Notes! Autoethnography: Understanding Qualitative Research, Part 2

In case you missed it, this is the tail end of my notes about this book, Autoethnography: Understanding floblblobo bnl it’s in the blog topic. This kind of book does a lot of the work of getting people who don’t ‘get’ Autoethnography as an academic practice up to speed, but it also does the job of making sure if you want to do it, you don’t just run in blindly.

I covered a bit of my notes a few days ago, so here’s the rest.


There’s a discussion in the book about the application of qualitative research versus quantitative researches (p54). The basic gist of it is that quantitative research has to try and gather as much data as it can, and data needs, as best it can be, to be separated from as many unrelated data points as possible. This can be great for measuring how many people walk through a doorway, but very difficult to cleanly divine why they did that. Quantitative research methods generalise data, while Qualitative research particularises it.

One criticism of the book is its form! It breaks regularly into other writing forms to explain them, but it also uses individualised voices throughout, while changing narrators. This means you’re treated to awkward moments of writing like “my writing (Carolyn’s) about-” when a different form feels it’d serve the same purpose. Perhaps a script structure. This would play into the writing advice later in the book, about using the form that suits your writing best (p91).

When discussing autoethnographic subjects, the question of a subject’s identity comes into play. This can present a challenge when you’re trying to preserve the subject’s anonymity out of respect and for ethical reasons. What this can lead to is the consideration of changing their identity to the text, but doing so without obscuring the meaning of the information gleaned from them (p73). This can play into the creation of narrative, with characters as templated from research subjects (p91), rather than directly expressing a person’s history. The challenge is to both keep someone’s privacy while also not creating fiction of their narrative.

Autoethnography is a form of self-care (p75). To self-examine, to be vulnerable, and to witness your own story is a process of healing and care that can take a great deal of emotional sincerity to reach. It’s also just plain work, which ties into our next point:

Doing autoethnography is not just writing. Experiencing is part of it. When you are listening and learning and talking and processing and thinking, you are doing autoethnography. The self-examind life of the autoethnographer is part of the process of doing autoethnography, because you cannot be prepared for when the witness, the experience, occurs to you or has changed you. It is more than just the writing (p80).

There’s more – some writing and technique advice – between pages 90-110 – but they are more referential to good process than necessarily specific to this task. I admit, I’m being brief, because this is getting very unmanageably long. It has to because we’re covering things that are bedrock to not just the methodology, but also the practice.

How Will It Be Used?

I intend to use the writing techniques (particularly the resistance to jargon, the eschewing adverbs, and the personal voice), most proactively. I now understand better the reasoning behind the use of a narrative rather than necessarily an account.

For my research, because I will be demonstrating myself as a game developer, I now recognise that some parts of my own personal worldview are going to have to come into play. I may have to talk about some of my own odd personal history and the ways it intersected with my ability to empathise with other people.

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