Month: April 2014

Books: Not Just For Looking At

The semester in a nutshell, courtesy Google Images

The semester in a nutshell, courtesy Google Images

I haven’t slept since January. Or eaten. (Okay, that’s a lie. I’ve eaten.) This semester has not been a piece of cake, and in this blog post, I recap the interviews and outings I have done throughout the last few months and tie them into the readings about my interviewing strategy. The beginning part of my research methods class was reading heavy; the latter half of the semester was applying strategies gleaned from the various articles and books to work out in the field. So far, here is how I’ve put those methods to work:

Primarily relying on Postmodern Interviewing by Jaber F.

Postmodern Interviewing by Jaber F. Gubrium and James A. Holstein

Postmodern Interviewing by Jaber F. Gubrium and James A. Holstein

Gubrium and James A. Holstein as well as Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes by Robert M. Emerson, Rachel I. Fretz, and Linda L. Shaw, I went into my first interview (in-person) armed with various strategies. Having never interviewed anyone before, I held fast to their recommendations, feeling like a lost tourist in a big city clutching a map. Postmodern Interviewing sanctions that “the interviewer must establish a climate for mutual disclosure. The interview should be an occasion that displays the interviewer’s willingness to share his or her own feelings and deepest thoughts” (72).

Remembering this advice, I made to sure discuss personal matters that dealt with teaching to create an environment conducive to sharing. I felt that swapping teaching stories from earlier that day also helped supply me with credibility since the respondent was a fellow teacher. Despite the fact that this strategy was helpful, I couldn’t help but feel that the interview remained stiff. That is, I was sharing stories of my own, but the “mutual” part wasn’t coming through, the flow was off. I felt that it was still me asking a question and getting an answer. Me asking a question and getting an answer. Repeat.

When I conducted my second in-person interview about tattoos with an administrator, I felt that the interview ebbed

Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes, Second Edition, by Robert M. Emerson, Rachel I. Fretz, and Linda L. Shaw

Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes, Second Edition, by Robert M. Emerson, Rachel I. Fretz, and Linda L. Shaw

much better. I relied on Postmodern Interviewing’s strategy of treating the interview as “a kind of ‘improvisational’ performance” (75). While I had two set questions in my head that I specifically wanted answered to help me tighten the focus of my feature article, I went into the interview letting the wind take us wherever it went. Postmodern Interviewing continues that “The production is spontaneous, yet structured…focused within loose parameters provided by the interviewer, who is also an active participant” (75). In this way, by having two set questions but not controlling where the interview went by always taking the respondent back to a certain point, I accomplished the “improvisational performance,” and it was quite fun. While our discussion primarily focused on tattoos in the workplace, it deviated to other, related matters such as piercings, and certainly held all of the qualifications of a rich conversation.

In addition, I went to the Skindustry Expo (my first outing into the field) armed with a few methods. At the end of March, I was still relatively new to the interviewing process (not that I’m essentially an “expert” in it now, but I acquired much more experience in interviewing since attending the expo). There was so much to look at (and listen to) when Susette and I entered the expo that it was overwhelming at first. While I wanted to take out my notebook and start jotting right away, I did not do so because I wanted to continue to look around, to get a feel for the environment before I tore my eyes away to write it all down. Writing for Ethnographic Fieldnotes states that “in most social settings, writing down what is taking place as it occurs is a strange, marginalizing activity that marks the writer as an observer rather than a full, ordinary participant” (43). Indeed, words like “strange,” “marginalizing,” and “ordinary” were exactly what I felt. Afraid that taking out my notebook would give me away (despite the fact that I had no visible tattoos, clearly the more obvious give-away) I postponed taking it out right away. Eventually, when I did, I was afraid that everyone was looking at me, but soothed my anxiety by telling myself that maybe they thought I was writing down ideas for a tattoo. (Yeah, keep dreaming.) Writing for Ethnographic Field Notes urges, “Only those phrases actually quoted verbatim should be placed between quotation marks; all others should be recorded as indirect quotations or paraphrases” (63). Not wanting to misquote somebody, I furiously wrote down (abbreviating where necessary) dialogue that I felt was crucial to my topics, and when I blogged about the event, I made sure to put the words of the experts into quotations. When I could only remember bits and pieces of what they said, or a jist of their advice, I neglected the use of quotation marks because it would have been inappropriate. Instead, I paraphrased or put a comma without quotation marks. The doctor at the tattoo laser removal booth was excellent practice for me. I wrote down his words in particular because as he was explaining the removal process to Susette, I was learning. It was like “Tattoo Removal 101,” and I tried to absorb as much as I could.

