Phenomenology

Oh god, the more research method I learn, the more confused I become about how to conduct mine. 

Phenomenology is a qualitative research method that describes how human beings experience a particular phenomenon. Typically, interviews are conducted with a group of individuals who have first-hand knowledge of an event, situation, or experience.

Two types:

  1. Transcendental phenomenology: peoples meaning of a lived experience
  2. Hermeneutic phenomenology: research interprets texts to explore lived experiences

I know I mentioned how much I like it, and let me explain why. The break down of the research method for me is much easier to understand than the previous research methods we have learned. The breakdown goes something like this:

  1. First, does the question fit the research method?
  2. Second, bracketing, the research has to put aside all biases and look at the study solely from the participant’s viewpoint.
  3. Third, pick participants who have lived through the phenomenon, about five, and narrow down questions to one or two.  
  4. Fouth is data analysis, which is taking significant statements from the participants, then clustering them into themes to write a textual description of what it was like to live through the phenomenon and a structural report to tell how they lived through the event. 

For my research, taking a phenomenology approach, say I can study how children of middle school and high school experience the learning of specific writing, in particular the five-paragraph essay in comparison to first-year college writing. Would that work? 

In the article “A Phenomenological Research Design Illustrated” by Tomas Groenewald, states that Phenomenology should ignore the external world to arrive at a pure “phenomena.” Hence what was said earlier about the researcher putting aside biases and concentrating solely on the participant’s experience. For another researcher, Giorgi, phenomenological research is to “describe” as precisely as possible the phenomenon, based on the facts of people involved in the study.

Groenewald used purposive sampling in his study, which is non-probability sampling, to find participants who have experience in cooperative learning. He searched in various places, such as companies and the internet, to find candidates who meet his requirements. Then he used the snowball technique, which is asking participants if they know anyone else who would be fit for this study. I really like this technique of finding participants; it sounds reliable. 

Now what I feel would be toughest is collecting the actual data. You are working entirely with people, and besides the fact that it takes a lot of your time, these extended interviews would also take a lot of the participant’s time. I would have to find participants who are willing to give that much time. They would have to explain as much as they can about their experience for a wholesome analysis. Also, another disadvantage I feel of this study is that it heavily relies on interpretation; something could easily be misinterpreted. 

Ah, atlas, my favorite of all time, Peter Elbow. Elbow, in his article “Phenomenology of Freewriting,” talks about how freewriting is a beneficial and favorite tool of his. Before I began the discussion, Elbow presented, can I say as a student myself and teacher, freewriting furnishes good writing! It builds character and confidence and courage to just write without feeling judged; I allow my students to free-write every Friday, I call it free-write Friday, creative, I know. The things I read that my students write, sometimes I am left in awe, sometimes stunned; nonetheless, I know they enjoy letting their feelings out. 

Elbow talks about a time in his life where he wrote, just to write, all private. In a sense, it helped him, perhaps understand his feelings? Have we not all been there? Maybe some of us. There have been dark times in my own life, where I found my self scribbling on paper, words that I had not known I felt. It allows you as a writer to feel at ease, without direction, without judgment to let your natural voice flow. Now that I think about it, why didn’t I choose freewriting as a research topic and use phenomenology as a method? Can I change my topic now, is it too late? 

Freewriting for unfocused exploring is interesting. Many a time, we are required to write, like the method paper I am still working on for you, Dr. Nelson, because I am just stuck. This type of freewriting allows us to think about the topic without submitting to a specific form of writing. 

Public freewriting, I encourage all teachers to incorporate freewriting if they can. On free-write Fridays, I encourage my students to share, many love to share their feelings. But this is something that has to be taught, no one in my entire life did to for me, perhaps why so many of us don’t share our most personal moments. I love it when Peter says freewriting helps him “break free from what feels like heavy mud,” oh man, I couldn’t have said it better. 

I could go on and on about Peter’s peice, I love it so much!!!!

Works Cited

Groenewald, T. (2004) A Phenomenological Research Design Illustrated.International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 42–55.

Elbow, P. (1989) Toward a Phenomenology of Freewriting. Journal of Basic Writing, Vol. 8, No. 2

Phenomenology

Oh god, the more research method I learn, the more confused I become about how to conduct mine. 

Phenomenology is a qualitative research method that describes how human beings experience a particular phenomenon. Typically, interviews are conducted with a group of individuals who have first-hand knowledge of an event, situation, or experience.

Two types:

  1. Transcendental phenomenology: peoples meaning of a lived experience
  2. Hermeneutic phenomenology: research interprets texts to explore lived experiences

I know I mentioned how much I like it, and let me explain why. The break down of the research method for me is much easier to understand than the previous research methods we have learned. The breakdown goes something like this:

  1. First, does the question fit the research method?
  2. Second, bracketing, the research has to put aside all biases and look at the study solely from the participant’s viewpoint.
  3. Third, pick participants who have lived through the phenomenon, about five, and narrow down questions to one or two.  
  4. Fouth is data analysis, which is taking significant statements from the participants, then clustering them into themes to write a textual description of what it was like to live through the phenomenon and a structural report to tell how they lived through the event. 

