Writing the (creative) self into research: The process and product of autoethnography

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On Friday June 1st 2018 I gave a talk to the Media Technology master’s students at Leiden University about two topics near and dear to my heart: creativity and autoethnography. The message I ended with was: If you can’t use autoethnography to complete a research product, you can still use it to enrich your research process. Abstract below:

Doing academic research in a creative way is key to uncovering new insights. As a creative researcher, are you really thinking outside the box? For example, have you ever imagined reflecting on and writing about your personal experience in order to better understand your research topic? In this talk I will discuss autoethnography, an approach that combines elements of autobiography and ethnography. We will discuss how autoethnography lets you embrace subjectivity, and in the process, challenges traditional notions of what academic research is.

How can we get people to change their minds about Zwarte Piet?

The Journal of Critical Thought and Praxis just published my article (written with Renata Rocha) called “‘No more blackface!’ How can we get people to change their minds about Zwarte Piet?” The full article freely available online, and the abstract is below.

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When Sinterklaas arrives in the Netherlands in December, he is accompanied by Zwarte Pieten made up in blackface, with afro wigs and bright red lips. Zwarte Piet, translated as “Black Pete,” has created growing controversy as a hurtful, racist caricature. Increasing voices demand change, but most of the population is opposed to altering the tradition. One way forward is to examine attitude change, and gain insight into how we can facilitate this process. This paper introduces the topic and reviews recent academic work on the controversy. Then, using autoethnographic vignettes (Humphreys, 2005), we explore our experiences with the tradition, weaving our stories together in relation to personal history, awareness, and attitude change. We provide an international perspective, as Renata is a Dutch/Cape Verdean woman born and raised in the Netherlands, and Janelle is a white woman, born and raised in Minnesota, who has lived in the Netherlands for 16 years. This approach allowed us to write together from an insider/outsider perspective (Zempi & Awan, 2017). Our stories depict attitude change from distinctive starting points, and by sharing them we hope to shed light on how attitude change can occur in relation to Zwarte Piet and broader social injustice issues.

The Complexity of Online Dating

I talk about my research on the latest Realities podcast, hosted by Mark Fonseca Rendeiro. The show is called The Complexity of Online Dating, and here’s a summary written by Mark:

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Impression management; your image on social media; online dating – everywhere you go in your internet life, you’re projecting an image of yourself. Today at the kitchen table, we’re speaking with researcher, writer and communications consultant Janelle Ward about what is going on when it comes to these online selves we’ve created and what impact this has on how our society functions.

“Match me if you can” at Pakhuis de Zwijger

On February 14, 2017, Pakhuis de Zwijger held an event called “Match me if you can.” The event featured a mix of writers, practitioners, and academics, all reflecting on dating app culture.

I spoke about “Making an Impression on Tinder,” with a look at my research and how we can use dating apps to confront our own stereotypes and prejudices. The talk is available on video here (the event was in Dutch, but my talk is in English). My presentation starts at 1:28:00.

WhatsApp Image 2017-02-15 at 00.49.18.jpgphoto credit: Urville Djasim

A Sign of the Times: The Dating App Photo

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Just published: “A Sign of the Times,” an e-publication which is a follow-up to the 2015 Sign of the Times: Social Media of the Middle Ages exhibition at the Zeeuws Museum in Middelburg, the Netherlands.

The e-publication presents articles written by experts from different visual disciplines. Each article discusses images that are emblematic of our time.

My contribution can be read here.

What are you doing on Tinder? Impression management on a matchmaking mobile app

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Information, Communication & Society just published my article What are you doing on Tinder? Impression management on a matchmaking mobile app. A PDF version can be downloaded here. The abstract:

 

Mobile dating applications such as Tinder have exploded in popularity in recent years. On Tinder, impression management begins with a motivation to download the app, the choice of one’s profile photos and an assessment of the expectations of potential Tinder matches. These processes occur in a technologically mediated environment of reduced cues and increased control, local proximity and a reduced filtering process. My focus in this paper is this first stage of impression management, which consists of both impression motivation and impression construction. Specifically, what are the pre-match impression management practices of Tinder users? I present the results of interviews with Tinder users in the Netherlands. Participants were recruited via a Tinder profile that advertised the study using the University emblem and a brief description. Interview questions focused on user under

standings of self-presentation practices and profile construction. The interviews also examined how users evaluated their potential matches. Results show users’ motivations for using Tinder range from entertainment to ego-boost to relationship seeking, and these motivations sometimes change over time. Profile

photos are selected in an attempt to present an ideal yet authentic self, and chosen as an illustration of not only one’s desirability but also of other indicators such as education level. Tinder users ‘swipe’ not only in search of people they like, but also for clues as to how to present themselves in order to attract others like them. This research offers insight into user experiences and perceptions within the still under-researched area of inquiry.