Like many other fan studies researchers, autoethnography was a part of my project right from the planning stages. Since I was studying media texts, fandoms and themes which were important to me in different ways, it only made sense. Initially, however, I had envisioned that my blog posts would act as my autoethnographic fieldnotes. These include things I’ve learned/observed over the course of the past ten months as well as notes I made while going through the range of fan texts my co-participants and I exchanged with each other. I also planned to make additional fieldnotes while listening to each episode once it was published. However, due to time and life constraints, I didn’t end up doing this, except for the very first episode.
What I’ve since realised is that the podcast episodes themselves encapsulate not just my autoethnographic perspectives but also those of my co-participants. This includes the planning of the episodes too. My co-participants and I choose fan texts to exchange based on the themes and perspectives we’re most interested in and want to discuss. We often include brief comments justifying our choices; but even when we don’t, choosing the texts displays personal priorities. During the episode, we bring our own experiences and knowledge to the conversation. Even when we come from entirely different backgrounds and worldviews, we find ourselves inspired by each other’s points to bring forward our own opinions. So my co-participants and I end up sharing brief but detailed autoethnographic perspectives with each other and with potential listeners. These autoethnographic perspectives are highly contextual to the theme of the episode which the co-participants themselves suggest. While these themes are based on an initial list of intersectional themes I outline, they do have room to offer their own suggestions. For example, we’ve explored different aspects of gender in different episodes – misogyny, ageism, women warriors, violence against women, gender diversity etc.
According to Tressie McMillan Cottom’s research philosophy, online posts and interactions among participants can be considered as “digitally mediated autoethnographic narratives”. Through this lens, fan podcast episodes can be considered as autoethnographic narratives which highlight those viewpoints which may be missing from mainstream conversations. This lens allows me to place our podcast episodes and my co-participants’ collective-meaning making processes at the forefront of an autoethnographic understanding. However, ultimately I still have more access (both in terms of quantity and quality) to my own experiences and perspectives. My knowledge about my thinking isn’t limited to the podcast episode themselves and I have much more contextual understanding of what I said or what I meant to say. At the same time, I still consider our episodes as co-created autoethnographic narratives since our conversations wouldn’t exist in the same way had we not been chatting with each other using the framework the project provides. While analysing the multiple sources of data, I will approach our episodes with the understanding that it’s not just me providing an autoethnographic perspective.