Using ‘I’ – an autoethnography

For as long as I can remember, I was always told that the story isn’t about me.

In high school, my teachers would time and time again remind us that using ‘I’ in an essay or short story was almost like shooting ourselves in the foot. We were told that using ‘I’ lessened the value of the work and that the pure focus should always be about the research and the content.

Now here I am, in my final semester at University and I am finally being told that using ‘I’ isn’t such as bad thing. According to Ellis, authoethnography allows the researcher to “analyse personal experiences to understand cultural experience.”

It does this in a way that it joins elements of autobiography and ethnography. Autobiographies concern themselves with creatively and evocatively conveying epiphanies that have impacted a person’s life, whereas ethnography is a study of culture to help others understand it. (Ellis. et al. 2011)

Combining the two, Ellis states that autoethnographies analyse epiphanies that are derived from being part of a culture.

After reading Ellis’ text, I began to reflect on my own responses to the 1998 film, Akira which took the form of tweets. Whilst scrolling, I realised that each one was informed by my own cultural experiences–without consciously making it that way.  Thus re-iterating Ellis’ statement, “researchers do not exist in isolation.” (2011)

Having watched very little anime or knowing very much about anime, I made sense of the film by relating it to aspects that are particularly important in my life.

Using the methodology of evocative autoethnography I was creative in the way that I responded to one of the earlier scenes in the film. At a turning point in the film, the line “Why you little” was said and I used a gif to visually represent the Westernised version of this saying–thus drawing links between the two cultures to make it easier to understand by myself and others.

As noted by Mendez, “this method of evocative autoethnography aims toward researchers’ introspection on a particular topic to allow readers to make a connection with the researchers’ feelings and experiences.”

However, I also used the methodology of analytical autoethnography where I critiqued and analysed my experience based on my personal culture and ideologies.

It was in this moment that I had an epiphany.

I realised that the treatment of women in popular culture doesn’t always transcend to other cultures.

Akira exposed me to mistreatment toward women and I was completely shocked. I was shocked because in Australia and other westernised countries, females have fought hard for respect and fair treatment. Women have initiated campaigns such as closing the pay gap, yet on the screen before me was something I haven’t seen before on westernised TV.

Thus my epiphany was drawn on the basis of my political standing and experiences as a woman living in a westernised country.

These tweets act as a Stream of Consciousness, a theory coined by William James, where my thoughts and reactions are recorded in a continuous manner. However, Ellis raises some concerns with this methodology as the autoethnographic act of recording field notes is “too artful and not scientific, or too scientific and not sufficiently artful.” Although, I believe that having the researchers societal and cultural background and knowledge as a basis of the field work acts as a framework of scientific research and framing.

After reading Ellis’ text, I’m not as scared as I once was to use the letter ‘I.’


Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1. < http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095

James. W 1892, ‘The Stream of Consciousness,’ Psychology, Chapter XI. Clevland, New York <http://psychclassics.yorku.ca/James/jimmy11.htm&gt;

Mendez. M, 2013 ‘Autoethnography as a research method: Advantages, limitations and criticism, Colomb. Appl. Linguistics, vol 15. No, 2 <http://www.scielo.org.co/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0123-46412013000200010&gt;

Otomo. K 1998, Akira







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