This post is in the Autoethnography category

Throughout this document I have addressed the reader directly through autoethnographic texts – the black pages, each headed, Dear Reader.   These were first introduced on the website guide. When you read these I want your whole attention – this address is a deliberate invitation to interaction, a request for response at an emotional level that allows the reader to actively construct personal meaning.  It is appropriate for the reader to engage with these texts as if they are the receiver of secrets, an audience in a theatre of ideas.  This form of active text, where the writer and reader maintain a responsibility to each other, is central to the success of autoethnography.  We write as personally as we can, in a constant flux of reaching in and reaching out, expecting our reader to “bring the same careful attention to your words in the context of their own lives”  (Holman Jones, 2005, p. 756) that they might also be affected.

These “black pages” have been generated through a variety of sources that fit three main categories:-

a) diary notes – short narratives and blog entries written at the time of particular experiences
b) reflections – texts written after the event and reflecting on the experience with the benefit of hindsight
c) illustrations – creative non-fictional texts that “deliver(s) facts in ways that move the reader toward a deeper understanding of a topic”  (Cheney, 2001, p. 1).

Diary notes were mostly collected in a series of blog entries centred around particular events and projects.  In particular blogs were kept during the composition and recording phase of the Donkey in Lahore documentary  (K-Rahber, 2008), and another during a particularly low point of the research period.

Reflections were written as individual narratives over the research period and collected as “posts” in Scrivener, a Mac writing application.  They were frequently written as reactions to circumstances or as a response to an insight gleaned from research activities such as literature searches or viewing of video data. As such, the texts have both analytical and reflective elements, in that they draw on the benefit of hindsight and learning.

Illustrations are texts and other media that were generated to exemplify a situation or experience.  They consist of multiple real events coalesced into a single story, a creative non-fiction.  This approach has enabled the telling of  certain “truths” while preserving anonymity of some of the participants and allowing me to explore details that are a collection of extant personal realities. Care has been taken to avoid creating an impression of the incident prone individual, such as is found in “real” fiction, as the intent is to “show”  (Caulley, 2008) the reality of my own experience rather than to exaggerate it.

Autoethnography encourages the use of a dramatic and evocative approach to story telling that is closely aligned to the concept of creative non-fiction. The latter calls for factual accuracy re-written in a fictional style and following the techniques of fiction writing  (Gerard, 2004; Hart, 2009; Pelias, 2004).  Carolyn Ellis’ Ethnographic I (Ellis, 2004) is perhaps the best known example of a creative non-fiction in the autoethnography literature, and the first to be defined as a “novel”. In my own reading of Ellis’ book , I found myself easily able to accept the internal truth or value of the stories themselves without being concerned over whether the actual events occurred in an office or a lounge room, or over ten minutes or several days. One distinction I have noted is that autoethnographical works often include references within their narratives, while creative nonfiction as a genre has shed this encumbrance. While I have leaned somewhat towards “summary” rather than “scenic” modes of writing  (Caulley, 2008), the resulting narratives have attempted to capture as much as possible the “now” of events and associated thoughts and emotions, by using the active voice where possible and a fairly informal style of writing.  Each of the three sources has been approached with an intention of revealing their “inner truth” through re-writing and positioning within the body of this  document.  In some case the source has had an immediacy that I was loath to tamper with, others have come back from supervisors and other reviewers with many question marks for my attention.

The black pages of the document all have relationships with the more analytical sections – the white pages.  The exact relationships vary, the white pages may be a response to the black pages or vice versa, or the relationship has been revealed through the WordPress “related posts” plugins and then expanded upon.

Leave a Reply