For my research, taking a phenomenology approach, say I can study how children of middle school and high school experience the learning of specific writing, in particular the five-paragraph essay in comparison to first-year college writing. Would that work? 

In the article “A Phenomenological Research Design Illustrated” by Tomas Groenewald, states that Phenomenology should ignore the external world to arrive at a pure “phenomena.” Hence what was said earlier about the researcher putting aside biases and concentrating solely on the participant’s experience. For another researcher, Giorgi, phenomenological research is to “describe” as precisely as possible the phenomenon, based on the facts of people involved in the study.

Groenewald used purposive sampling in his study, which is non-probability sampling, to find participants who have experience in cooperative learning. He searched in various places, such as companies and the internet, to find candidates who meet his requirements. Then he used the snowball technique, which is asking participants if they know anyone else who would be fit for this study. I really like this technique of finding participants; it sounds reliable. 

Now what I feel would be toughest is collecting the actual data. You are working entirely with people, and besides the fact that it takes a lot of your time, these extended interviews would also take a lot of the participant’s time. I would have to find participants who are willing to give that much time. They would have to explain as much as they can about their experience for a wholesome analysis. Also, another disadvantage I feel of this study is that it heavily relies on interpretation; something could easily be misinterpreted. 

Ah, atlas, my favorite of all time, Peter Elbow. Elbow, in his article “Phenomenology of Freewriting,” talks about how freewriting is a beneficial and favorite tool of his. Before I began the discussion, Elbow presented, can I say as a student myself and teacher, freewriting furnishes good writing! It builds character and confidence and courage to just write without feeling judged; I allow my students to free-write every Friday, I call it free-write Friday, creative, I know. The things I read that my students write, sometimes I am left in awe, sometimes stunned; nonetheless, I know they enjoy letting their feelings out. 

Elbow talks about a time in his life where he wrote, just to write, all private. In a sense, it helped him, perhaps understand his feelings? Have we not all been there? Maybe some of us. There have been dark times in my own life, where I found my self scribbling on paper, words that I had not known I felt. It allows you as a writer to feel at ease, without direction, without judgment to let your natural voice flow. Now that I think about it, why didn’t I choose freewriting as a research topic and use phenomenology as a method? Can I change my topic now, is it too late? 

Freewriting for unfocused exploring is interesting. Many a time, we are required to write, like the method paper I am still working on for you, Dr. Nelson, because I am just stuck. This type of freewriting allows us to think about the topic without submitting to a specific form of writing. 

Public freewriting, I encourage all teachers to incorporate freewriting if they can. On free-write Fridays, I encourage my students to share, many love to share their feelings. But this is something that has to be taught, no one in my entire life did to for me, perhaps why so many of us don’t share our most personal moments. I love it when Peter says freewriting helps him “break free from what feels like heavy mud,” oh man, I couldn’t have said it better. 

I could go on and on about Peter’s peice, I love it so much!!!!

Works Cited

Groenewald, T. (2004) A Phenomenological Research Design Illustrated.International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 42–55.

Elbow, P. (1989) Toward a Phenomenology of Freewriting. Journal of Basic Writing, Vol. 8, No. 2

Autoethnography

The knowing self is always connected to the known.”

Grant & Zeeman

Autoethnography is a form of qualitative research in which an author uses self-reflection and writing to explore their own personal experiences which sometimes reseults in an autobiographical story that will eventually have a deeper meaning and understandings. Autoethnography can also be used across various disciplines within the humanities.

The video below will give you an example of a young girls Autoethnography, The Words.

I found these articles very eye opening. I’m someone who enjoys bringing my own experiences into my work in hopes to help someone who might be experiencing the same situation I went through.

Also, when writers conduct reserach for their work, they tend on reserach everything or anything besides their own self. I found that this is a wonderful method in writing to dig deeper within yourself to find who you are as a person, writer, etc.

Write about their refluxive biographical engagment with culture, since they are, by defintion, experts by experience.”

Grant & Zeeman

A Commentary on Autoethnography

Here the reading I’ll be focusing in on is Ellis et. al’s Autoethnography: An Overview. I’ve felt a good vector has been run along in this class with the course of readings we’ve done, and more specifically with the ordering of these methodologies. It feels like every week the knowledge picked up from the previous weeks’ classes have given context into this field and allow for some modicum of an opinion on the standings of these methodologies relative to each other (of course with the understanding that one week’s worth of reading into them is practically negligible in the grand scheme of the field of research).

In any case, it has become something of a staple of my blogs in this class to allow for some part of my writing to be dedicated to where I believed the method would fit in at a glance when beginning the reading, and where it may fit in after the reading. We’ve dealt largely with qualitative methods, some of which I’ve felt more inclined towards than others, but it has given me this insight: I should not pass judgment on a method before giving its (introductory) research its fair dues, as well as carry out a conversation in class about it. That being said, autoethnography is one which I was very lukewarm on going into this week. It felt to me that this method in particular is one of the most singular research experiences that we have encountered thus far which, though it serves its own purpose, it did seem somewhat exclusive. This was only really because of the conflation of ethnography and autobiography, as the reading states. But let’s now see about the reading.

