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Greg McVerry

Greg McVerry

An Autoethnography on Learning About Autoethnography

I can write this down now. It has been swirling around in my head for a month, the readings mixing with my thoughts and reactions, but I did not know just how to put it down on paper. So much of what I want to say about autoethnography is about me, not it.

Okay maybe I am on the write track. I kinda wanna lose the traditional research headings. Gonna keep them for planning so the semantic sturcutre lies beneath and through whatever blanket of truth I weave.

reflexivity and voice, various vague approaches to autobiographical inquiry, validity and acceptability, defences and criticisms, and a wide range of published personal narratives, the typical product of autoethnography.

keeping with the essence of autoethnography, I finally came to the realization that I could share my experience of learning about autoethnography and, in the text, co-mingle me and it.

Philosophical and theoretical foundations for autobiographical methods

Think we can skip the whole positvist and post modern debate.

feminist researchers “emphasize the subjective, empathetic, process-oriented, and inclusive sides of social life” (Neuman, 1994, p. 72).

Stivers (1993) has stated that a vision of universal truth is really just a dream of power over others and that liberatory, emancipatory projects are better served by alternative knowledge production process.

Taking the question of voice and representation a step further, we could argue that an individual is best situated to describe his or her own experience more accurately than anyone else

The potential power of autoethnography to address unanswered questions and include the new and unique ideas of the researcher is inspiring to me as one who wishes to find my niche and make my own special contribution.

They noted, however, that the term autoethnography has been in use for more than 20 years (originated by Hayano, 1979) and has become the term of choice in describing studies of a personal nature (Ellis, 2004;Ellis & Bochner, 2000).

The basic design of a heuristic research project involves six steps: initial engagement, immersion, incubation, illumination, explication, and culmination in a creative synthesis (Moustakas, 1990)

Although these phases, as described by Moustakas (1990), strike me as quite idealistic and abstract, they do set the tone for a very nontraditional form of study that “engages one‟s total self and evokes a personal and passionate involvement and active participation in the [research] process” (p. 42).

autobiographical research methods have become increasingly known as “autoethnography” and have been promoted, influenced, and developed by Ellis and Bochner (1999, 2000).

Muncey (2005) added some concrete assistance to the question of “how to do” autoethnography. She suggested the use of snapshots, artifacts/documents, metaphor, and psychological and literal journeys as techniques for reflecting on and conveying a “patchwork of feelings, experiences, emotions, and behaviors that portray a more complete view of . . . life” (p. 10).

A third widely discussed approach to the researcher‟s use of self is personal narrative. Personal narrative is often presented as a typical product of autoethnography but is also proposed as a method unto itself.

Autoethnographers tend to vary in their emphasis on auto- (self), -ethno- (the cultural link), and -graphy (the application of a research process) (Ellis & Bochner, 2000, paraphrasing Reed- Danahay, 1997).

Holt (2001) published an autoethnography that is similar in approach to Sparkes‟s (1996), although it deals with a very different topic. Holt told his story about becoming a graduate teaching assistant in a university and using a three-level reflection strategy to refine his teaching methods.

Duncan, autoethnography was a method of inquiry in which the inner dialogue of the researcher was considered valid, that encouraged systematic reflection, offered an organized and traceable means of data analysis and resulted in a scholarly account (p. 3). Rigor in the research process (“-graphy”)

On the other end of the continuum are a number of examples of personal narrative that rely almost exclusively on a highly personal, evocative writing style, focusing on the auto-, omitting any reference to research conventions, and leaving the reader to make his or her own societal or cultural applications. An essay called “A Choice for K‟aila” (Paulette, 1993) is a mother‟s story about her decision not to permit her infant son, with terminal liver disease, to have a liver transplant.

Despite their wide-ranging characteristics, autoethnographic writings all begin with the researcher‟s use of the subjective self. By using self as a source of data, perhaps the only source, autoethnography has been criticized for being self-indulgent, narcissistic, introspective, and individualized (Atkinson, 1997; Sparkes, 2000).


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