My first introduction to skin whitening lotions occurred when I was 9 years old and standing in a lotion aisle at a supermarket in Manila. I was dumbfounded… It was one entire aisle dedicated to lotion, most of which had skin whitening properties. I couldn’t quite wrap my head around how this was such a popular and commonplace product. After wandering around shopping malls and getting stared at ad complemented by almost everyone because I had fair skin for a Filipino, and then watching television and realizing that half of the celebrities were also half Filipino and half white like me, it became apparent that being white and pale had been fetishized within the Philippines.



While exploring these Nivea commercials on YouTube it seems clear that this is not just some fad in the Philippines but a cultural aspect across numerous Asian countries including India, South Korea and Pakistan. And it’s not just lotion either, the continent of Asia apparently spends a collective $18 billion a year on skin whitening products including lotions, pills, lasers, creams and surgeries for both men and women. Apparently nearly 40 percent of women in Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines used skin whitening and lightening products. It’s safe to say that these commercials are extremely commonplace in Asian media.


My first impression of these skin whitening lotion commercials is that Filipinos and Indians are clearly more comfortable with trying to alter their appearances and secondly I think that it is a little bit racist and unsafe. Additionally I get the impression that there are a lot of fair famous people like the celebrities featured in the commercials. However, looking further into the cultural contexts of these commercials it appears that it is more about class than anything else. If you are fair then people assume you are rich and stay inside all day, but if you are darker (regardless of genetics) it is assumed that you are poor and work in fields all day.

It is argued to have historical origins during the Han period where it was ideal for high class women to be almost stark white. Some historians also attribute this trend to Western influence especially after World War II as some may have seen Americans as the ‘winners’ and you know… everyone wants to be a winner. Some countries like China take it a whole step further, women go swimming in full clothing, and walk everywhere with umbrellas or giants hats to protect them from the sun.


I find it extremely intriguing how some of these Nivea commercials accurately represent these standards and how in depth they are in various Asian cultures such as that of the Philippines or India. Below is a independent documentary about skin whitening in India and how the ideals are strong enough for grounds of discrimination.



Cute… porn?

Before I start today’s post I want to add a (late) disclaimer on the term hentai and my usage of it. In Japan hentai can refer to sexually explicit manga or anime, but it denotes that this material is of an unusual, perverse or extreme nature.  The usage of the word hentai to signify the entire genre of what the Japanese call ero (erotic) manga, not just the really weird stuff, is a Western appropriation of the word and that’s how it’s being used in this blog. For more info on terminology and some interesting history, see here.

This week’s topic, peripheral media, was troubling me a bit because from what I’ve discovered about hentai so far it is itself on the periphery of anime.  Last week when trying to find out whether there were any celebrities or famous figures in the hentai world it became clear that hentai exists primarily on the internet and it was difficult to pin down any ‘major players’ so to speak. 

I delved a little deeper though, and discovered ecchi, a word adopted by fans and consumers of Japanese media to denote a sub-genre within adult anime. Ecchi as an adjective can mean ‘naughty’, or as a verb mean ‘to have sex’, and when applied to anime refers to content that is not sexually explicit. It is the softcore porn of hentai and these productions hint at sex as opposed to depicting it. 

Many ecchi fans use tumblr to share and view content, for example Cute Ecchi: “Ecchi and cute anime girls. No nipples and/or genitals”. It seems to me that ecchi is a response to the grossly explicit hentai out there, which frequently portrays scenes where girls are being debased and exploited. Women (or rather I should say girls as most of the subjects don’t look a whole like like women) are still the focus of ecchi, but the images are a little bit more palatable, the misogyny is not as heavy, and the viewer can use their imagination a little, which is rendered unneccessary for really graphic hentai videos.