Ellis lays out the method as being “an approach to research and writing” (my own emphasis). I’ll return to this “and writing” point later but it speaks to an angle of autoethnography which I ended up feeling allowed for its personal nature. Beyond this, the definition continues with the method being describing and analyzing personal experience to better understand a different culture’s experience. Ellis concludes with it being “both process and product” – not unlike grounded theory, which is later mentioned. The specific term “grounded theory” is mentioned later, but the thread of this similarity continues for the paragraph as Ellis clarifies that autoethnography is a method which recognizes and integrates the “innumerable ways personal experience influences the research process,” as well as the subjective state of the researcher. And while this is true, there is still a demand for an analytic bend towards the research for, as Ellis quotes Mitch Allen in saying, “Otherwise [you’re] telling [your] story—and that’s nice—but people do that on Oprah.”

The writing team then breaks down autoethnography into its roots autobiography and ethnography. One of the interesting parts of this article was when Ellis likened the autobiographical process to a collection of “epiphanies.” I mention this mostly as an aside, because I rarely, if ever, read autobiographies, and though I suppose if I were probed for a definition of a style of the genre I may describe this, its being put this way assisted me in understanding autoethnographies. Ethnographies, Ellis then says, are research done to assist insiders as well as outsiders better understand a culture’s practices and experiences.

The next section focused on the “how” of autoethnography and is broken down into “showing and telling.” The showing aspect of autoethnography often involves dialogue to give insight into emotions and experiences. The telling, then, is when the researcher takes a step away from the narrative and informs the reader on particulars as well as to allow the reader some space for more “abstract” considerations of the research. One very interesting bit which Ellis included in this section was the consideration for second-person narrative in autoethnographies. As I mentioned in my annotation around this point, second-person is something I so rarely encounter that this method of research, for the sake of apparently including it sometimes, became immediately more appealing to me for the literature of it all. As a quick aside I will say that this is when things began to click more with this method. It had been described in the article previously which I did not specifically cover here, but certainly when discussing the uses of second-person to carry out the findings of a method of research it became obvious that autoethnography is a research-writing hybrid. It made the very personal emphasis of the research more understandable and easier to reconcile, and I dare say a bit more interesting as well.

The fourth section, headed as “potentials, issues, and criticisms,” begins with a lengthy breakdown of subcategories of autoethnography. Nine of them to be specific. Without quadrupling the length of my blog, I’ll suffice to quote Ellis on the advent of these multiple forms of the method as well as give a few thoughts on a few specific ones. Ellis says, “The forms of autoethnography differ in how much emphasis is placed on the study of others, the researcher’s self and interaction with others, traditional analysis, and the interview context, as well as on power relationships.” Now of my specific notes… Of Layered Accounts we see mention, as I alluded to earlier, of grounded theory. It is a sub-method which “emphasizes the procedural nature” of autoethnography. Sounds like grounded theory to me. It comprises a search for questions and comparisons rather than truth, as Ellis states. But its dissimilarity as I understand it from this section, is that its focus is broader than grounded theory; more communal, while then showing “emergent experiences” of said communities and cultures.

At this point in the reading, the writing group was discussing some of the cautionary tales associated with autoethnography, one of which is “relational ethics/concerns.” This is one of those points which, in a way seems somewhat obvious, but its “goes-without-saying” nature does create an atmosphere to be potentially overlooked. What I mean by this is that within this method, because it is based heavily on real-life accounts, there are necessarily implications. As Ellis describes, if you include someone in an account of something, and that event is negative, or that person’s participation negative in some way, that person is then held negatively in the minds of the readers. There is a responsibility then to protect the people involved in the research, but not to abstract the research in the process. If, as Ellis describes, you conceal or abstract people or even specific events for pseudonyms and “like-events,” you risk making relative your research.

Lastly for this section, I must comment on the usage of one of my favorite words: verisimilitude. Great word, but also a good point on the method: that the validity of the research is in its verisimilitude to the life experiences of the people reading about it. Since these are accounts as documented vis-à-vis the experience of the researcher, they need some likeness to other communities or groups of people. This put a lot of the method into place for me.

So now I feel between two points with how I feel about autoethnography. I can appreciate, as Ellis cautioned, that too often this method is dissented on by those in both the autobiographical and ethnographical fields as being a bit too unkempt for them, but I am still uncertain what research potential there is for the method. If anything, I do appreciate that writing, in one of the ways in which it best serves people, is employed here – that being to empower. There was an earlier section in the article about how writing gives a voice to those who have difficulties expressing themselves otherwise, and that there is often a personal evolution for the researchers in this method. But it also attempts to bridge the gap between art and science, which Ellis phrases as being “erroneous.” More subtly though, and perhaps most interestingly, it is not only the gap between art and science which this method seeks to bridge, but that of process and product (again not unlike grounded theory) which are merely “…’difference(s) to be lived with.'”

