These Are My Final Words On Autoethnography

Welcome to this final autoethnographic post which is about what I have achieved and the epiphanies that I have had throughout my journey during the execution of my digital artefact. When I look back on what I have created I feel that sense of not quite having got it right. However when I listen to the soundtracks in their finished state I feel pleased. Yes! There is my voice and it is a genuine mix of fact and nostalgia as I remember it. There are parts that are not very professional and some parts that I probably could go over and “gloss” up and if I had more time I probably would do so, but perhaps its current state is truer to the spirit of what I understand autoethnography to be.

In my last blog post I spent some time agonising over whether I was successfully delivering my personal narrative however, having now completed my task I feel as though I have been efficacious in conveying my epiphanies and that I have interwoven these with further research to deliver a complete  autoethnographic experience.  I have endeavored to connect my personal experiences and memories which I relived and recorded with a broader cultural historical perspective. Originally the scope for the project was on a much grander scale but I decided to only investigate Astro boy and Cowboy Bebop and hopefully make a connection with the music and try to delve deeper into each piece. Validity was important and I wanted to connect to the listeners so that as Plummer, 2001 states, ‘the story enables the [listener] to enter the subjective world of the teller’ (cited by Ellis, Adams & Bochner 2011). I also aspired, as Ellis 2004 remarks,  to create a ‘personal narrative’ in order to ‘understand a self or some aspect of a life as it intersects with a cultural context’ (cited by Ellis, Adams & Bochner 2011).

Epiphanies, those significant moments that autoethnographers often use as their fuel for content, were an important aspect of my narrative and were a result of, as Zaner 2004 points out ‘attend[ing] to and analys[ing] lived experience  (cited by Ellis, Adams & Bochner 2011). I had two significant ephiphanies as a result of working through my digital artefact.  Firstly, was that of my experience of remembering the Astro Boy theme song when I was six. Astro Boy was a symbol of anti war anti discrimination and hope for a war free future. However the meaning for me was as much about where I was watching Astro Boy, as I was surrounded by the security and privacy of our old study as the episodes themselves. Because what I do remember about Astro Boy is the theme music and the armchair and the safety and in a sense this equates to the feeling of security and hope that Tezuka conveyed through his anime.

Secondly, was that of  recognising that Cowboy Bebop directly related to Don Siegel’s Dirty Harry and after further research discovered that Dirty Harry had been a considerable influence on Cowboy Bebop’s director Shinichiro Wantanabe. In Rose Bridges review of the soundtrack for Cowboy Bebop, she points to the ‘heavy reliance on the aesthetics of film noir, the popular genre of urban pulp and crime films from the 1940’s (the same decade when bebop emerged)’. She goes on to draw the connection between the similarities of musical genres i.e. that of jazz. She also comments on the way in which the music ‘travels across genre boundaries over the course of the track’ (Bridges, 2017 p. 10). It was exciting for me to validate my ‘gut feeling’ that Cowboy Bebop was linked to Dirty Harry and how the jazz styled music conveyed the characters of both Inspector Harry Callaghan and Spike Speigel.

What I found throughout this project was that the simplicity of the delivery of the content belied the underlying complexity of the product. For me autoethnography required changing my perceptions of how to carry out a research project but I am reasonably satisfied with the results even if I am left with the nagging question, as Ellis 2004 asks, did my personal narrative ‘invite [listeners] to enter into [my] world and use what they learn[t] there to reflect on, understand, and cope with their own lives?’ (cited by Ellis, Adams & Bochner 2011).

References:

Bridges, R 2017, Yoko Kanno’s Cowboy Bebop Soundtrack: 33 1/3 Japan, Bloomsbury Academic, New York.

Ellis, C, Adams, TE, & Bochner, AP 2011,  Autoethnography: An Overview Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1. Available at: http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095

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This Is My Story-Autoethnographically Speaking!

Every person is like every other person, but like no other person. The autoethnographer inscribes the experiences of a historical moment, universalizing these experiences in their singular effects on a particular life.

Denzin, 2003

 

Here I am trying to take hold of this story that is somehow intertwined with my life but is  also a scholarly work and I am sadly failing. I want to tell my story and for it to be meaningful and evocative and produce a work that Holman Jones 2005 describes as “analytical, accessible” and that “change[s] us and the world we live in for the better” (cited by Ellis, Adams & Bochner 2011). How amazing it would be to achieve these lofty heights but sadly at this point in time I’m not sure what I am trying to say and I feel confused and unable to go forward. It seems such a simple thing, to write an autoethnography, but somehow I have added so many layers to my original concept that it has become overwhelmingly complex. I am asking myself as Bochner in 2002 questions “How useful is the story?” and “To what uses might the story be put?” (cited by Ellis, Adams & Bochner 2011) however I seem to have lost sight of my own personal narrative and what I was originally trying to convey.

