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.
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