Autoethnography

This week we are discussing and taking a dive into autoethnography.  Essentially, this is the idea of using personal experience and anecdotes in a way to enhance our research.  It almost sounds like an oxymoron of sorts; how could one’s own personal experience be a part of research? I think after taking in the information from the article I can now see how it can be used.  FIrst, we get a kind of broad description of this method of research. It is described as describing and analyzing personal experience to understand cultural experience. From there, In the next section, it is brought up that this type of research would widley rely on epiphanies, which are the larger moments that are more likely to stick with a person after any event.  It made me reflect on some of my own experiences and where these epiphanies have happened for me. I thought that was a particularly good point, as epiphanies are what happens when something truly begins to make sense to someone. By using these examples in writing and research, we can see how the overall point of what it is we are talking about has affected us and in some cases acted as the inspiration to make the inquiry that we did, which I feel is very important.  It is kind of like not losing sight of what is important to you, in a sense. That personal experience that brought you here in the first place should be something that is always in the back of your head, as that is conceivably the driving force behind the decision to do the research in the first place.

The next part of this entire method is the ways in which the author can go about showing these things.  “Most often through the use of conversation, showing allows writers to make events engaging and emotionally rich. “Telling” is a writing strategy that works with “showing” in that it provides readers some distance from the events described so that they might think about the events in a more abstract way.”  This is how the authors described it and I found it to be the most helpful in terms of truly understanding what it was to “show” and how the “showing” shoud be done. The idea of removing one from the larger picture is a great way to visualize how something is affecting people on a much deeper kind of level.  It becomes very circumstantial in that there are variables surrounding each individual tale that can all aggregate to a reason behind why and how someone is feeling from a particular event or instance. I am a big proponent of using personal anecdotes in writing, I just never saw these personal stories as a tool that could be used in the type of academic research we are conditioning ourselves to do.  

This reading brought up many good questions for me, as follows: 

  1. Which other research methods do you think would work best with this method?  Is it universal in its application to all of them? 
  2. What kinds of studies could be shut off from the possibility of using this type of method, and why? 
  3. Does personal experience really matter in terms of academic research? 

I again want to take a moment to say I hope all of you are doing okay, and thank Dr. Nelson for doing his part in creating a plan for us to move forward with our semester.  Just like I’m sure is true for all of you as well, I am very much looking forward to resuming our studies and program as it was intended.

Autoethnography: Blurring the Lines

Blog 5: March 23, 2020

Reaction to:

  • “Autoethnography: An Overview” by Carolyn Ellis, Troy, E. Adams, & Arthur P. Bochner
  • Grant & Zeeman. “Whose story is it? An autoethnography concerning narrative identity” by Alec J. Grant and Laetitia Zeeman
  • “An Autoethnography on Learning about Autoethnography” by Sarah Wall

“But there were losers, and the local graveyard in my town tells part of this story (although, of course, no headstone is testament to this.) My mother was buried there in 1974 after she hanged herself.” (Grant & Zeeman)

In his autoethnographic short story, Alec J. Grant provides an account of his early childhood. It is a moving story that weaves narrative elements such as suspense and evocative imagery with social commentary, writing theory, and research method. Throughout the story, Grant hints to the dysfunctionality of his mother, who is mentally ill and an alcoholic and his absentee father. Even his teachers in his small, rural Scottish town were, sadly, not very helpful. He describes them as “monsters and to be avoided” with a “most of them” in parentheses. Grant was a lonely boy who was able to overcome his struggles to be “educated at a Ph.D. level” and had meaningful careers as a mental health nurse, a health and behavioral writer, lecturer, and teacher, practitioner, researcher, and patient.” He is now a lecturer at the University of Brighton, England, where he is interested in “narrative inquiry as it relates to mental health practices.” Grant has devoted his life to helping others struggling with mental illness.   

For Grant, writing is therapeutic. How can one ever get over the suicide of a mother? Grant writes to make sense of himself and his childhood trauma (Ellis et al.). He also writes to question the “cultural narrative of well-turned-out adolescents” where society wants to hear of “promotions, degrees, higher degrees, more sporting successes.” People, especially people in small towns, do not want to hear (or share) stories of battles with alcoholism, drugs, “broken marriages, broken people, broken lives.” Grant was courageous enough to share his story to help others “validate their pain” and “to better cope with their circumstances” (Ellis et al., 5). In turn, he was able to experience a catharsis, a release of bottled emotions.

What is an autoethnography? According to the “Autoethnography: An Overview,” Ellis defines ethnography as “an approach to research and writing that “seeks to describe and systematically analyze (graphy) personal experience (auto) to understand cultural experience.” It is a relatively new field that “treats research as a “political, socially-just and socially-conscious act” — perhaps like critical discourse analysis where researchers such as James Paul Gee analyzes the social and political implications of language.

