Week 6: Echoes

Emily, Chan Yuen Ting - Individual Tasks



“But, the Hebrew word, the word timshel – ‘Thou mayest’ – that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if ‘Thou mayest’ – it is also true that ‘Thou mayest not’. Don’t you see?”

Lee, East of Eden – John Steinbeck

This quote originated from the discussion on the correct translation of the Hebrew word timshel and its intended original meaning, where the word appeared in a chapter in the Bible discussing whether men shall triumph over sin. It was translated differently in various versions of the Bible, and so as it could be translated as:
(a) God promises Cain that he will conquer sin (“thou shalt rule over him”)?

(b) God orders Cain to conquer sin (“Do thou rule over him”)?
(c) God blesses Cain with free will, leaving the choice to him (“Thou mayest rule over him”)?

The most different translation, also the one that I chose to believe, is the third one – “Thou mayest”. In the quote, it stated clearly why -because it gives men the choice in their lives for their free will, for all the evil and good stumbled upon us, we still have the great choice, to choose our course and fight it through and win. This is a question that clings right back to me, as a being, on all matter in lives or on simply how we chose to be ourselves, there is a choice, we are born with it and no body can take that away from us. We can choose to be the best of us at every thing, or not. We can choose to be who ever we want to be and not trapped in the social ideologies, or not. We can hold on tight to the choice that we’re born with and make very good use of it to live our lives, or not. The choice is towards you, yet you can conquer it.
It correlates with my belief that what and who ever you are, you are born with the choice to be it. We don’t need to fall into the different categories in society and life, because we don’t need them to tell us who we are and what we should do, it limits our lives. I don’t believe those categories can conclude the versatile lives one can own, simply by their identical similarities or differences. We are all a bit of everything, and it is silly to reckon our lives is destined at some point and gave up to that, and follow what it seems to be “easy”.
I recalled the memory when I was first introduced to East of Eden, there came a point where my whole life was changed by it, because of the art of story, the people and the discussion of “timshel”.  It reminded me of the freedom that my will gave me, and of those opportunities when I chose not to confront my weaknesses and problems, because I thought they were too strong and it left me with no choice. It brought me the epiphany on how I possess the power to choose for my life, that my qualities and what I want as a being are in all ways matter and valuable. And I can see more choices ahead, for dream, for life, for everything that enables me, and I can fight for them with my bare hands.
The choice is towards you, yet you can conquer it, because “thou mayest”.



Week 5: Alternative Histories

Emily, Chan Yuen Ting - Individual Tasks

Hong Kong often promotes its diversity, openness, safety and equal opportunities in the society. However, today I will depict the other side of the story.




I’m sorry I have problems with uploading the video, the vimeo link seems to have some problem. So I uploaded it again onto google docs, I hope you have no problem viewing it. If you have any problem please contact me asap. Thank you very much.

my email: emilychan1232005@yahoo.com.hk

Week 4: Points of View

Emily, Chan Yuen Ting - Individual Tasks

Representations of gendered image – Why women have to be more like ‘women’? Nature or tools?


We are all victims of the representation on gendered bodies. Women, particularly, have been scrutinized on their sizes, femininity and all kinds of imperfections one can imagine. We have to admit that while one may choose what and who he/she/it wants to be, there are factual differences within our physical structures. Though, does that entitle us our identities? What it is to be the quality of being women? We now often speculate the feminine body image with the controversies in advertising, that ciculate us to the core question – are female tied to nature by their own ‘nature’ or male freeing themselves using tools from it?


