I honestly didn’t know what to think about Autoethnographic research when I began the task of playing ‘Corpse party’ for my little project. The idea that experiencing something as a legitimate way to collect data baffled me and I wasn’t sure how well I would do, and I wasn’t all that keen to start. Even though I fully threw myself into the task, like I do with anything these days that is new, I wasn’t sure if the outcome would be very fruitful. How wrong I was.
Through experiencing the game, and the research I did to back up my little let’s play experiment, my eyes were opened to a new way of looking at the horror genre. When watching these movies and TV shows, I never really stopped to think of the little tropes that have begun to crop up in pretty much every movie I have watched. Although, some have managed to move away from these and the movies that have resulted are honestly some of the best I have seen.
Further research into the background stories of some of the more famous Japanese horror movies like the 1998 film Ringu (the ring), and the 2002 film Ju-on (the grudge) revealed that they were both loosely based on Banchō Sarayashiki, a well-known Japanese ghost story about a woman who throws herself (or in some re-telling is thrown) down a well, rising from the well each day to haunt people forever unless someone can find a way to put her soul to rest. As discussed in one of my blogs, the idea is that a person comes back from the dead to seek revenge for their wrongful death, or maybe due to the fact they did not receive a proper burial. Either way, they will attack anyone who crosses their path.
So, what is autoethnographic research? Well, Carolyn Ellis, Tony E. Adams and Arthur P. Bochner describe is as autoethnography as an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyse personal experience to understand the cultural experience. (2011). It is a way of using your own social, cultural, religious, recreational or some other form of experience as a different way of analysing information. Sarah Wall believes that autoethnography begins with a personal story (Wall 2008) an intriguing and promising qualitative method that offers a way of giving voice to personal experience for the purpose of extending sociological understanding (2008). For me, it was born from watching multiple Japanese horror films in my teens, sneaking into M+ movies after lying to the ticket collectors that I was over the age of 15. Now as an adult, I have seen so many films and shows I can watch them without lights and completely alone. I will not lie, no matter how hard I try those damn jump scares ALWAYS get me and after playing ‘corpse party’ I learned that I will never be able to play a horror game. Just not going to happen.
By diving into this project, sifting through the movies I had watched and finding the various tropes, I have now found myself looking up a variety of folklores, urban legends and ghost stories from all over Asia. I have also wanted to discover much more about the various religions and cultural backgrounds that are often depicted in the movies I have enjoyed so much. This stopped being about the experience I had playing the game, and more about experiencing the entire culture behind the game. Discovering the differences and the similarities that I have discovered when reading these tales to many of the western legends I grew up with.
Even while conducting this research I learned a lot. One thing was finding out that movies or cartoons based on Hindi urban legends is incredibly difficult, and even harder still is finding ones that are in English. I feel I have been let down by YouTube, and that is rare! I am sure, in time, I will find some website off in the corner of the world wide web that can offer me these movies with, at the very least, English subtitles. Because, as much as I would love to learn a new language, I struggle enough with English.
Walls discusses how writing as a form of therapy, a way of making sense of ourselves and our experiences (as cited Wall 2008), purge our burdens (as cited Wall 2008) of the things we have experienced. I can honestly say that my experiences with my research has been amazing, it has been eye opening, and yes, definitely therapeutic as I have used it as a form of escapism, but also a bit of a spiritual journey into the very reasons why I love these sorts of films.
And for your entertainment, a short informative youtube video on 10 “true” urban legends:
Ellis C, Adams T E &. Bochner A P 2011, Autoethnography: An Overview, Vol 12, No. 1, Art 10, viewed 4 Sept 2017, http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095
Wall, S 2008Easier Said than Done: Writing an Autoethnography, 1 March, viewed 4 Sept 2017, http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/160940690800700103