I ate in front of a camera for the first time yesterday – considering it as ‘an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyze (graphy) personal experience (auto) in order to understand cultural experience (ethno)‘ (ELLIS, 2004; HOLMAN JONES, 2005). I have framed my further auto-ethnographic project with my direct personal application into the food phenomena of ‘Mukbang’.
This time around while performing my eating show, I would at the same time present my research on the production and consumption of this form of Asian media which had originated from South Korea – the concept, its emergence, popularisation, statistics and facts revolving around its growth and the society that surrounds it.
For example utilising the platform AfreecaTv rather than an edited YouTube video or streaming through Twitch, allowed for a thorough investigation into Korea’s social eating culture. Initially I could not navigate through the site due to the language barrier. But after researching into how to stream from different nations, you run the site broadcast through OBS, just like Twitch. The site has a layout unlike any other video/streaming platform I have experienced, it looked a lot more like Ebay and/or Gumtree. This depicted this service and form of expression as a great commodity in Korean culture, where money is a main factor in its progression.
I used this methodology as a narrative form of inquiry and can be seen as a ‘way of knowing’ established through thinking in one’s own person and through the making of judgements – “the narrative is especially relevant to the analysis of organisational processes because people do not simply tell stories – they enact them.” (Pentland, 1999). I wanted to show first hand the aesthetics and evocative nature as to why Mukbangs are becoming popular, convey how they gain traction and present a different perspective as an unfamiliar researcher.
In so doing, according to the Ellis reading I have aimed to:
- Improve and better understand our relationships.
The potential relationships between our asian counterparts, to understand the factors that influence their media consumption and to allude to my own experiences in interpreting this culture
- Reduce prejudice.
Rather than throwing away all of my preconceived ideas of this genre within Asia, I educated myself on them. I soon learnt that my pre-mukbang thoughts were not all invalid but were mainly the tip of the iceberg in terms of its social utility for audiences. I saw Mukbang as a strange, dark application into the objectifying of people, which can be the case. But as South Korean society changes in terms of social relationships and the overall demographical sphere, so do their media habits.
- Encourage personal responsibility and agency
Because I experienced this form of asian culture, I could then understand it in a more professional manner where I channelled my efforts into judgements that assisted my data collection/depiction. Content that is emotionally engaging (Behar, 1997; Ellis, 1997; Ronai, 1992), as well as critically self-reflexive of one’s sociopolitical interactivity. “Good Autoethnography strives to use relational language and styles to create purposeful dialogue between the reader and the author.” (Goodall, 1998)
- Give people a voice that, before expression, they may not have felt they had.
The stigmatisation in this form of Korean culture is heavily placed upon the hosts and audiences. I attempt unpacked the significance of each section of the Mukbang model in terms of its social utility, how it affects the people within and how it is essentially growing as a self-branding business around the world.
I believe that placing myself in the social context of the South Korean food style of Mukbang has allowed for myself as a researcher to be challenged, changed, embraced, and interrogated in the performance process. At the same time all addressing the key findings of social eating in Korea, why it is happening and what it developed from.
[ If broadcast is unstable and cuts out – I have uploaded the same stream onto YOUTUBE ]
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