I have written before in this blog about autoethnography and after speaking to my brother about my research methods I committed to thinking in more detail about how I will use a journal and what sort of information I will record. The reason for my reticence in moving forward with the idea is a concern about process and its effect on the outcome – my photography. In order to recognise and capture a glimpse of the real object with my camera I am usually in a semi-conscious state. If I am to commit to writing a journal how would I be able to do this without returning to a conscious state – thus defeating my efforts?
I guess the answer is to write my journal after the event but as soon as I can to ensure as accurate a sense of my thoughts as possible. I will also capture thoughts about my work and progress more generally and images by other photographers that might have some relevance to my work. My Journal will work together with this Critical Research Journal, the series of mind maps I intend to produce and the ongoing evaluation and analysis of my photographic work in progress. So, my evidence will take the form of my blog, mind maps, a field journal and my images.
I referred to Autoethnography: Understanding Qualitative Research by Adams, Holman Jones and Ellis (2015) as I reflected on the approach to take and I picked up a few points that might be helpful as I start the process of writing.
In the chapter on writing – Representing Autoethnography – the authors immediately pick up on actually putting pen to paper. The advice they offer is helpful and chimes with guidance I have received in the past. Writing needs to be a regular thing. I need to write every day and I need to fight the inclination to give it a rest or go and make yet another cup of coffee. Over the period of my MA, and with the help of the regular writing in this Critical Research Journal, I believe that I have created a sustainable habit. I find the imperative of having an audience that expects to see my latest blogs a useful incentive! Adams, Holman Jones and Ellis suggest a target of writing six days a week and to produce about a thousand words a day. In order to achieve this, it is important to set aside time each day for my writing.
But what do I write about? I have become quite good at picking up strands of research and writing about its applicability to my work and practice. I often pick up on articles in research journals, events that spark an idea or aspects of others’ practice that I admire or find thought-provoking. Holman Jones talks about developing stories as follows:
“In my writing sessions, I often create textual structures that purposefully delay the possibility of creating a storyline or a clear conclusion, Instead, once I have an experience that calls me to write, I focus my “getting started” writing sessions on generating the beginnings of multiple stories and storylines, avoiding attachment to any one idea or character or scene so that I can let the story that wants to be told unfold throughout the writing process.” (Adams, Holman Jones and Ellis 2015: 71).
This is helpful for me, as sometimes my goal is too focused on a conclusive position. This is particularly problematic at this early stage of my research. Sometimes I can’t make head nor tail of what I have been reading, I am not sure how the ideas or concepts might be applicable to my work, and I certainly can’t write an informed piece. I need to be careful to capture these strands, reflect on them moving forward, and then revisit them as the picture and structure of my research takes shape.
Adams et al then talk about various techniques of autoethnographic writing, one of which, text spinning and collaging is interesting:
“Begin by gathering a few (3-5) books and/or essays that you have read recently or find yourself revisiting. These materials could be philosophic or theoretical texts, short stories, poetry, scholarly articles or book chapters, fiction or non-fiction – any kind of writing. Select texts that call to you because the ideas, claims, and conclusions are exciting, complex, or frustrating; the writing is compelling; the work speaks to you emotionally, intellectually, or politically; and/or the texts seem to have some connection to the experiences you are writing about.” (Adams, Holman Jones and Ellis 2015: 72).
While this is broadly the way I work at the moment, as I try to pull together my writing into a blog post, it is helpful to have my approach confirmed as being valid. I need to make sure I don’t overthink things at the moment, let my autoethnographic process evolve and reflect on my ontological experiences. Adams et al provide a six-stage process of bringing writing together which will form a further post next week and perhaps the basis of my writing practice in the future.
ADAMS, Tony, HOLMAN JONES, Stacy and ELLIS Carolyn. 2015. Autoethnography: Understanding Qualitative Research. Oxford: Oxford University Press.