Initially, I was unsure of the difference between an autobiography and an autoethnography. I am familiar with autobiographies but not autoethnographies. Based on Ellis’ explanation, it appears that autobiographies and autoethnographies have different functions. When writing an autobiography, the writer is interested in selecting important memories of one’s past (or epiphanies); these memories are significant to the writer but not necessarily to others. While ethnographers are interested in studying a culture’s shared values and beliefs for “the purpose of helping insiders (cultural members) and outsiders (cultural strangers) better understand the culture” (Ellis et al., 3). For ethnographers, there is a greater emphasis on the cultural, social, and political impact of the stories.

Autobiographies and autoethnographies share tenets such as reflexivity and voice. Also, the process of an autobiography and an autoethnography are similar in that writers both use personal narratives, interviews, and texts such as photographs, metaphors, and literary journeys to share their stories. However, autoethnography is a type of research method with philosophical and theoretical underpinnings. With the rise of postmodernism, researchers such as Alec Grant reject the “positivist perspective” where research is conducting formally and scientifically, and “the research does not insert his biases, prejudices, and experience” in the research (Grant and Zeeman, 147). In traditional science research, we rarely see personal pronouns such as “I” and “we.” Therefore, some members of the scientific community consider ethnography as “too artful and not scientific.” On the other hand, members of the literary community find ethnography as “too scientific and not sufficiently artful” (Ellis et al., 8). Hence, ethnographers fit nicely in the social sciences.

Other critics consider ethnography as a form of “solipsistic self-indulgence” (Grant and Zeeman, 2). Grant counters this claim by stating that the author (“or this expert of experience”) would need to be “autonomous” and “culturally disconnected from other people” to be considered solipsistic. That is, no writer is disconnected from everyone. There is a universal message in every story.

There is a compelling message in Grant’s story, and I find the story of his mother to be one of the most compelling cases that I have read in Research Methods 5002. Grant eloquently combines the elements of a good story with research methodology. He is also able to challenge the status quo of a “singular, master, dominant narrative of a happy family and a happy childhood.” He gives voice and identity to those who are marginalized and silenced. If Alec Grant is able to help others by sharing his story, then I say autoethnography is a powerful research method! 

Interview with Alec Grant

Autoethnography

See the source image

Autoethnography is a form of qualitative research in which an author uses self-reflection and writing to explore anecdotal and personal experience and connect this autobiographical story to wider cultural, political, and social meanings and understandings. Autoethnography is a self-reflective form of writing used across various disciplines such as communication studies, performance studies, education, English literature, anthropology, social work, sociology, history, psychology, religious studies, marketing, business and educational administration, arts education, and physiotherapy. Autoethnography differs from ethnography, a social research method employed by anthropologists and sociologists, in that autoethnography embraces and foregrounds the researcher’s subjectivity rather than attempting to limit it, as in empirical research. What I like about this type of research method is that it embraces personal thoughts, feelings, stories, and observations as a way of understanding the social context they are studying, autoethnographers are also shedding light on their total interaction with that setting by making their every emotion and thought visible to the reader. It resonates with me because it’s not just about charts, graphs and stats. It deals with research methodology in relation to our emotions and feelings and our personal interactions with others and the culture we live in.

See the source image

In the first article: Whose Story Is It? An Autoethnography Concerning Narrative Identity, the article begins with Grant stating how a strong shift and change had been developing in research: “Emerging in the latter part of the 20th century, the “narrative turn” in the human sciences has increasingly challenged a single, monolithic conception of what should constitute scholarly work in favor of a developing pluralism. This has resulted in the promotion of multiple forms of representation and research, and a relative shift of focus from master narratives to local stories.” (Grant,1). The wave of change was going against what had been the norm in the past. The aloof researcher, the spectator who was distanced from his work. It was very much impersonal. Now the tide was changing into the researcher position becoming more engaged, aware, emotional and sharing personal antidotes. This is more relatable because like the article states we as human beings on this earth have shared experiences. We all have a unique story to tell. I believe that’s what makes this world so special our connected experiences and the ability to tell it. This is how we connect and learn to empathize. Autoethnographic story telling has important functions. It can be therapeutic for the story teller to work through difficult times, events and issues in their lives. This also helps them build their authentic identities. Specifically, writing personal stories can be therapeutic for individuals as they make better sense of themselves or their experiences. It helps relieve them of their painful pasts and burdens, and determines what kind of lives they should live and want to live. Grant goes on to talk about Riemer who is a proponent of this method of research: “Riemer took researchers in the social sciences to task for too frequently neglecting the first-hand knowledge that they alone possess in the execution of their research ventures. Riemer argued that such researchers, including autoethnographers, are well placed to write about their reflexive biographical engagement with culture, since they are, by definition, experts by experience. Equally, bearing in mind the relational, dialogic basis of stories, readers might be helped to make better sense of their own lives by locating themselves in relation to what they read.” (Reimer, 1977). I agree with this viewpoint. It’s all about making human connections, research should not just be about numbers, stats and graphs. This type of research makes it more relatable, more personal and to me, more believable. However like with all research methodologies autoethnography does have it’s critics who believe it is highly self indulgent and not a concrete or reliable form of qualitative research. Grant disagrees with the criticism and believes that all of us have similar experiences in life that we can make personal connections with and find meaning from. He says quote: “This leaves the self as a sociocultural rather than an autonomous phenomenon.”