ImLost
Image:https://gifer.com/en/Ytcz

Sarah Wall (2008) describes a state of  ‘persistent anxiety’ around self representation while writing an autoethnography about her personal experiences related to the process of adoption and ‘was afraid that [her] readers would think less of [her] if they knew what [she] “really” thought’. In my current frame of mind I am certainly feeling some anxiety however I’m not so concerned with telling a story from my personal perspective and what my readers might think of me. No its not that! Right now, I’m more concerned with the act of writing a story that is ‘complex, constitutive and meaningful’  using my ‘personal experience to illustrate facets of cultural experience’. Heewon Chang (2007) discusses the important role of cultural connection and agrees with Ellis and Bochner (2000) that ‘the important mission of autoethnography’ is the method of ‘”connecting the personal to the cultural”‘. I should also be concerned with the readership, who they are? what impact the story will have upon them? and will the story fuel further conversation around the topic? (Ellis, Adams & Bochner 2011).

So I’m sure by now, you can begin to understand the genesis of my dilemma. Chang (2007) explicitly states that autoethnography should be ‘ethnographical in its methodological orientation, cultural in its interpretive orientation, and autobiographical in its content orientation’. This statement is very explicit and illuminating giving a clear guideline as to how an autoethnography should be undertaken. However I think my ‘block’ pertaining to the development of my digital artefact is concerned with the scope of the project as I have outlined it so-far. I stated in my last post that “I would like to learn more about not only anime, but especially the music of anime and how it is used to reflect Asian culture”. This in itself is a very broad topic. I had the idea of developing a digital timeline focusing on one or two anime per decade. In retrospect I feel that I have ‘bitten off more than I can chew’ and it is the enormity of the task which is overwhelming me. One of Chang’s (2007) ‘pitfalls to avoid in doing autoethnography’ is ‘overemphasis on narration rather than analysis and cultural interpretation’ and I feel that I would definitely risk falling into this trap if I try to cover too much ground. I think the other problem I have is not being decisive as to how I am going to collect data? and what are my field sites? I have thought about starting with anime from my childhood such as Astro Boy and Gigantor but perhaps these things are too personal to me and are preventing me from moving forward.

It may be more beneficial if I select something that I’m not so familiar with such as Cowboy Beebop of which I already admire the theme music, and study that in depth. I can still reference my experiences of childhood anime but let the research guide me as to the direction of the project. Delving into something new may still allow me to find my childhood voice but at the same time ‘gaining a cultural understanding of self that is intimately connected to others in the society’ (Chang 2002). Cowboy Bebop, after all is not anime for children and it is precisely this that I may be advantageous from an autoethnographic perspective. I will be watching and listening to something new to me and analysing it from my own cultural framework which encompasses my experience with anime all those years ago! A review of Cowboy Bebop celebrating its 20 year anniversary (its no spring chicken either) maintains that “[t]he show resonates so deeply because it’s a mirror in which you can see yourself, and how we all wrestle with life. This is what makes Cowboy Bebop great art”. I’m hoping that this is a good place to start.

References:

Denzin, NK 2003 Performing [Auto] Ethnography Politically, The Review of Education, Pedagogy, and Cultural Studies, vol. 25, no. 3, pp.257–278, DOI: 10.1080/10714410390225894.

When I Was Six

Image screenshot- Wikipedia

Autoethnography requires that we observe ourselves observing, that we interrogate what we think and believe, and that we challenge our own assumptions, asking over and over if we have penetrated as many layers of our own defenses, fears, and insecurities as our project requires. Carolyn Ellis 2013

When I was young, the highlight of the week was to wake up early on Saturday morning and watch the 6:00 AM cartoons. From memory I think Astro Boy was first up and I know Gigantor was shown as well. I think Kimba the white lion was aired after school and that’s about all I can recall. Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of other cartoons but these were the three that have endured over time in my memory. I had no notion that these popular cartoons originated in Japan as they were dubbed and I could sing along to the theme music. ‘There you go Astro Boy on your flight into space’, ‘Gigantor-Bigger than big, taller than tall, quicker than quick, stronger than strong’ and Kimba who lives in deepest darkest Africa’. The black and white dubbed version of Tetsuwan Atom (Astro Boy) was shown in Australia in April 1966 and amazingly only 104 episodes where dubbed and released for International viewing. In 1966 I was six years old and very sickly and subsequently had many days away from school. It is probably because I was at home a lot during this period that these cartoons played such an important role in my life. I remember walking along trying to replicate the sound that Astro Boy made when he walked and calling out “Dr Elefun! Dr Elefun” (Astro Boy’s mentor in the series a.k.a Professor Ochanomizu) although I used to call him Dr Elephant.

