Monday, October 10, 2016

Autoethnography: Research as Reflection, Inclusion and Empowerment #ecil2016

I'm continuing to liveblog at the European Conference on Information Literacy 2016, in Prague, Czech Republic. Anne-Marie Deitering, Bob Schroeder, and Richard Stoddart presented on Autoethnography: Research as Reflection, Inclusion and Empowerment.
They were talking about a project which involved a learning community of librarians developing their autoethnographies. I'm using autoethnography in a couple of projects, so this was very interesting for me.
Deitering started by defining autoethnography - which is essentially a researcher researching their own experience. The researcher is the subject of enquiry. There is a connection to culture, as the researcher is looking outwards at culture as well as inwards towards experience. The practice that librarians are reflecting on and enquiring into is situated and particular to that person's culture and context. Narrative and story is important in autoethnographic, and so personal stories and voices that might otherwise get submerged, can emerge.
Schroeder talked about the learning community and how it empowered those in it. They felt they were able to validate their own experiences, starting with what they knew, not having to submit to others' perspectives. They tapped into their varied backgrounds, and also tapped into non academic questions, to enrich the process. This included using methods and approaches from other disciplines. It meant that research could become "part of your own life", in a learning community that supported you and enabled you to take rich approaches. For example, Schroeder felt he could not have produced his autoethnography as a zine (front cover pictured) without the community's support. Deep reflections on experience and practice could help others to reflect on their own similar situations and perhaps feel empowered to produce their own autoethnography.
Stoddart described it as tranformative self-discovery, with thick descriptions based on personal experience. Autoethnography could help make changes. The reader engages at an initimate level with the autoethnography and learn they are not alone. Autoethnography changes the writer as they learn about themselves, and so change their practice in the library. Thus this changes what happens in the library. This change is not easy. Autoethnography in not neutral, and can be traumatic - it may look at issues such as injustice, lack of control, anxiety. There are a lot of hidden and buried emotions, which can get unpacked through revision of the autoethnography.
Whilst sometimes a traumatic and a difficult process, it is a powerful and positive process. The idea of praxis - connecting theory and practice - is important here. Stoddart characterised autoethnography as a "moving and motivating methodology".
The pictures show the sample autoethnographic chapters which were handed round.

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