See the source image

In the remainder of the article we read the short story of Alec Grant and his turbulent childhood. He details to us how his mother was mentally ill and unstable. His father was absent and his older siblings had left the home. He was the youngest and sadly was stuck in the home with his unstable mother. He recounts how numerous teachers ignored him and the situation he was living in. He never felt like he could trust them or confide in them. The one time he did he was ignored and nothing was done to help him. He recounts how he grew up feeling insecure, unworthy and socially inept. In his adulthood he was plagued with alcoholism, anxiety, and manic depression. We also learn his mother ended up taking her own life. I felt very sad and heartbroken for him. Especially for that time period and living in a small town, it must have been extremely isolating and painful. Although my life story is much different then his, I can still relate to his. I feel empathy and also amazement at how far he has come considering the circumstances he was faced with. It was also interesting to read how he requested some old artifacts from his old school and as he was looking through yearbooks and albums, he made note of the fact that everyone looked happy, content and as if they were living their best lives. But is that true? I compared it to today. On social media we are bombarded with pictures of people at their best and most happiest. We don’t see what goes on behind closed doors. Some studies show that having social media can cause worsening depression and anxiety because people compare themselves to others who they assume are living a perfect life. Grant says of his overall experience in writing and sharing the short story quote: “This pattern was to inform the story of who I was down the decades. However, in the space between then and now, in direct response to and in order to compensate for my early life experiences, I have managed to accumulate a range of narrative identity resources. These tell multiple success stories about me, and in my own terms, and can help me re-inscribe my past in sophisticated and, more importantly, self-compassionate and forgiving ways.” This is so powerful! Like he states he is telling his truths, in his own terms about his turbulent past, struggles and ultimately his successful future. This is where real connections can be made with others. The third and final part of the article concludes with a interview between the two authors. Laetitia Zeeman and Alec Grant. They engage in an open, honest dialogue about his short story, her reaction to it and about the research method of autoethnography. She mentions some of the pros and cons and asks him how he interprets it. He also talks about the importance of changing the status quo in research methodology. That’s what makes autoethnography different and important to the growing changes in the field and to the fast changing world around us. It’s pulling away from the rigid academic norms and the outdated conventional uses of the past. It embraces culture and activism and promotes change. And I for one believe that change is a good thing. Especially when autoethnography is helping to bridge the gap between the old and the new and to personalize our human experiences from which empathy and understanding grows. The video below helped to clear up any questions or confusion I had about this method, so I hope it helps you all too! Xo.

A Postmodern Journey on Learning about Autoethnography

Summary: 

Sarah Wall’s article An Autoethnography on Learning About Autoethnography, focuses on a more possible progressive approach to qualitative research that permits the writer/researcher to connect and personalize their study based on personal experience to cultural , in addition to a nontraditional means of defining the study’s inquiry and the writer/researchers expression. Although this article is about autoethnography, Wall’s unique direction in her study helps her to recognize her own voice and  self within her writing and not to mention other’s works. Through her thorough readings of fellow autoethnographers on their individual journey, Wall acknowledges her questions, concerns and/or curiosities are probably shared with many people. 

Wall comes from a positivist background in which she states, positivists believe “real” science can only be quantitative, experimental and understood by only a selected few. In other words any forms of science should and can be proved because the science community looks down upon “fluffy” connections to any aspect of society (people, individual lives and certain dilemmas). 

With the rise of postmodernism, it allows her to take hold and widen her range of inquiry for research strategies pertaining to objectivity and subjectivity. Autoethnography broadens her perception of what science is, what it represents and how it represents.

Within her article, she convertly explains that her own style of writing isn’t about critiquing others or oneself but getting the story out in a way that resonates with you. She refers to five or six writers and subtract certain themes within their writing that can develop her knowledge. Her purpose isn’t to interject all of her personal information into her research but rather to relate it through a societal and cultural way. Her article ends with an understanding that “knowledge does not have to result from research to be worthwhile, and personal stories should have their own place alongside research.” 

 

Thoughts:

Surprisingly, I actually liked this article because it was easy to relate. Like Wall mentioned, yes the article is about autoethnography but it focuses more on self, voice, experience and challenging the genre of inquiry. Basically she is a part of her research. I appreciate the inclusion of Pelias, Duncan, Holt, Muncey and Sparkes. None of these writers have anything in common except for the theme of autoethnography. The way they chose to relate in such a humanistic manner; as if, life isn’t all about their research. It’s humorous how well the stories are similar yet different.

