Pokémon GO Autoethnography

For my autoethnographic digital artefact in BCM320 – Digital Asia, I wrote a blog post looking at the research I had undertaken to determine whether the experience playing Pokémon GO is different between countries. I was specifically looking at differences and similarities between Australia and Asian countries like Singapore. As this was an autoethnographic research project, I was looking at my own personal experiences playing Pokémon GO and using them to better understand any cultural, geographical, historical, political, economical or other factors that may cause the gameplay experience to be different to players outside of Australia (the only country where I’ve played the game).

In order to undertake this specific type of research, I had to utilise many different facets of the autoethnographic methodology, which I have previously covered on this blog here. My understanding of the autoethnographic methodology is a combination of Autoethnography: An Overview by Ellis et al. (2011), and other literary resources that focus on narrative inquiry, reflexivity, and autoethnographic analysis.

Ellis et al. 2011 define autoethnography as “an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyse personal experience in order to understand cultural experience”. There are two main components of autoethnography as described by Ellis et al. (2011), “The Process (Doing Autoethnography)” and “The Product (Writing Autoethnography)”.

Doing autoethnography refers to thinking about your experiences in hindsight, known as having epiphanies, which are made possible by being an active part of a particular culture. Writing autoethnography involves producing a thick description of your experiences with, and observations of a particular culture (Ellis et al. 2011).

This is reflected in my choice of Twitter as a field site for autoethnographic research. By engaging in a live-tweeting session while watching the documentary about Pokémon GO player Brandon Tan, I was having epiphanies, documenting them in real-time, and considering my personal experiences with the game as I was gathering new insights about the experience of players in Singapore; effectively being an active part of both cultures in an autoethnographic way.

After I conducted my live-tweeting session and documented my epiphanies, the next step of my research project was to analyse these epiphanies and conduct further research. Hokkanen (2017, p. 27) describes the process of analysis as zooming in on personal experiences and embodiments, and zooming out on wider cultural concepts and frameworks. This process was evident in my blog post as many of the more interesting insights gathered from the live-tweeting session were highlighted and discussed in further detail.

This was achieved through additional research of anything I was unsure about during the live-tweeting session, such as my epiphany about whether or not players in Singapore utilise Pokémon GO Facebook groups for engagement and communication (like communities in Australia do), which I was able to confirm during the analysis stage by finding a Singaporean Pokemon GO group on Facebook.

I also gathered further information through a personal communication on Twitter with Ren Vettoretto, a Ph.D. student using Pokémon GO as a case study for her thesis. Ren was able to provide insights gathered through a survey from Wollongong based Pokémon GO players about their personal experience. This is the same community where my personal experiences took place, so this helped gather additional data on what the overall experience was like in Australia.

One of the biggest limitations my project had was not being able to conduct a similar survey with players from Asia due to time and geographical constraints. I was only able to use the documentary I live-tweeted and other online resources to get an idea of the gameplay experience of Pokémon GO in Asia.

Reference list:

Ellis, C, Adams, T & Bochner, A 2011, ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, vol. 12, no. 1, art. 10, <http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095#gcit>.

Hokkanen, S 2017, ‘Analyzing personal embodied experiences: Autoethnography, feelings, and fieldwork’ The International Journal for Translation & Interpreting Research, vol. 9, no. 1, p. 27, <http://trans-int.org/index.php/transint/article/viewFile/572/268>.


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