Internet spaces can be understood as cultural, a place for people with the same values, customs and practices to gather. These cultures are filled with multisensory interactions such as emojis, gifs, texts, images and videos. These interactions, when put into context within a particular culture carry different meanings to that of other cultures. However, since we are so smart, we are able to decode and interpret them in various contexts. For example. The fire emoji 🔥. When put into the context of a social media user looking fabulous, it is interpreted as HOT! Dayummmmm. When used in the context of someone spitting some truth, they are on fire (not literally). Then someone might use it to express how hot it is in Australia. Can also be used to explain how LIT their weekend was. One symbol, can mean so many things depending on the coded context. 🔥🔥🔥
For my autoethnographic research project, I aim to immerse myself consciously in the realm of mental health on social media, with an attempt to discover and understand themes and how people communicate within them. Mental health is a sensitive topic, and has only recently become more of a topic of conversation due to advocates speaking up and out. To try and keep it real, my autoethnographic focus will be on the positivity of the raised conversation and how it has helped myself and others. When it comes to analysing the data I have collected, I will be looking for prominent themes, such as Sari Hokkanen had found embodied field experiences of feeling rushed, disgust and joy in her autoethnography of volunteer interpreting in Church (Hokkanen, 2017).
Social media platforms are commonly framed as spaces for expression, where people share their opinions, such as those on politics, social issues, their feelings or express themselves through memes (Winter, et. al 2020). This space also enables such articulations to be listened to. To participate on the internet, we must listen. Winter and Lavis theorise two types of listening on social media; ‘Active’ and ‘Adaptive’.
Active listening is the act of contextually engaging with the voices of plenty that surround each social media post, and that move beyond the post and into other topics and spaces (Winter, et.al 2020). This demonstrates why we should listen. Adaptive listening is simply, but not simply how we should listen. Adaptive listening offers a way to embrace the multiplicity and heterogeneity of online communities to forge a nuanced understanding of social media platforms and their distinct, unique cultures (Winter, et.al 2020).
Qualitative researchers situate themselves in a consciously value-laden territory in which human relationships and critical self-reflection loom prominently (Mertins 2014, pg. 510). They enter a realm of ethical dilemmas throughout the research process that go beyond legal requirements and professional standards. Ethical research procedures need to be considered and followed adequately and the use of the qualitative data needs to be considered. At this point, my research will be an autoethnography, but who knows what the future holds. I may stumble upon some awesome people willing to share their experiences and opinions. For that matter, I will ensure confidentiality upon their consent and completion of a participatory document. I will provide information about the research project, give them my contact details and ensure they feel free to bail at any time. When representing their data, I will not provide characteristic details that could expose their identity. Since my research project is based on social media, it is appropriate to share live links to public profiles and pages in support of my findings.
Hokkanen, S 2017, ‘Analyzing personal embodied experiences: Autoethnography, feelings, and fieldwork’, Translation & Interpreting, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 24-35.
Mertens, Donna (2014) Ethical Use of Qualitative Data and Findings, The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Data Analysis (Edited by Use Flick), Sage: Los Angeles, 510 – 523.
Winter, Rachel and Lavis, Anna (2020) Looking, But Not Listening? Theorizing the Practice and Ethics of Online Ethnography, Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics Vol. 15(1-2) 55 – 62.