When Wall stated that feminist writers advocate for research that starts with one’s own expereince, I remembered the struglle with advertisement agencies not connceting with the target audience. Basically, men were the advertisers that were selling products females used in the household or personally. The male point of view lacked the significance of the consumer (subject) and product (objectivity). In fact the disconnect, inexperience and lack of orientation, sellers could have a loss in sales. When you bridge a gap between consumer and seller then relation is developed. Therefore feminist writers wrote for themselves and other women that could relate to similar issues. 

On page 148, she referred to the omission of a researcher’s voice leading to the reduction of his/her writing to a summary and interpretation of searched information. Last summer, when I had to write my own inquiry, I struggled with comprehending my voice and how to recognize my capabilities. By permitting myself to include my experience within the story, it furthered my knowledge and brought the writing piece to a newer level of research. I wanted to continue the process of adding.

In order to write, a researcher has to know the direction of their style of writing, literary or scientific. I wonder when we mentioned co-authoring an article on autoethnography, I wonder if her co-writer was a man. I thought if the gender was different it was harder to break away from the use of ‘we’, rather than a same gender co-writer. I think the description of autoethnography from Ellis was funny, “autoethnography does not proceed linearly” can be likened to being sent “into the woods without a compass.” The purpose is not to get comfortable but to tour the entire area. Get to know all that you can.

For some reason, I’ve been referring to Wall as Walker in my head (side note not a good idea if we met in person). As the weeks progress, I am gradually understanding research methods more specifically, qualitative research methods. After reading Wall’s article I wanted to hear her explain autoethnography in detail.

 

 

Work Cited:

Wall, Sarah. “An Autoethnography on Learning About Autoethnography.” International Institute for Qualitative Methoodology (IIQM): University of Alberta (2006).

Wall, Sarah. “Autoethnography: Possibility and Controversy.” YouTube, ATLAS.ti – Qualitative Data Analysis, 25 July 2014, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pEWF0SV9F_s.

Using DA to Analyze Trump’s Tweet on “The Chinese Virus”

Reaction to:

  • An Introduction to Discourse Analysis by James Paul Gee
  • Discourse Analysis: Making Complex Methodology Simple by Tatyana Bondarouk and Huub Ruel

Discourse analysis came in handy this week as President Trump referred to the coronavirus as the “Chinese Virus.” From his tweet, we can discern that language matters, diction matters. 

James Paul Gee defines discourse analysis (DA) as “language in use.” He contends that language is “more than saying things”; it is “saying, doing, and being.” In other words, “language allows us to do things and to be things.” The verbs in language enable us to think, discuss, and debate. Language shapes our identity: when we are with our friends, we use colloquial language, when at work, we use a more formal style.

Furthermore, Gee claims that language has a socio-political aspect to it. He provides an example of the term marriage in that gay couples want to call their unions “marriage” because it invokes a sense of “social good.” Overall, people want to be associated with positively connotated terms such as the “good student,” “good wife,” and the “good boss.” Gee goes on to suggest that language is political. He claims that “politics is the distribution of social goods — that is, who gets power, money, power, and acceptance.” From this statement, once can discern that James Paul Gee is a critical discourse analyst since he believes that “language itself is political.” He also asserts that “My view — the view of this book is that all discourse analysis needs to critical–“

To clarify: There are two types of discourse analysis: descriptive and critical. According to Gee, graphic analysts’ goal is to “describe how language works to understand it” and “their work may have applications to the world.” In other words, in descriptive analysis, the goal is to describe language in terms of grammar and syntax. So, let’s analyze Trump’s tweet using descriptive discourse analysis. According to Trump, he calls it 

“Chinese” because the virus originated from Wuhan, China. He selected this adjective because it describes the origin of the virus. Now, let’s use a critical lens. Scientists and the medical community purposely did not label viruses with particular regions or groups. They intentionally changed the coronavirus to COVID-19 to prevent bias, stigmatism, and xenophobia. However, Trump went against the medical community by using “Chinese” to describe the virus. It was a political move to shift the blame on Beijing. As a result of his tweet, there has been an uptick in East Asian bias and bigotry. For example: when my sister was picking up a prescription at the Colonia Walgreens, a white man whispered in her ear, “Go back to China and bring the virus with you!” She reported the bias incident to the pharmacist. Yes, language is political. 

Critics of critical discourse analysis argue that there may be bias in the analysts’ interpretations; whereas, critics of descriptive discourse analysis say that analysts neglect their social and political duties if they are focusing solely on describing language. In the case of Trump’s tweet, I would say that ignoring the social and political ramifications of his adjective would be unconscionable.

I do see flaws in critical discourse analysis. Take, for example, the misunderstanding between Sara, the history professor, and the two teachers, Mary and Karen. The analyst’s questions at the end of the transcript were leading, especially questions 8 and 9.

8.) What in the language tells you that Karen is probably anger or perturbed?

9.) What do you think Sara did that angered or perturbed Karen?

