Auto-ethnography Everything

First, the hyphen is purposeful. The researchers using auto-ethnography no longer use the hyphen and have just made it one word. As a lover of hyphens (the keep my very identity together after all) I use the hyphen when I can, in less formal writings such as this.

Ethnography – the systematic study of culture. Auto – the acknowledged me. On the one hand, this could be considered egotistical or even ethnocentric. However, I find if I don’t let my readers know how it is I’m understanding things, miscommunication ensues. This is because I was raised in a covertly


fundamentalist religion. Auto-ethnography everything is honestly what I have to do to make sense of anything. I did not fit and could not stay where I came from and because of where I came from, wherever I go I’m the odd-one. Encountering cultures such as higher education “academia” in often Amelia-Bedelia-like fashion. Auto-ethnography is reflexive, reflective, so I get what’s going on eventually.

During my time as a graduate student, any time I get to do something I’m much happier and engaged. Granted, I don’t know that these projects turn out very well (see my hypertext final, my audio-ethnography of running project, or my Omeka-Neatline historical map timeline), but then again, neither does my academic prose. There’s enough data and reading to say, I pretty much stink at it. And, I’m not sure that I’m going to have a very good academic career because I actively resist writing the genre of peer-reviewed journal articles. I’m sorry folks, they are 90% of the time, painful, painful to read. It’s not that I don’t get jazzed about the ideas – once I’ve dug them out it’s awesome! It’s just that they would never, ever, ever retain my audience-readership if it weren’t required reading. Which is sad, because the ideas are usually awesome and important. It is equally painful for me to write this way too. So for my teaching tech writing class, I’m happily diving into a relevant tangent of my own side ifixit project: fixing my old-ass Seiko Metronome.

First, I begrudgingly followed ifixit’s advice for shooting good photos. It was a pain to get the white matte background, dig out my old digital camera and come up with some homemade tripods. One of my photos didn’t turn out quite right and I sorta gave up.  I think I could only get a clear shot if I grabbed a partner to take the photo. Visual communication has never been my strong suit. Neither has information design. I know the form and precision of the visual is important though. So I basically am trusting the experts on this and slowing the process way down, so I do it right (or at least a basically okay job). Unlike some scholarly journal articles, tech writers aren’t trying to sound smart. But just like scholarly journal articles they are struggling to communicate ideas. The audiences for both  might begrudgingly be there, so the easier it is to decipher, the better.

The next step that I still feel a bit embarrassed and incredulous about is looking up my tools. It does really work, even with a photo to accompany it, to say, “Use this thingy to take out the screws.” I feel like I hadn’t been away from the real world for that long but apparently I have. And in an effort to not wash-out of my PhD program I more and more have the mindset of, “not relevant to my work? Not remembering it.” This is how, I realized doing this project, I’ve become the cliché smart-ish academic with little to no common sense. Or at least, I’ve lost the jargon to convey that I have any common sense. I check and can change my oil and like doing it. What is that wrench thingy called to take off the oil filter? No idea. I’ll google it later. So, I looked up what type of tools I was using to fix my metronome so I could intelligibly write the process of fixing it.

The end result is, following concepts and formats from ifixit, a guide to fixing the possibly immortal metronome. The conclusion is that photographing something well is really, really difficult to do without a second pair of hands.