Tag Archives: Autoethnography

From Sand to Skin

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Following on from my blog posts about the Buddhist Sand Mandala I bring a Prezi that encompasses the thought process and transition from researching the Buddhist Sand Mandala to having a Mandala tattooed on me. Enjoy.

https://prezi.com/s2dppoxhxji0/from-sand-to-skin-mandala-tattoo/

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The Tibetan Sand Mandala – Part 2

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Drawing from the information and my experiences in Part 1 of watching a Tibetan Sand Mandala being made (YouTube clip here) I will use an ethnographical understanding presented by Ellis et al as “an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyse personal experience in order to understand cultural experience” to make sense of my understanding as well as an understanding of the Tibetan Sand Mandala. Ethnography is quite challenging in itself as it deals with first experiencing an aspect of another culture, making note of those experiences and then reflecting on those experiences and how those experiences affect you by looking at your own culture and why those aspects occurred to you. As research and understanding of my first experience has developed there are observations that I did not notice on the first or next viewings or even include in my Part 1 blog post.

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Screenshot from YouTube clip Sand Mandala Time Lapse

Looking at the final creation of the mandala as seen in the picture above I can’t help but feel that there would be a sense of pride by the monks who worked on the beautiful and intricate piece as mentioned in my previous post. With my understanding of pride and seeing people feel proud, there is a sort of satisfaction and happiness to know that an individual put in the time and effort to see a task be fulfilled and completed. An acknowledgement and personal satisfaction to see a task through such as feeling pride when completing a University assignment, finishing a job report or losing weight. In my search to understand why I would thing pride would be experienced I needed to put academic understanding to my opinion to formulate a cultural resolve. Salerno et al researched the significance of pride and the effects that it has on people. There are instances where an individual who feels pride can be a positive and/or negative thing. The positive being gratification and motivation but also a negative effect of pride is the constant sense of self accomplishment can be addictive, resulting in the repeated process of wanting to feel that same self-appraisal previously felt – there would be a constant struggle with in oneself to reach that same satisfaction.

Buddhism teaches that pride is an issue of self-importance and condemnation. As to have pride in oneself is to put one’s own importance or satisfaction above that of others. There is a need to let go of pride. There is a sense of entitlement when one experiences pride – an individual who finishes a task and feels satisfaction or self-appraisal splits the intention and motivation for that action with feeling and production. If someone was to not finish a task on time they would feel bad and this would affect their self-worth. When an emotion is put into an activity that activity has become a reflection of the capability and stature of the individual. There is also the Buddhist teaching that to feel pride is to put oneself above that of others – to have an ego. Oxford Dictionary defines ego as “a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance” and “the part of the mind that mediates between the conscious and the unconscious and is responsible for reality testing and a sense of personal identity”. Buddhism has the fundamental teaching that to put effort into one’s life for the intention of getting something in return is wrong. There should be no expectation or emotional fulfilment for what you do as is only creates disharmony on the individual and separates that individual from everyone else.

From what I see to feel pride in accomplishment, much like writing this blog, is to feel an aspect of an emotion. Those emotions are part of a larger array of emotions – so as to let oneself feel pride, one will also feel sadness, anger, fear, frustration, confusion and each has different variations. To allow oneself be warped into a sense of self-appraisal and commitment based on the results of one’s experiences condemns the individual to the entire array of emotions. These emotions cause us to lose control and lose our peace of mind. Though it is not to block out oneself to experiencing emotions that would bring a great sense of happiness, but to understand and be mindful of the situations that arise from one’s own life and act accordingly. As it is your own internal being that is the cause of unhappiness no one else’s.

