In describing the significance and effects of the mukbang trend, we have quoted ordinary people who recorded their experiences as social media comments. In the strictest sense, this kind of testimony does not constitute evidence, but it is the fertile ground from which evidence is born. Many professionals scorn “anecdotal evidence.” But that is where the information lives, that gets investigations started.
By derivation, “anecdotal” means “things unpublished,” which would include everything from what the Uber driver just told you to your own independent research findings that you compiled night and day for 13 years, because they are both equally unpublished. “Anecdotal” is a dirty word to some, but it is wrongly maligned. A scientific paper starts off with a section that explains what the researchers are trying to figure out, a quest that can originate with “anecdotal evidence.” Very often, it is from anecdotal evidence that hypotheses are born.
For instance, if researchers are testing the hypothesis that a certain drug relieves depression, how do they find out? By feeding it to a group of subjects, and then asking them how it worked. We have effective anti-depressants because a series of individuals each told their little anecdote — “Yes, it helped” or “No, it’s worthless” — to someone in a lab coat who wrote down the answer. Then, someone at a computer added up all the answers, and Voila! A batch of personal experiences, through being recorded and curated, is magically transformed into scientifically respectable data.
This is mentioned here because some academics have been taking the crowdsourcing approach. Among them are a couple of Swedes, Mattias Strand and Sanna Aila Gustafsson, who say:
Over the years, however, netnography has increasingly been used as a strictly observational approach in health care research, not least for studies on sensitive topics where it may be difficult to negotiate access or recruit informants.
Relating to their paper on mukbang, they cite as precedents the work of other researchers who have used the words of Reddit.com members as raw material for studies of suicide, gout, and cannabis use, and advocacy for such eating disorders as anorexia. For readers interested in pursuing the subject on their own, there are at least 15 subreddits where discussions of mukbang can be found.
Other researchers have mined the treasure troves of experience reported in online communities to learn more about diabetes, weight stigma, and self-injury. Clinicians realize that multitudes of young people, while not officially diagnosed with eating disorders, nevertheless show “subclinical symptoms of disordered eating,” and this includes almost one-quarter of adolescent girls and as many as 15% of teenage boys.
Their thoughts can be found in freestanding forums and in the comment sections of many websites, including Dr. Pretlow’s own. Strand and Gustafsson also add,
The terms netnography, digital ethnography, and digital anthropology are sometimes used interchangeably. However, although the practical methodology may not differ very much, a key conceptual difference is that in a netnographic analysis, the online community under study is seen as a habitat in its own right…
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “Mukbang and Disordered Eating: A Netnographic Analysis of Online Eating Broadcasts,” Springer.com, 04/10/20
Image by amika_san/CC BY-ND 2.0