BCM320 – Autoethnography Methodology

Following on from my previous blog post in this subject, I feel it is prudent to mention I’ve done significantly more research since this post, and have made steps towards my individual digital artefact. I have stuck with me ‘Tea across Asia’ series of short videos, but I believe I might add a short blog post to go alongside them to further explain my epiphanies and research.

As autoethnography suggests, it is the culmination of autobiographical research as well as ethnographical research. In Ellis’ (2011) overview of the ode of research he takes a look at what comprises each section of autoethnography, and I hope to emulate that in my own modes of research.

So, firstly, let’s take a look at:



An autobiography usually consists of writing about past experiences and stories that are personally relevant. It is more narrative than anything, a recount of a period of time and the individuals relation to the moments, often in quite an evocative way. To quote Ellis (2011), “Usually, the author does not live through these experiences solely to make them part of a published document, rather, these experiences are assembled using hindsight”.

In looking at what I have already achieved in my digital artefact I can see the relevance of this. However, in some respects, as we were requested to do a mode of research, choosing to participate in this experience and then recounting it seems to go against Ellis’ ideas. But on the other hand, as I edit my videos and curate my blog posts I find myself through the process of recounting, discovering elements of interest I had not noticed before. For instance, though I had heard of Darjeeling tea, I knew absolutely nothing about it. The lady in the shop had described it as “the champagne of tea” and this of course piqued my interest. But what I didn’t realise was how cultivated it was by the British Empire and how contested the land Darjeeling tea is grown is. There is a rich history of the area and ties with a lot of historical moments for India and England. I of course didn’t know any of this until I had down some research, but as I finally got around to drinking the tea I discovered that I was enjoying the tea from the perspective of its creation being manufactured and imperialistic. Where other teas had cultural significance, for me, this particular tea had historical significance and one that I felt familiar with due to Australian history with English colonialism.

“A World of Tea” Map – Source: https://www.baldwins.co.uk/blog/baldwins-world-tea-map


The ethnographic research method is where you take a close look into a particular culture and in Ellis’ (2011) words, with “the purpose of helping insiders and outsiders better understand the culture”. The research is impersonal and takes a more factual standing point.

So far in my own research about various teas across Asia, I think it has been more ethnographical than autobiographical. But I suppose you can’t really have an epiphany about something unless you find out something about it. My own methodology seems to occur in the order of ethnographical then autobiographical. I do the research behind the teas and then mull over what I have uncovered as I experience drinking the teas. Before I drink the teas, I already have this cultural assumption behind it.

In the one video I have already recorded I found that I was already using instruments that would affect how I saw the tea anyway. Although it may not seem it, I think presentation certainly plays a factor in tea drinking. It certainly does in Asian culture but as I drank out of my large mug I’ve had for years and using a cheap tea strainer I was already wondering if the experience would be different, perhaps more decadent, if I were using an actual pot and tea cup. Perhaps in further videos I could attempt to investigate this!?

I think the Ellis (2011) quote that best summarises how my auto ethnographic digital artefact is coming to fruition would be:

“…they must use personal experience to illustrate facets of cultural experience”




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 

4 thoughts on “BCM320 – Autoethnography Methodology

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  1. Hi Eliza,

    As a fellow tea lover, I am so excited to see how your project unfolds!
    I could see how your breaking down of the methodology into the autobiography and the ethnography, based on Ellis et al.’s explanation, certainly helped a lot with refocusing and finding that balance in your research—I know the feeling, it’s so tempting to just read and read about a topic and get sucked into the rabbit hole instead of taking time to actually immerse ourselves in it.

    As you mentioned, presentation (the instruments, for example) is key to a tea-drinking experience, and the “tools” you’ve used so far might affect the intensity of your epiphanies. However, I don’t think this will invalidate your account at all, since a lot of your readers will share (or have shared) the same lack of exactness in their replications of that cultural experience—after all, the multitude of aspects constituting the experience* can hardly be recreated outside of the culture it originated from, especially if your budget is limited (I mean not all students have the money to purchase a $50 ceremonial matcha whisk**). If anything, it might make your research even more relatable and valid, since one goal of autoethnography is to validity: to evoke a feeling in readers that the account is believable, truthfully represented, and that the story speaks to them about their experience (Ellis et al. 2012).

    If you want to include some perspectives of other tea lovers, the TeaChat forum*** is a good place to start (many people there have limited budgets, but some do purge and get all the “authentic” instruments). This post**** gives a list of instruments for tea ceremonies, from the simple, everyday mug and kettle to the more advanced tools, so you might be able to get an idea of how close you want the experience to be to the original and purchase additional items if necessary.
    All best,
    – Mia

    *: https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2096.html
    **: https://www.t2tea.com/en/au/teawares/brewing-tools/t2-ceremonial-matcha-whisk-A999ZZ043.html
    ***: https://www.teachat.com/viewtopic.php?t=10445
    ****: https://www.seriouseats.com/2015/07/tea-brewing-equipment.html

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think one thing I can point out to use (while possibly a typo in your part) is the description of Carolyn Ellis as he, she is mostly definitely a she 😛 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carolyn_Ellis)
    That aside it is somewhat curious to me the way you laid out your writing in deliberately contrasting autobiography and ethnography against each other, while I feel Ellis suggestion of auto-ethnography is one which is an idea that the two should not be strictly separate from one another. I think your observations of how your experience is affected by your use of non-authentic ‘tea instruments.’

    I think your observation of how your background has caused you to make assumptions about tea and how your background has constructed a cultural bias is a very interesting epiphany.

    I also think in regards to Mia’s comment above, her observation in your post about the socio-economic circumstances of a uni student in your research might be an interesting aspect to consider culturally how your financial situation can affect your consumption and experience with tea. 🙂


  3. Hey Eliza

    Interesting idea of a connected videos to a blog series could be an interesting idea but may i suggest that instead of the blogs defining your epiphanies through out the process you contain those to the videos and express the further concepts into the blogs, adding those elements of epiphanies into a vlog part accompanied by the rest of the video will enhance and keep interest into the video as not many will like diving deep into concept theory but they always want to see an idea unfold.

    I thought separating the two parts of the word and describing them on there own was a great idea, i know it helped me get a further understanding of the concept, plus the best way to begin to comprehend a word is to first pull it apart.

    A quick added note, i did not understand foggodesign saying how your background caused you to make assumptions and be bias because isn’t the point of Auto-ethnography to draw on your experiences, use your frameworks to reflect and gain insight into the cultural experiences you’ve had.

    Anyway keen to see your project unfold and save me some tea. 🙂 lol


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