Researching Buddhism and pride has led me to the personal understanding that there is a significant difference between the way I live and Buddhist teachings. As a current 25-year-old in 2016 my life is currently a constant reflection of what I have created and achieved – especially as a University student. My self-worth is dependent on what I do and how well I do it. If I fail something, then there is a part of me that stops everything and questions everything else that I am doing as if to say am I understanding what I am doing and am I doing it the right way. Much like this topic of the Sand Mandala it was my own choosing and my own understanding as to what I wanted to talk about and the areas that I wanted to focus on. With researching that pride is considered to be a negative feeling by Buddhist standards and that there is always an almost addiction to feeling pride it shows that in my personal experience both for what I see with others and for what I feel there is some unhappiness with the expectations with what others and I have to do. This observation would lead my interest and research on the mental health of university students but that is for a different post.

REFERENCES:

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E. & Bochner, A.P. 2011 ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, vol. 12, no.1

Salerno, A, Laran, J, & Janiszewski, C 2015, ‘Pride and Regulatory Behavior: The Influence of Appraisal Information and Self-Regulatory Goals’, Journal of Consumer Research, vol. 42, no. 3, pp. 499-514

The Tibetan Sand Mandala – Part One

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I was given the opportunity to choose an aspect of any Asian culture I would like to experience and then write and analyse about that experience from an autoethnographic viewpoint. Autoethnography being described by Ellis et al. “… is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyse personal experience in order to understand cultural experience”. Through minimal research of different topics, I came to an immediate interest in looking at the Tibetian Sand Mandala. The sand mandala is a creation from Tibetan Buddhists that signifies a representation of the world in divine form.


There is a Buddhist Temple that I can get to, the Nan Tien Temple, though making and designing of the Sand Mandala is not just a common every day activity and also not publicized on social media so my personal experience is limited to watching videos – like the one above to give an account of my perceived observations and understandings of making sand mandalas. I did have the interest in watching the making of the mandala without the need to watch it in a time lapse or sped up to some degree. By being at normal speed and going through the processes as the monks do it would be beneficial to get a real sense of how long making ones of the mandalas actually takes. So before I can acknowledge that my observations are a way of understanding a different culture I have to accept that based on the topic that I have chosen and the tools that I have at my disposal there are aspects of making a sand mandala that I cannot completely experience which puts a limitation on my experience and final outcome. Also while I am describing what I see and writing it down I am going off the video of someone I have never met and do not know, so my perspective is contained and critiqued based on what the producer of the video has put and edited into the video. So my observations to some extent will include the format and tech-work of the video.

Now for watching the video (I would suggest watching it in 1080HD or highest quality as possible that you can do). I have chosen a 9-minute-long video that showcases a mandala that took 1 week to create time lapsed into an 8-minute piece. Reasons for this being I felt the need to find a video in high-definition as there are a lot of intricate details that take place in creating a sand mandala and I needed a consistent top down view. The preparation of the mandala is one quite intriguing, with tools that resemble what a student would use in maths class or arts class – rulers, pencils, compasses and protractors are used so the markings for the mandala take shape. A large square is sketched out then turned into a grid of squares. This grid is the basis for the design of the mandala. Then using tools to draw an intricate design and using coloured sand to bring that design to life.

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This compass not the other one. Source.

The design looks to be separated into 4 quadrants, while each quadrant appearing to be symmetrical in design there are slight variations of colour and patterns within certain areas. While visually the mandala is appealing there is a need of reflection on what the mandala means. The whole piece is symbolic of the universe and where each concentric circle is a reflection of the teachings and practices that Buddhism provides. While my understanding of Buddhism and Mandalas is borderline non-existent, my knowledge only comes from minor readings, films and observations. I will need to research the meaning and understanding of each aspect of the mandala more thoroughly, which in turn means looking at the practices and understandings that Buddhism offers.

