Science time- An Autoethnographic Perspective

In my last attempt at autoethnography, I spent more time trying to come to terms with the methodology- trust me, it took me a while- then I did interpreting my experience with the text. In order to address that in this experience, I will make very little mention of Ellis, other than to highlight that her work will dictate the research practices behind my own. I will also be drawing on the work of Steve Pace, and his concept of ‘analytic autoethnography’, which is based on the theory that artists can use “analytic reflexivity to improve theoretical understandings of their creative practice.” Whilst I do not consider myself an artist in any faucet, these ideas can be retrofitted to have a wider area of engagement. The final article I will be drawing on in order to inform my methodology is an article by Dwayne Custer, ‘Autoethnography as a Transformative Research Method’. This article is emotive, yet throughout it is possible to see the interaction between the authors scientific mind, and the emotional mind: “My rational mind could accept the need for “objective” science, and yet my natural mind spoke to me from an instinctual point of view,” a battle which, being both a science and media student myself, I understand all too well. It is refreshing and informative to read another person’s take on the struggle.

In my second round of authoethnographical investigation, I decided to stick with what I knew- science. Science is, for the most part, pretty universal. I had always assumed there isn’t a great deal of cultural influence on scientific knowledge. This is due to the nature of science- every theory that you prove, every experiment that you conduct must be done in such a way that it is re-creatable anywhere else in the world, as long as the same technical parameters are met. Scientific research also encourages scientists from all over the world to pool their knowledge to further advance their research. Instead of competing against each other, most laboratories work together for greater overall success. In some sense, science is the great unifier of cultures.

If it were a perfect world, we could leave it at that. Sadly the world is too political, and it affects the working of science in unexpected ways. For example, the lower levels of scientific literacy in the Australian Government has seen cuts to research programs nationwide, killing the chance of discoveries before they even got a foothold into existence. The historic boundary for women entering the scientific field is still, although much less severely, an issue. Alas, I digress.

 

 

Science appears to most of the public as an obscure thing, and this misunderstanding occasionally leads to irrational fear and restriction. My career goal in life is to make the world like science just a little bit more. Before I can properly do that, I need to have a strong grasp on the current opinions of science. For my individual research project, I will be exploring the legislation on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOS) in different Asian countries, and how this shapes and is shaped by, public opinion and the representation of them in the news.

I believe that I am in a somewhat unique position to conduct this autoethnograpic research as I have a fundamental knowledge of both how the communications world and the scientific world at large works. This will allow me to record an experience that critiques the deeper implications of the findings, and properly investigate the relationship between the social and academic institutions. Not only this, but I may be able to better understand how I can bridge the gap between society and science through this investigation.

To start out my initial research I wanted to grasp whether the legislation surrounding GMOs was similar to that seen in Australia- quite restrictive and surrounded by mystic- or if different countries had portrayed them in different ways. I started with Japan, and the initial findings were not encouraging. A quick search of “GMOs in Japan” came up with almost entirely anti-GMO pages, despite the fact that Japan is one of the largest importers of GMs foods. It seems strange that such a dichotomy is present. I suspect it is because as much as ideals are nice, they won’t feed hungry mouths, although a deeper investigation is needed.

gmo-bell-pepper-injections

Images like this are popular with anti-GMO sites, despite the actual process of creating GMOs having nothing to do with injecting whole produce with needles of various colours. Source.

South Korea was up next. To keep the investigation fair I googled “GMO in South Korea” and boy, South Korea doesn’t care for them at all. It turns out the South Korea has a ban on the cultivation of GM crops, however still imports all of the GMOs used for food and feed, and is apparently the second biggest importer after Japan. South Korea’s major concern is the purity of the natural wheat strains being polluted by the GM crops, thus destroying the natural lines forever. I’d argue that there’s hardly anything natural about crops that have been selectively bred for thousands of years, but that’s another story. I will have to investigate further to determine whether South Korea’s fears are grounded in fact.

Next up is China. They have yet again taken a completely different stance to what I had expected. From the government articles and news reports online it appears that a large portion of the Chinese public dislike GM crop, but the Chinese government is trying to change that. This is out of pure necessity. China has around a fifth of the world’s people, but only a tiny 7% of food-growing land. This means that trying to feed its population is a constant struggle. GM’s offer higher yield, better growth rates, and more resilient plants that would help increase food production to feed hungry mouths. It will be interesting to explore how the Chinese government plans to spread a positive message about GMOs to the dissenting public.

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 Picture from the protest in Thailand held last year. Source

Last up on the rounds of investigation is Thailand. The Thai public is, not surprisingly, against GMO cultivation. Thailand has taken a very similar view to South Korea, with the uncontrolled spread of GM crops being their number one fear. The public believe that the risk of contaminating pure crops is too great for them to risk bringing in the crops, and a bill proposed just last year to allow the cultivation of GMs was wildly protested.

Overall I feel rather vexed by my initial findings. I am fully aware that my opinion is heavily bias towards the more scientific outlook, however under the anger is a little bit of excitement. Through my investigation, I’m going to attempt to keep an open mind. I might even be converted to a non-GMO standpoint. At very least I’ll find out how to properly combat non-GMO arguments in the future. Let’s go investigate.

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2 thoughts on “Science time- An Autoethnographic Perspective

  1. Pingback: Digital Asia

  2. Pingback: Genetically Modified Opinions | A Minute in the Life

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