My online interviews were also heavily influenced by the readings from class. Going back to Postmodern Interviewing, when I conducted several e-mail interviews, I looked towards this advice: “answers are not meant to be conclusive, but instead serve to further the agenda for discussion…a team effort.” While I sent the four respondents the same questions via Facebook messaging, their answers all varied, and I analyzed those answers in order to send follow-up questions via e-mail. In this way, their answers were not the end of the road, but rather lended themselves to “further[ing] the agenda of discussion,” as Postmodern Interviewing indicates.

Overall, after conducting both in-person and online interviews as well as going out into the field for my outings, it is clear that interviewing is not a “one size fits all” process. What works for one interview or outing may or may not fit another interview or outing. Thus, Gubrium’s idea that “ownership can be a joint or collaborative manner” (41) holds true. If interviewing is truly a “joint or collaborative” process, then no two interviews will be exactly alike because each person brings something new to the table.

Hmm..table. Perhaps now it’s time to eat. And sleep.

The way I feel, courtesy Google Images

The way I feel after learning so much, courtesy Google Images

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Lookings

Lookings, Part 1 – Body Graphics, Pennsauken, New Jersey: Tom and Pixie 

As I drove down Route 70 on my way to Body Graphics in Pennsauken, New Jersey, on Friday, April 18, 2014 around 12:30 P.M., I didn’t know what to expect. While I had attended the Skindustry Expo with Susette, I had never set foot into an actual tattoo parlor before. Horror stories of chintzy, Vegas-like neon signs flashing into a dark, leaky alleyway streaked through my mind.

When I entered the shop, a clean, tropical aroma draped itself around me and seemed to cast out any reservations I had. Hardwood floors gleamed up at me, and potted plants were speckled around the room. Around the walls of the front desk room were various forms of artwork. There was nobody else in the room, and I looked around, feeling suddenly comfortable.

Not long after I entered the shop, a man in a black shirt, dark hair and beard, and black glasses came around and walked behind the desk.

“Hi,” I said walking over to him. Then hesitantly, “Are you Tom?”

“Yes,” he said and sat down at one of the two empty chairs behind the front desk. Tom and I had been playing phone tag and trying to meet for about a month. When I originally called Body Graphics back in the beginning of March, Tom was all too happy to donate some of his time for walking me through what happens when a customer comes in looking to get a tattoo. Unfortunately, our schedules seemed to always conflict. Finally, the stars aligned, and Tom and I were both available on the same day at the same time.

“Hi, I’m Rachel,” I said.

We exchanged greetings, and I thanked him right away for taking the time to walk me through his experiences.

“I know that you don’t work every day, but on days that you are here, how many people would you say you get?” I asked, diving right in.

Tom indicated that it varies. “It could be one to two people, or it could be five to six.” It depends on the day.

Another woman came into the room and sat at the second chair. She had facial piercings, and when she spoke, I recognized her voice. I assumed she was Pixie, the woman who usually answered the phone at Body Graphics when I called (several times, thanks to my busy schedule) to work out a meeting with Tom.

Tom continued by informing me that when someone came in for a tattoo, he usually sets up a 30 minute consultation appointment first to go over what they are looking for. He said that he likes to find out “what they like and what they don’t like” in a tattoo.

Pixie indicated that some people come in expecting to get the entire consultation and tattoo done in one day. Both Tom and Pixie recapped a man who had come in expecting to get a rose on his torso, two roses on his chest, ivy vines connected them wrapping around his neck, and some lettering on it done in one day. Tom had compromised by simply tattooing one of the roses onto the man’s torso, and the man came back later to get the rest of the tattoo finished. However, Tom made a thought-provoking comment when he indicated that certain tattoos need more than one session. I knew that larger tattoos usually required more than one sitting, but what I hadn’t thought about, what Tom enlightened me with, was how much time in-between sessions there should be. Tattoos typically need at least three weeks to heal, and Tom said that he likes to wait at least that long to give the tattoo the necessary time to properly heal before adding to it.