The four square gates in each quadrant resembling the essence of Buddha, with each ‘gate’ an idea of understanding, such as boundless thought or the geographical directions – North, South, East and West. Each circle from the outside a barrier or challenge that an individual needs to overcome to reach enlightenment. Some examples of these challenges being greed, envy, illumination, rebirth and ignorance. While the mandala is powerful in symbolism a component of the full mandala process is the blessing and destruction of it. A piece of art (from an outside perspective) or a piece of religious expression to put the amount of hard work into creating these mandalas is nothing short of impressive. The video above as I mentioned was filmed over a week, you can see the sun rays significantly change over time – so suggest the monks making the mandala are putting in long hours each day to perfect the creation of the mandala. I would suggest pride would be a feeling felt when oneself or a part of a team accomplish such a delicate and long detailed work. But to feel pride in ones’ work is not something Buddhism deals with – as Buddhism teaches the understanding of impermanence. What we have in this life – like materialistic things we can no take with us when we die. Our actions, behaviour and what we put into this life will be reflected in our rebirth. The mandala is destroyed in a specific way and usually thrown back in the ocean to symbolize the way of life and also as a way to give back to the universe.

Reference:

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E. & Bochner, A.P. 2011 ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, vol. 12, no.1

 

That little click of passion .2 – State of Play Autoethnography

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Ellis et al defines autoethnography as “the approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyze personal experience in order to understand cultural experience”, with this in mind I will look back at my first evaluation of State of Play (found here) and analyze my experiences and understanding through academic research.

Beginning with Frederich Schiller’s quote, “Man only plays when in the full meaning of the word he is a man, and he is only completely a man when he plays”, State of play deals with the contrast of E-Sports and cultural family traditions in South Korea. The impact of professional gamers challenges the perceptions of what it means to be successful and fulfilled. Seo details the changing characteristics of people who enter into professional gaming and also the audience who participates. The impact of something seen as a leisure (playing video games) to a job (professional gaming) adds value to the individual – their character and behaviour. The transition from once a consumer to a creator changes the ability of engagement on a more social and professional level.

I mention the emotional implications that I see when introducing money into gaming. The value of enjoying a game changes to a drive and expectation to succeed forced upon by the individual, the team (if a part of one) and management. There is a struggle of experience and relevance when it comes to wanting to be a professional gamer and even while being a professional gamer. The window to be a professional gamer has not been critically evaluated by can be estimated from 14 to 26 years old. Twenty-six is seen to be where cognitive function starts to fade and so the individual becomes slower and less valuable. Though to make it all that way is unlikely – as with entering into professional gaming you are a tool to be used for the benefit of the industry and you have little say on what the industry will do with you. When people of such a young age like Park Yo Han in State of Play try to enter Esports they are inexperienced and uneducated about contract negotiation and there is little to no job security. There is just fierce competition based on the game you are playing. The individuals need to look after themselves but also the group. If an individual does not maintain the capabilities that are replaced with hesitation, if a group does not perform then that are all let go. If a once highly sought team fails that get placed to a challenger tournament where they compete with up-and-coming teams to take their place (Hollist, 2015).

In State of Play – I noticed Park Yo Hans’ parents question the capabilities of his commitment to become professional. With limiting job security and a short time frame of being a professional gamer it is a justifiable cause. Kim et al mentions that South Koreans highly value togetherness and inter-dependency in families with a clear hierarchical role among family members. The visual showing of Park Yo Hans family sitting around the table talking about the future of Park’s career and what his parents hope for him shows that he needs to challenge the expectation from his parents and prove that what he really wants to do is something that he can dedicate himself to – unlike his studies.

References:

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E. & Bochner, A.P. 2011 ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, vol. 12, no.1

Hollist, K.E. 2015, ‘Time to be grown ups about video gaming:the rising eports industry and the need for regulation’, Arizona Law Review, vol. 57, issue. 3, pp 823 – 847

Kim, H., Prouty, A., Smith, D., Ko, M., Wetchler, J. & Oh, J. 2014, ‘Differentiation of Self and its Relationship with Family Functioning in South Koreans’, American Journal of Family Therapy, vol. 42, no. 3, pp 257 – 265

Seo, Y 2016, Professional consumption and identity transformations in the field of esports, Journal of business research, vol. 69, no. 1, pp 264 – 272

That little click of passion – State of Play autoethnography

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Starting out with a quote from Fredrich Schiller, “Man only plays when in the full meaning of the word he is a man, and he is only completely a man when he plays” State of Play encompasses the traditional and non-traditional aspects of being a young man wanting to get into E-sports in Korea. The hopes and dreams of being a professional gamer out-weighing the grounded expectations from family values and traditions.

