a reseacher’s diary

by Christina Lessiak


AUFGABE 2 aus “The Ethnographic I: A Methodological Novel about Autoethnography”: Telling the story of my live as a writer

The first memory of writing that comes up in my mind is a rather technical thing. I remember how I found out that I learn a different style of cursive handwriting than my best friend and neighbor. She was older than me and I admired her a lot, so I really wanted to write in that style. But I was not allowed in school, because we had to learn the “new” style. I started to write in the “old” style whenever I could. I still see it today in my handwriting that I am not very consistent and mix both. For me this is like little memorabilia from my childhood. A little recollection of being a kid. Growing up, I had little affinity towards books, I preferred to use my hands to do crafts. At a certain age then, I think I was 11 or 12 years old, I started keeping a diary. It was important to me because it helped me to cope with my inner tumult and emerging teenage angst. I still own these books and cherish them. Some of them have a self-made book cover that I find fascinating to this day. My writing was not sophisticated. It seems naive and superficial at times. But at some moments I am really surprised about the awareness of my younger self. I still do write in little books today, not every day, but as often as I can or want. During high school, I was into writing. I was not the best speller. Nothing severe, just some problems because of my dialect. For a long time, I’ve been unsure if “Wald” (forest) is written with a “d” or a “t” at the end, just because of the way we talk in my hometown Klagenfurt (Carinthia, southern Austria). At one point I remember being interested a lot in stories and storytelling. I listened to tapes full of fairytales, listened to music and imagined which story it might accompany, and loved to do presentations in class. I even wrote a screenplay when I was 14 years old, but unfortunately, I lost the floppy disk and will never know what it was about in detail. With my growing interest in music I started to write songs and lyrics. This was the first time I wrote in English just for fun. And I do it to this day. Sometimes even poems. Although I do not know if one can really call them poems, but hey, why not? Later during my studies, I started to write academically, which I enjoyed but also dreaded. It always felt like stripping yourself naked and letting everyone know how clever or stupid you are. I always felt a huge relief when I passed a class with a good grade. I know I am still not the best writer. My sentence constructions are not very elegant, sometimes I feel like I am lacking the right vocabulary to write down the things I want to express. Sometimes I feel my argumentation is just banal and my observations too ordinary. But it gets better, I think I am getting to a point where I am not so anxious about the outcome anymore, but just write and see what happens. I hope I will be a better writer in the future, and with some practice this future is getting closer day by day.


Ich beginne meinen Tag mit dem ersten Kapitel von “The Ethnographic ‘I’” (2004). Die Publikation von Carolyn Ellis ist ein autoethnographisches (Lehr-)buch über Autoethnographie. Ellis arbeitet als Kommunikationsforscherin und Soziologin an der University of South Florida. Sie ist wohl die erste Autorin über die man stolpert, wenn man beginnt sich für Autoethnographie zu interessieren, da sie umfangreich zu diesem Thema publiziert hat.“The Ethnographic ‘I’” ist für Leser*innen leicht zugänglich, da es nicht so dicht abgefasst ist wie ein wissenschaftlicher Artikel, trotzdem bietet es umfangreiche Einblicke in das Themenfeld der (Auto-)Ethnographie. Das erste Kapitel beschreibt den Beginn eines Seminars über Theorien und Methoden autoethnographischen Forschens. Wir erleben aus der Ich-Perspektive der Professorin, wie sie zu dem Thema gekommen ist und wie sie mit Kritik und Skepsis gegenüber dieser Forschung umgeht. Sie verschmilzt Geschichte und Theorie, indem sie Begriffe erklärt und auf wissenschaftliche Literatur hinweist. Als Anhang ist der Ablauf des Seminars mit Leseempfehlungen und Aufgaben beigefügt. In mir entsteht der Wunsch, die Lehrveranstaltung zu besuchen und so entschließe ich mich die Angaben und Vorschläge des Buches umzusetzen.

Let class begin!

Week 1

Im ersten Kapitel lernen wir über die Anfänge autoethnographischen Forschens. Ellis liefert folgende kurze Definition von Autoethnographie: “[Autoethnography is] research, writing story, and method that connect the autobiographical and personal to the cultural, social, and political. Autoethnographic forms feature concrete action, emotion, embodiment, self-consciousness, and introspection portrayed in dialogue, scenes, characterization, and plot. Thus, autoethnography claims the convention of literary writing.” (Ellis, 2004, xix).