“Your immune system can only take so much,” he said. And he raised a good point. If your immune system is working overtime trying to heal a tattoo, it would not be a good idea to take on more than it can handle.

I then asked Tom how he felt about customers who came in who had frivolous, non-committal ideas about a tattoo. Customers who wanted a tattoo just for the sake of getting one. Tom said that he gets customers like that and he does his best to work with them to get a good idea about what they are looking for. Pixie, who runs the front desk and is a piercer there, could attest to this, as well, since she sees all of the customers who enter the shop. She indicated that usually they look at the flashes but that generally they decide what they want and leave a large part of it up to the tattoo artist.

This idea of trust caused me to think about the other side of the spectrum: “What about people who come in knowing exactly what they want who don’t like to bend on ideas?” I asked.

Both Tom and Pixie were able to give me information about this. Pixie said that usually customers like that will come in to the shop with a print-out or a picture on their phone, and they want to stick pretty closely to it. Tom indicated that when customers don’t give a lot of freedom to the tattoo artist (“you know, like when they say they want this design and six leaves in the background”) it can weigh a toll on the tattoo overall. If the tattoo is spelled out to the “t,” it can often weaken the tattoo overall because there is less room for creativity. Pixie agreed with what Tom said.

I asked which they prefer: a customer who has no clue about what they want, or a customer who knows exactly what they are looking for and watches them like a hawk. Tom and Pixie agreed that a balance between the two is ideal. You want someone who knows what they want but can still give you some freedom with it. A happy medium is ideal.

I told both of them about Susette and how she had gotten a tattoo at the Skindustry Expo. I recalled a comment that Susette had made, noting how she likes giving the tattoo artist a lot of room to work in his own style and that each tattoo she gets is also a reflection of the tattoo artist and how he/she interprets the tattoo. When I relayed this to Tom, he was impressed and happy to hear that. I went on to say how the sketch of her tattoo included a quill, yet the quill appeared to be left uncolored in the sketch. When the tattoo was finished, the tattoo artist had filled in the quill with black shading. Tom indicated that that was all part of getting a tattoo, letting the tattoo artist take over. Susette was extremely pleased with the outcome of the tattoo, and when I had asked her about the quill, she expressed that she didn’t know he was going to do that but that she thought it looked great.

Thinking back on Susette’s experience, I asked Tom and Pixie how they usually decide on pricing for tattoos. I commented how, at the Skindustry Expo, there were no set prices, and the two tattoo artists were bouncing around pricing ideas before settling on a final price. Tom and Pixie agreed, saying that there is no set price for any given tattoo. Tom commented that a lot of it came down to how much you felt your time was worth. Pixie later clarified that much of the pricing is based on size, location, and how much time will be spent working on it. I had later asked if getting a tattoo with color was more expensive than just black and white. Tom said no, but threw in that color tattoos can be more bigger and more in-depth (even though black and white tattoos can be extremely intricate with the shading), and so if color indicates a bigger size, more time would mean the tattoo would be more expensive.

When I commented on how Susette’s tattoo was not large but was expensive because there was a lot of time involved, Tom nodded his head. “It’s a permanent thing on your body,” he said. He went on: It’s something you’re going to have for at least 30-40 years…that’s longer than a car.

I then asked Tom how he was able to choose his own tattoo artist. Though his black shirt almost touched his wrists, I could see he had a tattoo on each arm. He said mostly he sees tattoos on other people that he likes and asks where they went and who they had. Then he reviews the tattoo artist’s portfolio online, and if he likes it, he moves forward.

“So basically word of mouth,” I said, and he agreed. I told him how a colleague of mine with double sleeves did that to find her artist, as well, and while her first experience was a nightmare, her second outing was a much better experience.

Tom indicated that tattooing comes down to trust: how much you trust your tattoo artist can make a big difference in the tattoo. I asked if he noticed a difference in people’s trust based on how many tattoos they had gotten. Would a person getting their tattoo done for the first time struggle with trust? Pixie indicated that it really depends on the person. Some people are fine, and some people are very nervous. She said that in this job, you have to be a people person. You are dealing with all types of people, and you have to know how to work with them.

I agreed that their entire day is centered around people: some could be pleasant while others…not so much.