Recently I watched Akira and was entranced by the soundtrack and I thought that I would like to learn more about not only anime, but especially the music of anime and how it is used to reflect Asian culture. The question I had in mind was if music was traditionally an important element of anime or had it been  an adaption for the Western market ? But wait! When did the West develop a taste for anime? I think it was much later than 1966. There is so much that I don’t know about anime. It is an almost overwhelming task. For my initial research I will begin by collecting sound samples and collate these into years as well as delving into the production studios for each example. I would like to take a close at the composer of the music. As an example Tatsuo Takai wrote the music for the Astro Boy theme song and Shuntarō Tanigawa wrote the lyrics. From here I would research how this links to the creation of the anime i.e. was it written after the anime was produced, during or after? What are the links? Concurrently I will look at how these productions related contextually within their culture and within my own life. It is important to build a cultural framework which I can then use to create a digital artefact which pulls it all together under one platform. An important aspect of this project is using as Adams, 2008 and Lorde, 1984, describe ‘techniques of “showing”‘( cited in Ellis, Adams, & Bochner 2010) allowing the reader to participate in my experiences, almost living through them. Sarah Wall describes this process of viewer participation when she cites Wolcott, 1999  “every view is a way of seeing, not the way”. An essential element in my project’s creation is that the viewer is transported back to my youth and experiences anime for the first time as I did as a child.

Watching cartoons in the 60s

Originally I thought of creating a timeline of anime music beginning with the 60’s to coincide with my birth year which is 1960 and then relating the years to what was occurring in my life. Looking back at different years and how they impacted on my life could also be related to in an historical sense on a global scale. But wait! Perhaps this is becoming bigger than Ben Hur. It may also be quite difficult to recall specific years as it feels as though there have been quite a few! The other problem I may encounter with this method is the enormity of the task. However, this would relate to my understanding of field sites as archeological digs with the environment of that place being instrumental in how it affects the layers. In this case, anime and the time it was viewed, represents the site where I am ‘digging’ and platforms such as Spotify and YouTube would provide the means of accessing the anime thus enabling the means of collecting the data.The more I think about the idea of a timeline the more interesting it becomes with its potential as an autoethnographic research project.  I need to ensure that the project remains firmly grounded in discovery around anime soundtracks rather than becoming just some vague historical rant. I am also interested in investigating later anime such as Cowboy Bebop which I would be experiencing as a newbie. I think this would be a valuable experience as a comparison to the earlier anime which I viewed as a child. I still haven’t made a firm decision as to the platform for this digital artefact. One suggestion was a Youtube playlist however I am leaning towards a Prezi at this stage.

There were some other ideas which interested me especially extreme online fashion linking this to Kabuki theatre. Fortunately, joy of joys, I am addressing a somewhat related topic, Yami Kawaii albeit a much darker content, in a group project. I will keep you posted!

References:

Jones, SH, Adams, TE & Ellis, C 2013, Handbook of Autoethnography, 2nd Edition, Routledge N.Y.

 

Making Sense Of Autoethnography

Hi and Welcome to my first vlog for BCM320. I hope you enjoy watching! Thank goodness this is a multimedia platform and I can add some stuff here that came to me whilst thinking about this vlog today! During the screening of Akira, I had one of those moments, you know, like when you have seen something similar on another occasion? In the scene where the powers raging within Tetsuo begin to take over his body I was transported back 50 years when my mother had allowed me to watch The Picture Of Dorian Grey. The movie was adapted from an Oscar Wilde novel and it terrified the hell out of me as a kid. In the closing scenes a portrait is revealed that has been ‘possessed’, supposedly by the devil and it was the scariest thing I had ever seen. Tetsuo’s transformation took me back to that moment of terror. I remember that for weeks after watching the movie I had to leap from my bedroom door to my bed so nothing could grab me from underneath the bed as I stepped from the floor. Thanks for the memories #AKIRA.

The Picture Of Dorian Grey painted by Ivan Albright

References:

Akira – Trailer – https://youtu.be/eCL_F6Kc9Xw

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

Kaneda’s Theme (Akira – Amiga) – https://youtu.be/akwAJadiRsk

The Matrix’s Neo Turns Up In Gojira (1954)?