Folgende Publikation können laut Ellis als erste Autographien im Feld der Kommunikationswissenschaften verstanden werden, wenn auch diese Autoren diese Bezeichnung hierfür nicht verwendeten (vgl. 2004, 12):

Thomas W. Benson (1981). “Another shooting in Cowtown,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 67:4, 347-406.
Michael Pacanowsky (1988). “Slouching Towards Chicago,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 74:4, 453–467.

Den Emotionen und Erlebnissen der Forscher*innen selbst Platz in der Forschung einzuräumen ist eine relativ neue Entwicklung und wird in der wissenschaftlichen Community oft als “unwissenschaftlich” abgetan, da es doch darum gehen solle sich selbst so weit wie möglich aus der Forschung auszuklammern:
[…] sociologists paid little to no attention in the 1970s to researchers’ experiences, except to establish guidelines for how they should act so as not to bias their studies or cause harm to their subjects. Textbooks and professors warned of problems of deception, self-disclosure, and going native, and advised about how to present yourself to get what you wanted from participants. […] But there was little discussion of the researcher’s emotions other than advice on dealing with the stresses of the fieldwork setting. The researcher’s own experience was not viewed as interesting, or even legitimate, to look at in its own right” (Ellis, 2004, 15).

Ellis legt ihren Weg zu ihrer Autoethnographie “Final Negotiations: A Story Of Loss, Love, And Chronic Illness” (1995) dar. Darin beschreibt sie ihre Erfahrungen mit dem Verlust einer geliebten Person. Die Reaktionen darauf waren kritisch, da eine solche Herangehensweise nicht den soziologischen Gütekriterien entspräche:

This same reviewer concluded that Final Negotiations ultimately failed because it did not offer ‘theory of something.’ To her, sociology was ‘careful, focused, detailed analysis of some particular episode, some particular pattern, issuing, say, in a new understanding of loss or emotional experience ultimately applicable to other people in other times and places.’ This view of sociology was exactly what I was writing against. Final Negotiations argues for story as analysis, for evocation in addition to representation as a goal for social science research, for generalization through the resonance of readers, and for opening up rather than closing down conversation.” (Ellis, 2004, 22).

Nach dem Lesen des ersten Kapitels widme ich mich der ersten von zwei Aufgaben, die im Rahmen der ersten Woche absolviert werden sollen.

AUFGABE 1: “Writing an episodic life story. Write about an event and pay close attention to setting the scene. Concentrate on concrete, sensual detail” (Ellis, 2004, 351).