 

 

State of Play follows young men currently in and wanting to get into the popular business of playing Star Craft professionally – a command and conquer style game where an individual builds up an army to destroy their enemy before they get destroyed.

Star Craft nor the idea of a ‘Gamer house’ is new to me – having being a fan of games and watching gaming tournaments. I have encountered groups of people who are organized to live together to practice their skills and achieve victory. However I feel the expectation of wanting to live in one of these houses, to be a professional gamer, conflicts with the amusement and enjoyment of playing video games. Once money has become involved and the idea of hours played on a video game turns from fun to an expectation, because your lively hood and title of ‘Professional Gamer’ is at risk, the emotional experience amplifies depending on how you perform. If you do not perform to the best of your abilities then you risk losing it all and questioning if you had done enough to stay relevant. Successful teams get sponsored and so make money for the people who own the team, this constant success opens the doors for more sponsors and creates a scenario for a successful business. The players become a product to be used, their abilities become a tool and expectation, if not reached then they are simply replaced. Quite the cut-throat scenario, but it holds true with the dedication and work that goes into being successful and to be called a ‘Professional Gamer’ – many people want to have the job but so few can.

State of Play brings up the family expectation for one of the guys involved – Park Yo Han. The conflict being that professional gaming is very competitive, as it should be only the best get to play. Parks’ family worry for him as they question his dedication to his games over his study at school. They question his commitment to wanting to play games as a career, as he doesn’t seem to be all that capable about dedicating himself to his studies. Parks’ parents question if Park can make this transition. I find this is a perfectly reasonable thing to do on behalf of the parents – by looking at the capabilities and personality of their son they question his future and want the best thing for him. There is a short window where people can be professional competitive gamers. Star Craft is reliant on how quick you can be with inputs, the faster you are the more you can do, the more you can do over your opponent, the better you chance on winning. As the years go on, dexterity of the fingers weakens and less inputs can be done – meaning you are slower and less likely to win. Therefor placing strain on winning games and needing to be replaced by someone younger who can make all the necessary inputs.

It isn’t just Korea that gets invested in E-sports. Star Craft who is run by the company Blizzard Entertainment has made many games that populate E-sports in America – such as Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm. I was curious as to how someone would go about getting into the business side of E-sports. As one may enjoy playing games, they may not be all that good at any game to get involved. So why not create a team of your own and enjoy watching the success of your team enjoy the success of winning.

Popular YouTuber Jesse Cox did just that. He enjoyed the game Heroes of the Storm but didn’t have the expertise to play the game at a high level to he created, organized and ran an E-sports team called the Stellar Lotus. However this endeavor wasn’t as easy as it seems. Getting involved took a lot of time, money and effort to get started and to maintain. Finding players who were capable of playing to a high level, them having the time to play the game at a professional level, paying for those players to spend the time to play the game, organizing a house for the members to live in to practice the game and create a team dynamic, investing time into getting the team into tournaments, trying to get sponsors, and dealing with all the conflicts that would rise. As Jesse Cox is a YouTuber he made a few videos detailing his frustration with running an E-sports team through a reflective learning, questioning if it is worth it and allowing the audience a little glimpse into the frustration that can happen. Called “The Salt” (for a good reason) here is his first video:

 

The personal and professional experiences seen in State of Play and The Salt show me that to be a part of professional gaming – leave the beginners behind take only the dedicated and committed to the arena of e-sports.