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So here I am, head down, fingers flying in my first attempt at ‘live tweeting’. How was I doing? Pretty badly-I was thinking, trying to juggle English subtitles to the Japanese 1954 movie Gojira, whilst navigating the keypad on my Iphone tweeting at the same time as coming to grips with the strange soundtrack accompanying the movie and did I mention I was supposed to be making meaningful comments, ‘liking’ and retweeting? There was a brief moment when I contemplated just putting my phone down. Enough with the multi-tasking. Its a millennial skill anyway that I have not yet mastered. The movie was about twenty minutes in and I was feeling lost when I looked at the screen and saw Neo! Wtf was he doing in this movie? And just for a moment I was drawn into remembering The Matrix. This character seemed so out of place, standing still amongst the Japanese crowd, but as I looked more closely I could see this guy had a patch over one eye and some facial scaring which was probably why he was sporting the sunnies.

 

Neo (aka Serizawa) makes a guest appearance in Gojira (1954) Image- screenshot Gojira (1954) Kaltura Mediaspace

Anyway this jolt was just enough to spike my interest in what was going on around me. We were ‘live tweeting’ and I was engaging in a communal viewing of Gojira which reminded me of family viewing time when you would gather together at the end of the day to watch a favourite program on television.

Some ‘tweeters’ were more adept at the process than others and were managing to reference information about the making of the soundtrack, the political environment in Japan at the time the movie was made and other relevant and interesting facts including images.

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I tweeted about my Gojira-esque  slippers that I had bought from Kmart.

 

The process of live tweeting affected the way in which I was absorbing the movie and it was almost like I was watching a series of self contained shorts. Horror scene cut to village scene cut to romantic moment cut to monster etc etc. As I was frantically trying to make sense of these staccato moments, feverishly entering letters on my tiny phone, I became intensely aware of the soundtrack which consisted of a cacophony of bizarre and unnatural manmade clamour. There was a lot of screaming. There was also the roar of the monster which sounded almost metallic intertwined with the haunting militaristic theme music, the kind which stays with you forever (someone tweeted that it had a similar memorable effect as the Jaws soundtrack). The imagery was as powerful as the sound. At one point there was an iconic scene depicting a burning city, a menacing sky and the distant silhouette of Gojira, completely absorbed by its killing spree.

 

Gojira silhouetted against a burning sky. Image- screenshot Gojira (1954) Kaltura Mediaspace

 

Overall, the Gojira experience, which included the movie itself and the ‘live tweeting’ task, left me with a long lasting and thought provoking impression of Japan and its culture and the impact that nuclear weaponry had upon Japan as a nation. The black and white format intensified the dramatic experience. I found myself being transported back to the early 60’s when I watched B&W TV as a kid. Growing up, my knowledge of Japanese history was limited but everyone knew that atomic bombs were bad. Watching Gojira gave me a sense of what it must have been like to experience it first hand and the horror it represented to the Japanese people who lived through it.

The jury is still out on how I rate the experience of ‘live tweeting’. Its almost like an out of body experience where you are witnessing the film through global eyes. Perhaps I will grow to love it as I have with most other things digital that I have experienced.

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Reflecting On My Role As A Game Designer

Well here I am staring at yet another ‘blank sheet of paper’ reminding me of my dilemma, just a short time ago, over having to design some type of analogue game from scratch. I can recall how clueless I imagined I was with little or no idea as to how to go about it.  As I reread my posts written during the gestation, creation and application periods of the game I can see my progression, sometimes meagre and at other times taking amazing leaps and I feel a pleasant sense of satisfaction that I have actually produced an artifact that has not only pushed me way outside of my comfort zone but that I have also manufactured something of value.

What began as a very vague idea based around time travel, my ‘dilemma’ developed into an interesting concept which played with the idea of time travel and about how one could move around in time through wormholes as well as including an environmental strategy. However, even though at this stage I have completed a working prototype, I feel that the mechanics of the game don’t  compliment the theme and it falls short of its goal of trying to convey the complexities of time travel. Playtesting has assisted with rectifying some of its shortfalls but I feel as though time itself is working against me in that I don’t have enough of it to bring this project to a point that I would consider adequate (that could take years).

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First Prototype

I do have a certain amount of wonderment that I managed to implement some mechanics that got the characters moving around the board and the first round of playtesting did just that with the round being concluded in roughly twenty minutes, including the setup. Feedback at this stage was that the game was too simple. This led to a bit of tweaking and the addition of resource sticks. These could be purchased with ‘enersave’ cards which had a numerical value from five to twenty five. It was surprising how this small adjustment could make such a difference to the complexity of the game with the second round of playtesting swelling out to forty five minutes allowing even a little strategizing to occur. What started as a simplistic race game had begun to develop into a game with greater complexity added to an already high level of abstraction.