My first experience with a tuning meditation

It is 9:46 p.m. I worked out longer than I anticipated and get nervous. “When was the session again,” I wonder and hurry to my laptop in the bedroom. I realize that I have some more minutes, but not enough time to get a shower. The sweat on my body starts to dry and I feel exhausted, happy, but also icky. I sense the smell of my body exuding and run to the windows to open them. The fresh air cools me down. “I’m done,” I yell to my partner who sits in the kitchen and signal him that the living room is now his. I get back to my desk and make myself comfortable in front of the screen. I put on a somewhat nice shirt so that the others won’t see my sportswear. I notice my flurry while staring at the screen. It’s time to check into the video conference. The organizers turn all the microphones off. I am relieved. It is so weird how anxious I get in this context. I am a singer. I sing in front of audiences and you can listen to my music on the internet. But joining a web-rehearsal called “Pauline Oliveros’ The World Wide Tuning Meditation” makes me self-conscious. I image the people doing this are way more experienced in classical music or experimental music, which makes me think of my musical abilities as amateurish. I don’t like this association, but it keeps coming up in my mind when I am in such settings. “Anyway, for this kind of meditation you don’t even need musical skills,” I remind myself while waiting for further instructions. And then it starts. A young woman explains what this is all about. The meditation is hosted by the International Contemporary Ensemble and MUSIC on the REBOUND. I look at all the people popping up on my screen and try to figure out which state they might be located in due to their surroundings. “My room looks very dark in comparison to hers,” I think and wonder how many time zones are represented in this one video conference. I think there are about 60 people logged in. Next to the video people are engaging in texting the group. I throw in a “Hello from Graz!” and look at all those different faces and comments. Some share one computer. I see my colleague Pia and am happy to recognize one face in the crowd. Claire Chase gives a short introduction to the topic. We find out about Pauline Oliveros’ listening practice and the idea behind this event. It is thought as a world-wide musical exchange in the isolated times of the COVID-19 crisis. Then IONE takes over. I am surprised to find out that she is the former artistic director of the deep listening institute and partner of Pauline Oliveros. This is more exciting than I imagined. Not just an experienced practitioner is guiding us, but someone who was really close to the composer and creator of deep listening. To get into the mood we are told to make a sound we never made before. I am irritated as I try to think about this. Which sound could that be? I try to experiment with the shape of my mouth. I suck my lower lip in and bare my teeth. This makes an interesting sound, and I guess that I never sounded like this before. We are instructed to find another sound. I notice how hard this is for me. “I made all the sounds I could ever think of,” I tell myself. Which is of course not true but shows how little I thought of this. The microphones are all turned on now and I can hear the different expressions of the people. Everyone is really into it and seems to enjoy the vocal experimenting. I am delighted by this exercise and want to continue to explore sounds in my head and body. They mute all the microphones again and we move on to the tuning meditation. The feeling of relaxation and excitement overflows my body. The exercise did the trick. “Begin by taking a deep breath and letting it all the way out with air sound,” IONE continues. “Well that is not so hard”, I think and try to feel my body and breath. I observe how my feet are touching the wooden creaky floor of my apartment until I feel safe and grounded. And then the microphones are all on. I hold my breath shortly but allow myself to sound. I allow myself to listen to the sounds emerging from the crowd through the internet, my computer, and earphones. I join in whenever it feels right and don’t let myself be bothered too much that I might be seen or heard. It is such a big crowd and collective sound production that my contribution won’t be judged. I wonder if they can hear my voice, if they can see my face. This continues for a while. I try to listen closer, deeper. I can recognize separate voices, but it is hard for me to hear distant voices. I wonder if this is due to the technical settings of the platform. I imagine how beautiful and powerful this must feel and sound with all those people in a big room, where the soundwaves would really move around and change due to the properties of the room and the people standing or moving in it. The tuning meditation abruptly comes to an end. The microphones are muted again. I see very happy faces on my screen. The rehearsal was a success. We are told to give feedback and join in the official tuning meditation on Saturday, a few days from now. “I might join in,” I tell myself as I leave the video conference. My head goes back to the sounds I never made. This is really something that stuck with me and made me curious. I leave my room glowing and my partner comments on the weird sounds he heard from my room. “Isn’t it interesting,” I reply grinning on my way to the shower.

Der zweiten Aufgabe möchte ich mich in den nächsten Tagen widmen:

Talking about writing and autoethnography. Students introduce themselves by telling the story of their lives as writers. They included: memories of childhood and how they learned to write, good and bad writing experiences, the role writing plays in their lives, writing habits, their experience with writing assignments in classes, fears and apprehensions in writing, authors they admire, and how they envision their future as writers.” (Ellis, 2004, 353).

Quelle: Ellis, Carolyn (2004). The Ethnographic I: A Methodological Novel about Autoethnography. Walnut Creek: Alta Mira Press.


Interview with Julia Eckhardt

On the last day of October 2019, I travelled to Brussels to meet and interview musician and curator Julia Eckhardt. We talked about music, feminism, listening, and books. To find out more, listen to the interview here:


Glissando published an interesting interview with Julia Eckhardt >>here.
Find out more about “The drum and the sampler” (Palme & Gingras, 2019) >>here.

Citron, Marcia J. (2000). Gender and the musical canon. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
Eckhardt, Julia & De Graeve, Leen (2017). The second sound: Conversations on Gender & Music. Gerswalde: Umland Verlag. >>
Eckhardt, Julia (Ed.) (2018). Grounds for Possible Music: On gender, voice, language, and identity. Berlin: Errant Bodies Press. >>
Eckhardt, Julia (2019). Eliane Radigue: Intermediary Spaces. Gerswalde: Umland Verlag. >>
Gilligan, Carol (1982). In a different voice: Psychological theory and women’s development. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.


Listening in/to Listening

Currently I immerse myself in the topic of listening. Reading articles, books, interviews about listening in different disciplines, watching videos and listen to podcasts. This theoretical examination already influenced the way I listen to sounds, surroundings, instruments, others, and myself.

ON LISTENING #1Thinking (through) the ear | Radio Web Macba, curated by Arnau Horta, Music by Annie Goh
Listening across disciplines | Resonance 104.4 FM, curated by Salomé Voegelin and Anna Barney

The Website of the project “listening across disciplines” also offers a comprehensive bibliography >>here