My interpretation of this meeting is that Karen and Mary were annoyed with Sara because she had initially contacted them regarding conducting research. Karen and Mary returned her call and agreed to meet at the summer institute. However, Sara did not show up. 

As a teacher, I would be annoyed at Sara too — regardless of her race. Yet, the analyst mentioned race in the questions. Would it have made a difference if everyone was the same race? No, it would not have made a difference because one party felt slighted by the other party. In this scenario, the racial implication complicated a simple misunderstanding. Nonetheless, context and tone are two essential components of critical discourse analysis.

Since there were multiple interpretations of the meeting with Sara, Karen, and May, I appreciated the idea of the “hermeneutical circle” that Bondarouk and Ruel referred to in Discourse Analysis: Making Complex Methodology Simple. Within critical discourse analysis, there is an allowance for “open interpretations,” and the “interpretations are not final.” Since there is no final authority, it provides the audience with the agency to decide the social and political ramifications of written or spoken text. Therefore, discourse analysis, unlike other research methods, draws from “the broadest range of factors” such as the past and the present, historical events, societal views, and technological considerations.  

At the end of the article, Bondarouk and Ruel address the problem of critical discourse analysis? What if the reader does not agree with the interpretation? Then, what? They refer to Chang, who says, “Change yourself.”

That is easier said than done. Bondarouk and Ruel reasons that “if a critic becomes able to appropriate the given interpretations, this will enable him to suggest improvements.” This line of reasoning appears to be circular and unconvincing. However, they end on a more reassuring note by mentioning inter-subjectivity where we arrive at a ‘final’ interpretation by “using a circle of evidence” and “through an openness for interpretations and critiques.”

 “And that will bring us back to the inter-subjectivity we have mentioned earlier. In essence, the validity of discourse analysis is developed through a dialectical process of using a circle of evidence to create social reality, and through the openness for other interpretations and critiques.” 

It appears that graduate students engage in inter-subjectivity where we come into a discussion with our interpretations of a text. Then we listen to other students’ and the professor’s interpretations and critiques. From listening to the evidence, we revise our initial interpretations through this “circle of evidence” and leave class with a sense of clarity. And that is the beauty of graduate classes: the shift from solipsism to inter-subjectivity.

Autoethnography

Autoethnography is an interesting and promising qualitative method that offers a way of giving voice to personal experience to extend sociological understanding.

“Furthermore, scholars began recognizing that different kinds of people possess different assumptions about the world—a multitude of ways of speaking, writing, valuing and believing—and that conventional ways of doing and thinking about research were narrow, limiting, and parochial.” (Paragraph 5)

I think that’s interesting to think about, you ever had a conversation with someone, and they take what you said, completely differently, then how you meant it? I think about this all the time, my sister and I always get into arguments over miscommunication. I can say “ok” through text, and at times, depending on the conversation, she takes it negatively, and there starts a fight. I am pinning to the point that different kinds of people possess different assumptions while communicating in any form. Especially now a day, with communication done through text messages, I started using voice messages at a point so my sister can hear my tone vs. assuming whatever crazy things her mind can lead her to believe.

At first, I perceived Autoethnography to be a personal account. But upon further reading, I figured auto meant self, ethno meant the sociocultural connection and graphy would then be the research itself. I like this method, I have recently turned vegan, and I feel like a study like this would be great to understand why I and others are at a fast rate becoming vegan. Autoethnography would allow me to explore and analyze and compare and contrast a vegan’s motivation, philosophical thinking. It would also let me see the impact the diet has had on them intrapersonally and interpersonally. Am I getting this right? I think I am, could be wrong…

I also really like this process because we can tell it like a story, and appeal to the readers. I’m more of a narrative writer anyways. I love being able to incorporate my own experiences with others, showing and telling the truth; this sounds like fun. I wonder if there’s a way to do this for my own research paper, Dr. Nelson?

Whose Story Is It? An Autoethnography Concerning Narrative Identity by
Alec J. Grant and Laetitia Zeeman is even more enjoyable than the first reading.

“Autoethnographic storytelling has further related and important functions. It can be therapeutic for the storyteller to work through difficult times, events, and issues in his/her own life in the development of a preferred identity.” (2) When I mentioned becoming a vegan earlier, it is very personal to me, maybe that’s why I related it to this qualitative method. I did it due to underlying health issues; I have IBS, and adhering to a vegan diet has helped me tremendously. It is, in a way, therapeutic to share my journey to help others who are suffering through the same, like other writers have done for me at my lowest low.

A pending question of Autoethnography is how do we connect a narrative to the world. In a sense, I think including my own experience as well as others would revel how a vegan diet impacts individual and global health. I used veganism to help me understand Authoethonograohy; I hope I made sense.

Works Cited:

Autoethnography: An Overview Carolyn EllisTony E. Adams & Arthur P. Bochner

Whose Story Is It? An Autoethnography Concerning Narrative IdentityAlec J. Grant and Laetitia Zeeman University of Brighton, Brighton, Sussex, UK