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Tweaking the Prototype Stage Two

As I have discussed previously, writing the rules was not a task that I really enjoyed and it is one that still needs attention. I imagine that I will try to be as imaginative as possible within the given timeframe as I would like the rules to reinforce and expand upon the wormhole theme. Artwork can be collected from the internet as this is only a prototype and at this point I still need to include new rules that have been created due to design iterations. As I sit here trying to think what else I can add to this reflection, I suddenly thought about the KISS principle (keep it simple, stupid) which posits that design is much more efficient and effective if it is kept in a simple form without added complexity. So with that in mind and keeping with the theme of abstraction, I shall finish my reflection.

KeepItSimple

But wait! I just want to add that I AM A GAME DESIGNER after all!.

Taking The Prototype For A Spin

This week there have been two milestones in my ‘build a board game journey’. Well in reality there were three milestones as I managed to complete my first prototype, yay!

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First Prototype ready to be playtested

The first milestone was that I actually got to play test my Wormholes prototype and secondly, I began to write a set of rules. The play-testing was quite successful with several rounds being played and an actual winner being declared after about 20 minutes of play. The general feeling was however, that this happened too quickly and a little too easily which suggested that more complexity needed to be built into the game. The concept of the wormholes was well received. The theme of an alternate reality is a tried and true narrative trope so as soon as anyone sees anything relating to this, they are immediately clued up, unless of course they themselves have been living in an alternate reality where there is no science fiction.The players were enjoying the game progression until it was suddenly over before it had really developed into any type of flow. At the current point in the game’s development, simplicity would appear to be far outweighing complexity.

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First playtesting of Wormholes

The fact that complexity was lacking in the game allowed for a very simple set of rules which all players followed easily. Jesse Schell comments about rules;

Games have a lot of rules — how to move and what you can and cannot do — but there is one rule at the foundation of all the others: The Object of the Game. Games are about achieving goals — you must be able to state your game’s goal and state it clearly.

I imagined that writing a rule book would be quite an easy task until I actually tried to write one for my game. Schell also says “[a] game is its rules — give them the time and consideration that they deserve” which I can fully relate to having spent days trying to write my rules with a considerable amount of time staring at an empty screen endeavouring to start. After play-testing a suggestion was made to increase the complexity by adding special items which need to be collected in order to unlock the parallel universe. I think this is a valid idea to pursue and will be included in the next iteration.

Following are the rules in their very basic form as were used to guide the first play-testing.

Wormholes

Number of Players 2-4

Earth is on the verge of an apocalyptic meltdown. Wormholes have opened in the earth’s atmosphere that each lead to a ‘safe’ parallel universe, of which there are six in total.The challenge is to escape the present universe through a wormhole and unlock the gateway to another universe by collecting the correct number of ‘enersaves’ for that universe. You will take on the role of one of four protagonists – a doctor, a computer expert, a scientist or an ex criminal.

Objectives

Goal:

  • The goal is to move around the board collecting ‘enersaves’ (energy points) until you have enough to unlock a parallel universe each of which has a different value (measured in enersaves)

Setup:

  • Pick a character
  • Shuffle the deck
  • Deal two cards to each player and then place deck face down in the centre of the board
  • Spin the selector wheel to decide which wormhole your character starts on (1 on the selector wheel is equivalent to wormhole 1)

Play-loop:

  • Spin the selector wheel to move (eg 6 on the selector wheel equals 6 spaces)
  • Begin by moving towards the centre of the board
  • Follow the instructions marked on the space on which you land (pick up, swap etc)
  • You can move in any direction (backwards, sideways etc) as long as you land on a coloured space
  • Each turn (clockwise around the board) spin the selector wheel and move the designated number of spaces following the instructions as you go

End of Game:

  • You win if you land on a parallel universe (located in the centre of the board) and you have enough enough ‘enersaves’ to unlock that universe

Game Instructions:

The player with the lowest scoring wormhole (eg wormhole 1) starts. As you move around the board you must follow the instructions specified on the space on which you land. You must have one card in your hand at all times with a maximum of 5 at any time.

Pick up — Player selects a card from the top of the deck

Swap — Player swaps a card with the main deck by selecting the top card from the deck and placing their card on the bottom of the deck

Vortex — On landing on this space, the player must place themselves in the vortex. Player is released from the Vortex when they have 15 ‘enersaves’ (returned to  the bottom of the deck) or if they spin a 6 on the selector wheel

Trade —  Player can trade cards with another player by asking them if they have an ‘enersave’ card of a certain value. If the other player has this card they must give it to the player who is asking otherwise they say no and it is the next player’s turn.