Auto-ethnography, as described by Anderson (2006), is a highly valuable mode of qualitative research by which authors draw upon personal experience in order to comprehend a greater cultural involvement. He defines the term “analytic auto-ethnography” as referring to “ethnographic work in which the researcher is (1) a full member in the research group or setting, (2) visible as such a member in the researcher’s published texts, and (3) committed to an analytic research agenda focused on improving theoretical understandings of broader social phenomena” (Anderson, 2006).
Diversity is certainly characteristic of the world in which we live, and brings with it great importance and relevance to scholarly research. The broad range of experiences, backgrounds and proficiencies which different people possess is fundamental in constituting a diverse knowledge base and source of information upon which we form opinions about the world’s function. As Ellis et al elaborate, “different kinds of people possess different assumptions about the world—a multitude of ways of speaking, writing, valuing and believing…conventional ways of doing and thinking about research were narrow, limiting, and parochial” (2011).
During my past four years at university, I have myself had experience in auto-ethnographic research and analysis through media projects. One of which was titled “Eulola”, and looked at the differing media practices of three distinct generations within the same space over time. For me, this involvement in research was a highly insightful way to explore a lived experience which often goes unnoticed due to its seemingly mundane and ordinary place within my daily routine. Auto-ethnographic research in this instance encouraged me to consider my rural upbringing and the impact that this had on my perceptions of media.
However, in my experience, the method of auto-ethnographic research is only truly effective when implemented alongside existing secondary research, used as a provision to give credibility to the individual’s findings. Which is supported by Ellis et al when they explain:
“Auto-ethnographers must not only use their methodological tools and research literature to analyse experience, but also must consider ways others may experience similar epiphanies… to accomplish this might require comparing and contrasting personal experience against existing research, interviewing cultural members, and/or examining relevant cultural artefacts” (2011).
This subject has so far challenged me greatly to expand my knowledge and understanding of a culture which is seemingly quite foreign to my own. Auto-ethnographic research is hence a highly valuable means by which to explore the world around us and our comprehension of its function.
Anderson, L 2006, ‘Analytic Autoethnography’, Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, Vol. 35, No. 4, pp. 373-393.
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