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The next step in your research will be to write an auto-ethnographic diary. As a research method, auto-ethnography is rather different from library research. When you conduct library research, your aim is to discover what other researchers and writers have had to say about your topic. However, when you conduct an auto-ethnography, your aim is to record and to reflect upon your own experience. Hence the prefix auto, which is Greek for “self:” an auto-ethnography is you researching yourself. But what about the “ethnography” part? Ethnography is a form of research practiced by anthropologists and other social scientists and humanists, wherein the researcher immerses him- or herself in a culture, both observing what participants in the culture do as well as participating in the doings themselves, in an effort to gain a deeper understanding of what that culture means to the people who belong to it. In an auto-ethnography, then, the researcher immerses him- or herself in his or her own cultural experience in to explore what that experience has meant for him or her, by recording their personal experiences, telling their stories, and reflecting upon the meaning of both. To conduct your auto-ethnography, you’ll keep a diary of your personal experiences with the tech you’ve chosen to write your TED Talk about. You’ll spend at least an hour a day playing with, working on, or otherwise interacting with the app, gadget, or platform you’ve selected, and then you’ll write about that experience in your diary, keeping your research question in mind. For example, if you’re researching World of Warcraft, then you’ll spend at least an hour a day playing that game, and then you’ll write a diary entry about the experience; if you’re researching the iPhone or Facebook — i.e., technology that we tend to use for shorter periods of time across a longer span of the day — then you’ll make sure that you interact with your tech for at least an hour spread across the day, and, at the end of the day, you’ll write your diary entry. What should go into each diary entry? It’s important to remember that you’re not simply recording facts in your diary but reporting and reflecting upon experiences. That is, you’re writing stories, and you’re writing about what they mean to you. So your diary entries won’t consist merely of a record of when you started, when you finished, and what you saw/heard/read along the way. Instead, you’ll tell the story of your experience with your tech that day: what you did with it, how, and why, what it meant to you, and, most importantly, what it made you think and feel with respect to your research question. At the end of this auto-ethnographic exercise, you’ll have collected a whole bunch of little stories and interpretations, some or all of which will add up to a larger story that you’ll incorporate into your TED Talk.
To give you an example of what I mean: Imagine that I were conducting a research project in which I sought to explore how the experience of narrative that we have when we binge-view a series on Netflix differs from the experience of narrative we have when reading a novel. For my auto-ethnography, I’d first write a diary entry about my previous experiences with novel-reading and binge-viewing, and then I’d spend alternate afternoons with each form: watching a few back-to-back episodes of Breaking Bad on Saturday, Monday, and Wednesday, and reading a few chapters of Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday. After each viewing or reading period, I’d write a diary entry with three parts:
· First, I’d describe what I viewed or read that day; whether I viewed/read continuously or in chunks; and whether I viewed/read straight through or rewound/flipped back, and why.
· Second, I’d write about the experience of viewing/reading: When was I was most involved in the narrative, and when least? How did my understanding of the narrative develop and change? What was my intellectual or emotional reaction to key events.
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