A is for… Autoethnography #AtoZChallenge

A is for… Autoethnography

Not surprisingly, as a writer who is studying creative writing from an occupational science perspective, I am taking a qualitative approach to my research, looking at words and not numbers.

My parents and grandparents, who are watching me surrounded by books, think all of this research terminology seems like double dutch. So I will try my hardest to make this interesting and understandable.

I will start briefly by describing Ethnography – this is research that explores a cultural group, one that develops ‘shared patterns of behavior, beliefs, and language.’ (Creswell 2007 p. 68). Ethnographers usually observe this culture and document the meanings and interpret what they witness. Ellis (2004 p.26) breaks the word down to ethno – people or culture and graphy – writing or describing. When we add auto we add the self.

Autoethnography therefore ‘utilizes the researchers’ autobiographical data to analyze and interpret their cultural assumptions.’ (Chang 2008 p. 9).

So, yes, in short, my research is going to be about me and my experiences of engaging in the occupation of creative writing. But, I don’t think I’m quite so vain to think it is all about me or that it’s all about you (cue song)

so I am exploring the concept of Collaborative Autoethnography (Chang et al 2013).

I am making the presumption that writers belong to a ‘writing’ culture, especially those who are online.

The other aspect that appeals to me about autoethnography is the idea that you can be creative when writing it up, using story, poetry etc. It is much more appealing to me to write a novel than a thesis and I hope I can mix the two. Ellis (2004) presents her methodological book in novel format which makes it much more engaging to me as a reader.

Autoethnography does appear to mean lots of things to lots of different people and so I need to read more and make some decisions on what it will mean to me.

Chang (2008 p.49) highlights that ‘autoethnographers face the initial challenge of identifying a research focus…’ – That is what tomorrow’s post B is for…Beginnings will be about.

If you are a writer do you feel you belong to a ‘writing’ culture?
If you have experiences of using or reading autoethnography please do share them.

Chang, H. 2008. Autoethnography As Method. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press.
Chang, H., Ngunjiri, F.W., and Hernandez, K-A,C. 2013. Collaborative Autoethnography. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press.
Creswell, J.W. 2007. Qualitative Inquiry & Research Design: choosing among five approaches. 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Ellis, C. 2004. The Ethnographic I: a methodological novel about autoethnography. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press.

Posted on April 1, 2013, in April A-Z Challenge, PhD and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Interesting. Yes, I think all writers belong to a writing culture of some kind. I wonder how much writers are consciously or subconsciously affected by the writing culture to which they belong? It seems to me, most writers gravitate to other writers that share the same genre preference. However, should a writer within that group want to branch out to other genres, might he or she feel pressured not to because of the culture within which they have established themselves–perhaps fearing they would be betraying the group? I don’t know. I can’t say I’ve felt that way, but I can see how someone with very strong ties to a particular writing circle might feel obliged to write according to the expectations of that group. We all know the power of peer pressure!

    This may not be quite what you mean, but it’s what I thought about reading your post. 🙂

    • Thanks Colin, I think what you say is very relevant because that would affect the meaning and enjoyment that they get out of creative writing. These are the types of things I hope to explore but I guess what is actually explored will depend on my participants.
      Thanks for the comment.

  2. This is every interesting. I feel like I exist in a reading culture and am on the fringes of a wrting culture.

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