Some see the female embodiment as an aesthetic celebration of its quality and physical structure, and that it is a destined incarnation of its ‘own’ kind, confirming to its ‘nature’. It is a challenge to the attitudes towards women and their bodily functions, whether they actually exist or judged to be existed. Take a look at the anatomy of the female image: big breasts, extremely small waist, thigh gap, etc. They are exaggerated, extreme, none of them are mainstream body shape and are difficult to achieve. They are weighing on and pushing the professionalism female possess to achieve certain goals, instead of flourishing female’s way of ‘being’. According to Grosz(1994), “There is no ‘natural’ norm; there are only cultural forms of body, which do or do not conform to social norms”(143), and Butler(1990) that ” gender is socially and culturally constructed” , these ‘nature’ as people distinguished, helps merely on biological organisation of the subject based on genetic and environmental factor. And to quote Butler(1993) “Sexual difference, however, is never simply a function of material differences which are not in some way both marked and formed by discursive practices”, suggesting that sex “is part of a regulatory process that produces the bodies it governs” and never only functions as norm or values in society. Pointing out that although there is the difference in sex(biological) and gender(culturally constructed), the construction of sex itself already work as a cultural norm that governs the materialisation of the bodies. Therefore, women or men have no ‘nature’ nor it is destined, and shall not be fixated to it.


On the contrary, there are arguments that the construction of femininity may also be considered as the strategy of hegemonic masculinity. It argues that the female embodiment acts to sustain the male-centred patriarchal society, taking advantage from women by ‘othering’ them. Regarding women’s biological conditions(menstration, pregnancy, menopause or sex organs, etc.), none of them constitutes any meaning or handicap, so it relies on the construals one has, to interpret it into disadvantage or burden. And the controversies arise from here, suspecting that power control has been held by the dominant group(male) in society. However, we came to understood that by distinguishing genders this way, it relies on a stable and clear-cut models of identities. But as Foucault(1980) suggests sexuality and body are constructed by relations of power, that power can be manipulated by particular people in specific situations and isn’t tied to specific identities or groups. It is simple to accuse certain group for holding all power that the others do not at all. On top of that, we need to analysis different kinds of discourse and its narratives in the level of desire, since it offers the anatomy on the implication of subjects, objects and their power relations. ‘Who wants what from who’ became a signification on who being subjectified or objectified, and it signals the power relationships in between. More, I think it is noteworthy to examine the nature of the construction, before we proposed the means that heterosexual/male imperative allows certain sex identification and discourage the other sex, we must first been through the process in assuming the sex, then to question its identification(Butler, 1993).



Given the examination on both sides, it seems that the facts and myths have been mixed together with lived expreience, as a persuasion or dogma, etc. And when we fall into the disscussion and anatomy of bodies(gendered), we are exploring and investigating a bodily sites of ambiguity, for it can be passively oppressed and actively as a vehicle for freedom at the same time. Female indeed has been subjugated and scrutinized in this ‘he’ or ‘she’ binary for histories, though male per se have to built their own identity based on strict guidelines before they submit themselves to renders to this binary. However, it seems that males’ identity and inequality, while being in the name of manipulating women, are rarely examined and defended. To quote Butler(1993), “gendering is, among other things, the differentiating relations by which speaking subjects come into being.  Subjected to gender, but subjectivated by gender, the ‘I’ neither precedes nor follows the process of this gendering, but emerges only within and as the matrix of gender relations themselves”. It came to show that we don’t necessarily have to live in this binary by demarcating people using their ‘gender’ and its ‘nature’, because it is essential to note that people can choose to become who and what they want to be, in spite of their biological conditions they possess. And all these arguments and speculations are mere inspection on how society forms these identity and how individuals turned to accept them.



Butler, J (1990). Gender Trouble. New York.

Butler, J (1993) Bodies that Matter. New York.

De Beauvoir, S (1997) The Second Sex. 295.

Grosz, E (1994). Volatile Bodies: Toward a Corporeal Feminism. 120-164.

Winter, K (2014). ‘A body for every body’: Victoria’s Secret FINALLY changes controversial ad slogan that declared the physiques of its Angels ‘perfect’. Available from <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2824118/A-body-body-Victoria-s-Secret-bows-outrage-amends-ad-slogan-originally-declared-physiques-Angels-perfect.html> [10.11.2014]






Week 3: Expert Interview

Emily, Chan Yuen Ting - Individual Tasks

Storytelling, and technology – the interpretation of history and culture

Interview with John Keenan on Storytelling, technology and advertising, and their interpretation of history and culture.

conducted on 24 Nov 2014.

