Joel Lee: Juggling the Details of Research

Joel Lee

Whenever I start a project, all the nitty-gritty details of what research entails seem to catch me by surprise, even though I know they’re coming. Creating excel sheets, drafting communication requests, seeing those interview requests denied, building the literature review. I’ve felt overwhelmed both by how quickly or incredibly slowly things tend to unfold. Below is a screenshot of the interview list. Time zones are confusing to me as some of the artists live across the world.

In the past week, I sent out a call to 20 bara artists (bara: male erotica that started in Japan in the 1970s) to request an interview for research. I found the resources on NYU Classes super helpful as to how to refine my interview questions to make sure they are open-ended and non-leading. I will post the questions below, so if you have any suggestions or would like to give feedback, I would very much appreciate it! To reiterate, the objective of my research in bara art is to investigate what purpose bara art serves as an artistic medium and how the art, its dissemination, and community have changed over time since the 1970s. What need does erotica satisfy?––also to other forms of erotica and materials.

I have had 3 interviews with bara artists, and I’m happy to how the interviews went. According to the NYU Classes resources, it is best that the interviewee does most of the talking, and I felt happy to as how comfortably the few artists I spoke felt at ease to speak about their craft. Sometimes they would already talk about the next question without me asking. These research interviews feel differently to journalistic-interviews, so I feel like I’m working through how to be better. Below is a picture of me and one of the artists on an Instagram Video (taken with permission). As many of the bara artists use Instagram, I found it most easy to use the Video feature to make calls seamlessly (and look at the video quality!)

Some things that have come up. 1. Some of the artists don’t speak English really well and responded to their concerns. With that said, I will adjust my interview requests to those who are fully capable of responding in English to ensure they clearly understand what the research and questions entail. 2. Some very much don’t want to be on camera! – Ideally, I want to replicate a face-to-face in-person interaction, but some have preferred to just chat or voice call. I believe that their responses are still important to the research, and it is something that I did not consider initially.

In terms of literature review and from the initial interviews, a few of the interviewees spoke about the furry community in relation to bara art and its fans, so I’m planning on doing more in-depth research to that relation. My research advisor suggested I read The Art of Failure by Jesper Juul, who talks about the paradox of video games as they present opportunities and spaces to fail. This is interesting because the idea of play will be helpful as to how understand bara, using a model of play.

Thank you! Here below of some of my questions I ask interviewees.

First, tell me a little about yourself.

Tell me about where you first discovered bara.

How would you define what bara is? 

Please describe in your own words, the history of bara.

How does bara differ from other genres of erotica? (yaoi, tom of finland) 

How would you describe your unique style of bara.

What do you enjoy about bara? Describe your feelings and what goes through your mind when you look at it.

What do you think attracts people to bara?

What makes bara erotic?

Tell me about your relationship with your audience.

What is the relationship between bara-illustrated men and men in every day life?

What do you think is unique about the bara art community? Similarities, shared interests. 

Walk me through your process in making a comic or illustration. 

What do you hope your audience takes away from your bara illustrations?  

Would you draw yourself in a bara style? 

What do you think is the purpose of bara as an art form?

One thought on “Joel Lee: Juggling the Details of Research

  1. Hi Joel! This is amazing! You’ve done so much already! I love your work so far and I look forward to hearing your presentation in the fall! Talk soon!

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