While one article says that the “fantasy world of demons, octopus, and other sexual hijinks that are impossible to perform” is part of the appeal of hentai, I’m relieved that there is an off-shoot of this phenomenon that is comparatively conservative. Call me a prude, but some of the hentai I’ve seen seems unhealthy and potentially damaging. Just as real life porn can leave people with unrealistic expectations about sex, the way women are depicted in hentai makes the feminist in me pretty damn angry because of the potential it has to affect viewers’ psychology.  Seeing fans sharing ’nicer’, tamer content is a good indication that many others also can’t relate to hentai’s hardcore characteristics. 


Me? Perverted? I only imagine beautiful things… 


English subtitles for Japanese Ghosts

While searching for Japanese ghost videos on YouTube I came across the above show. It seems to be a sort of reality TV show where they get people to watch a series of viral ghost videos and get their reactions. I’m unsure of the name of the show or of its popularity, but it’s existence and over 2 million YouTube views give some evidence to the pervasiveness of the horror genre in Japanese popular culture. 

The Ghost videos are all edited or faked, some significantly better than others, but still give off a creepy vibe followed by a good jump scare. Once the clip has played the show plays an instant replay of the jump scare but still with live footage of the people watching, seeing their horror intensify as they are forced to watch the scare again. 

After watching about 15 minutes of the show and understanding none of the Japanese being spoken I was a bit lost on the purpose or context of the show. I trawled the comments for some sort of insight and saw one user mention Closed Captions. I then realised that YouTube had Closed Captions available for the video, albeit in Japanese. Luckily Google has integrated all of its services so it can instantly translate the Japanese subtitles into plain English for me…
re-watching one of the clips (at 9:40) the only context it gave me was “Damage due to High Crude Oil prices also a profound…” JUMPSCARE! so that didn’t really help my understanding at all. Even further into the video I’m great with this translation

the installed ratattat


Which again gives me no context or understanding. Just an urge to make this


This week I was trying to look at viral Japanese ghost videos as a peripheral media and potentially look at the digital stories they told. Instead I was left struggling with translation and laughing at horrible subtitles, let’s call that a success.

-Nathan Smith

TV North Korea – A life threating experience

Watching TV in North Korea appears to be a mix between propaganda and old western style TV programing. The programming is dictated by the State and all programs are made with the communist doctrine imbedded in it. It’s strictly prohibited to distribute or watch foreign TV shows and movies in North Korea. Kim Jong-un has reportedly sent security forces house-to-house searching for illicit DVDs and flash drives. If they do that for watching TV what is the consequence for using illegal use social media or Internet. This totalitarian control over television seemed to be extreme until I unearthed a newspaper article by David Boroff in the New York Daily News, Monday 11th November 2013. In this piece Boroff reported the public execution of groups of North Koreans found guilty of watching South Korean TV programs smuggled into the North as DVDs and on flash drives. These actions go against so many human rights seriously makes me feel ill.

However, the people of North Korea continue to watch TV smuggled into the country and live in fear of the consequences because they have a curiosity about the outside world which needs to be satisfied at some cost. North Korean Central Television endeavors to prevent this by offering alternatives by copying western style programs but in 1970’s formats. This programing offers the North Korean population fortunate enough to have access to a TV reflects only the western cultural aspects in a negative light. The west is still the enemy and must be portrayed as such. This is one of the reasons levels of curiosity are so high that North Koreans would risk everything for some exposure to the outside world through illegal TV.

We, on the other hand, can watch North Korean TV streamed live onto our computers through http://www.livestream.com/channelnk. This link is a window into the world of North Korea through TV and this helped me deepen my understanding of their world. The experience provided an interesting comparison between our obvious ability to freely broadcast content which reflects a wide cultural basis and offers a view of the world which gives viewers a choice. North Korean watchers are not afforded the privilege but in a largely peasant society where TV consumption I restricted they are unaware of the oppressive controls placed on their TV. They only know the martial music, military propaganda and State promoting content they are given by the Government. Until it is easier to access an alternative they will be unaware.