I was able to launch an interview with Dr. John Keenan from our university who is an expertise in advertising and had done a recent ethnographic research with life-history. I was lucky enough to get more insight of the connection between the form of storytelling and its way to record life history and culture. My main concern and interest is the change in society and its form of storytelling experience, and the meaning carried in the change.

I am questioning whether there is any cultural meaning incarnated in the different tools(e.g. social media platforms like instagram) we are having to engage in the society, record history and create culture. And that there seems to be a change in the representation of life history and the way human are recording it, particularly when we are in the age and mist of the mass media. But why would we have theses changes? And what are they telling us?

Keenan foremost defined what is storytelling by describing it as a way of achieving goals ,and as the perception to understand our world and self. That it is universal at all ways and being a part of the human condition.

“A story was really human’s need to go back to the beginning, and understand how we start from the start and get to the place we are right now, in our mind and physically.” 

I began the interview by asking the definition of storytelling, because I think there is a need to show the universality of it and the connection it has with the nature of the social media platform.

Keenan continued to point out the control in the information flow, suggesting the ‘gatekeeper’ is the biggest concern when it prohibits and allows certain voices, that freedom is limited.

“The way we are having right now are encouraging us to storytelling, it allows more freedom in forms to tell stories. But what gets in the way is the gatekeeper, certain authorities are prohibiting some platform for general to tell stories in certain forms, but overall it gave us more opportunities and encourage us to do that. Like publishers can allow certain writers to publish.” 

He opened up an important discussion on the control in voices and information, it leads us to question the construction of these social platforms, its aims and effects on people. The question is how do those tools limit and narrow our presentation of life when it aims to broaden it and make it versatile. And we came to the following discussion: When we transcribed ourselves onto these platform, there may be the change in the embodiment of the public signs and symbols – “as a web weaved by man himself which makes the world understandable”.(Greetz, 1983) New cultures could be created and our point of view in the narratives may be changed. Then the structure of personal or social denotation and its ways to construct a person and society, and their place in the social order. It could be developed to the construction of identity.

Examining trends like short-form literature in online writing, it encourages to neglect details while emphasising on introspection, and people seem to enjoy this kind of fragmented nature of it. Keenan suggested that the short-form writing cannot propose any unified ideas, instead, they are just shattered pieces of documentary and noises.

“We are documenting our times on these (social platform/storytelling)form, it’s just noises and reflections of our times(past). the purpose of carrying history and communication is lost, it just focuses more on the human contact. Short-form storytelling lack of content, emotion and cultural aspect on what it is to be human. They ended up to be just non-consecutive noise. It goes back to what we chose to read and remember.”

Here Keenan reflected on the quality these literature carries and their effects on storytelling. It gave me the epiphany on the quintessence of these communication tools, is the nature of human contact and collect emotions. However, they seems to be lost and have the tendency to tide with advertising. It seems to me that the way advertising is intertwined with communication nowadays became a new way to form culture. It could circle back to our construction of social identity, how new ones are formed and old ones are kept through these changes in communication.


“What I think about advertising and these short-form of storytelling is that we are both requiring a short and instant message to be delivered immediately, that the constant shot of information has form the addiction in us to get information quickly. I think advertising has affected the way we tell stories and the online/social media way of storytelling has become a way to form culture.”

The discussion moved on to ethnographic research and Keenan’s paper. As my research requires interviewing people for their life history and attitudes, I wonder about the aural nature and interaction in it, does it allow more authorship or needed more directions for content to be told? Does it relate to the way we used to tell stories(aural culture)?

“Regarding my paper’s interactive way of recording life history, the aural culture and interaction of the listeners. Yes, I think we are lacking listeners, we don’t have aural culture anymore like we use to in the past. Instead we left our stories to be recorded on the internet in a active form, and I think we are lost in the mist of noise.”

I continued to question the necessity to understand the interviewee, their culture and the structure of it, even as a stranger to another culture.

“To be an ethnographer, we do have understand people and their culture, what’s working. It’s difficult to stand outside in an other world and to observe it, but we are not a stranger of the culture. There is a thing called emic and etic, emit is inside of the perspective, and etic is outside of it for some one who is not form the culture. An attic view is absolutely ok. I think if you are having an attic view, its very difficult to study a culture. Because we make sense of ourselves from our culture, so people form different culture make sense of reality in different ways, and so certain things means something different for different cultures.”

I certainly agree to Keenan’s opinion, that we make sense of ourselves from our culture, and it is difficult to observe culture by separating ourselves from it. On top of that, we get to see the variated perception of the culture and self from the same culture, and provide reflexivity as a researcher or a social body. More importantly, we landed ourselves the discussion of the meaning in the change of mass media, more self-expression, introspection and memory recording. It revealed the desire to ‘being remembered’ and ‘to remember’, and the advocation to the sense of self and emotion. While it is interesting to note that by participating in those storytelling, it is a new way to engage with the society. Much of our discussion circle back to the notions of the communication, the tools used to communicate, self and emotional considerations and how the notion of subjectivity be challenged and allow more authorship at the same time.

Geertz, C (1983) From the Native’s Point of View: On the Nature of Anthropological Understanding. New York: Basic Books. 55-70.

Geertz, C (1973). The Interpretation of Cultures. New York: Basic Books. 89.


Questions used in interview:


1. How would you define storytelling? Do you think it is universal?

2. How do you think technology or a web platform can encourage people to share their stories? Or do you think they are missing the important aspect in storytelling according to what you define storytelling?

3. Do you think those technology work as tools with pre-ascribed culture meaning for us to tell stories and construct/maintain culture? Are those technologies preferring what we want to tell or showing the diversity of tell one story with many people at the same time(“meta-story”)? Do you think advertising has anything to do with it?

4. Do you think those storytelling platform can work as a reference library for real-life experiences/history for human beings?

5. Do you think there is the anthropological quest for an adequate representation of one culture’s experience of reality? If so, do you think it is slipping away nowadays?

6. In the context of Social media platform(e.g. twitter) are encouraging short-form storytelling, neglecting details while emphasising on introspection. And people seem to enjoy this kind of fragmented nature of it, do you think advertising has been blending with the form of storytelling? Do you think we need a longer form of storytelling? Why?

7. With blogs rights now, there seems to be a hyperconsciousness of personal branding that encourage full self-expression, but the part of listening is missing. do you see any essential changes in the storytelling experiences over the years? Are they the same form of history record or interpretation of our culture? Do you think there’s a need for theses changes in order to achieve better storytelling experience.

8. Regarding, ethnographic research, do you think ethnographer has the need to have a deep and rooted understanding of the symbols, meanings and their structures of the culture, given that they are part of the culture themselves?


Week 2: Mashup Video

Emily, Chan Yuen Ting - Individual Tasks

Memory, the history of the present, includes forgetting


According to Pierra Nora, memory creates social identities, unites communities, and it, be our consciousness of the past, can be the symptom of the disappearance of ceratin living traditions. It can be seen that memory provides us a field where past and present can paradoxically exist at the same time, while memory in the present world works as a historical trace and exist as a simulation of the past, mordern societies can reenact them through different rituals, then memory may also be the history of the present. This actually described and born with our inability to live within the real memory, and our desire to present what is no longer exist because the real environments of memory indeed disapeared. But bear in mind, memory with the construction like this(e.g. social relations) can be altered at any moment, even for personal or social circumstances. Memory is produced through discourse, though when what is to be remembered(preferred) and forgotten are not decided by us, it gives the controller(of the memory) power to create discourse, and the authenticity of the past somehow shape the discourse of present.


The video may seems confusing, but it supposed so. It should deliver the confusion of the scenario, inability to realize the past and present because we are doing it at the same time. Meanwhile, it seems that somebody has chose what to prefer or remember in our memories, it is unreliable, because on top of that, memory itself alters constantly. Then, our reality is too, unreliable, because our acknowledgement of the reality is based on our experience and  knowledge of/from the past, and so it may alters along.