When I asked if anyone has passed out while getting a tattoo, Tom said that for awhile nobody had passed out, and that was one of the things he said when coming to this shop. He indicated that other tattoo artists told him to just wait, since he said it had never happened, he was going to jinx himself. And sure enough, he did. He said he had a man pass out on him, and I asked what happens when that happens. “Do you stop? Do you keep going?”

“No, you have to stop,” Tom said.

Pixie said that when someone passes out, they give them sugar and water to raise their blood sugar level. They try to talk to them and bring them back to feeling alright. She indicated that all of the workers at Body Graphics had to have their blood pathogen test done. I mentioned that at the Skindustry Expo when Susette and I were looking through some of the portfolios, a tattoo shop had their CPR and License certificates in their portfolio, and Pixie said that that was a good thing, since not everybody has to have that. They said that they find that sometimes, the “big, tough” guys are the ones to pass out while getting a tattoo. Not that it happens all the time to all “tough” guys, but Tom indicated how one man was getting four letterings done, and after the first lettering, he passed out. Tom had said that the man was even a military guy who once had his back cut up from razor wire.

Tom said that he came here from Oregon and that licensing from state to state is relatively simple. In fact, there are even temporary licenses for each state since so much of tattooing lends itself to travel during conventions, expos, etc. This raised a great point: at the Skindustry Expo, I had spoken with two tattoo artists from Cincinnati, and it hadn’t occurred to me, how are you tattooing in Pennsylvania when you are from Ohio? I told them how, with teaching, if you want to move from state to state, you have to check that the tests you have taken can transfer to another state. If not, you have to schedule the required test for that state.

When discussing after-care instructions, I remembered that in the past when I have given blood, I have been thoroughly instructed not to drink alcohol since there is less blood in the body. While getting a tattoo is clearly not the same as giving blood, I asked if people are allowed to drink after having a tattoo done. Tom indicated that it’s not generally a good idea because your immune system is trying to heal the tattoo, and alcohol can slow it down. One drink isn’t bad, but you don’t want to go partying that night. Pixie indicated that you also don’t want to show up to a tattoo session hungover, because the alcohol is still in your system, and that can affect how the tattoo turns out.

Occasionally, throughout the conversation, people who worked at Body Graphics walked through the front door, and it was clear that the atmosphere was pleasant. Tom and Pixie both waved and smiled at the men and women coming in, and they waved and smiled back. I continued to step aside incase any of the people entering were customers as I did not want to keep Tom or Pixie from business.

As the conversation was winding down, Pixie asked me if I wanted to see the rest of the shop. “That would be great,” I said.

She and Tom took me from where we had been, the room where the front desk, hardwood floors, and plants were, back to the next room, which serves as a type of waiting room. Flashes hung around the walls, and on a table in the center of the room lay a ton of flashes from which to choose. She then walked me back through nifty saloon-wooden doors to where each tattoo artist had his or her own room. A black-and-white checkered floor stretched out before me. Each tattoo artist had a great deal of space to work in, and the rooms smelled clean and sterile.

As we walked back to the front of the shop, I thanked Tom and Pixie again for taking the time to speak with me about their experiences. I shook both of their hands and exited the shop at 1:30, about an hour later. As I pushed open the tattoo parlor door, I stepped outside thinking, “I certainly learned a lot since the last time I was on the other side of these doors.”

Lookings, Part 2: Kim

Kim's tattoo. Artist: Vicky Hunt. Shop: Got Ink? Burlington City, NJ

Kim’s tattoo. Artist: Vicky Hunt. Shop: Got Ink? Burlington City, NJ

I entered Kim’s classroom around 9:45 on Tuesday, April 22nd after she previously agreed to discuss her tattoos and things related to it with me. Kim teaches 6th grade language arts and 7th grade math. Having worked with Kim for three years, I knew she had a tattoo of flowers on her right foot, but I wanted to know more. I wanted her to take me on a journey. During our common prep period, she did just that.

I sat at one of the empty student’s desks sitting sideways facing her. She was sitting in a chair facing me. I asked her to tell me about her tattoo, and she began by explaining that she had wanted a tattoo for a long time, one that would be discreet when necessary, but it took her a long time to decide what and where she got it.

Eventually, she decided to get a tattoo honoring her children: she has four flowers connected by vines. Two of the flowers are blue, honoring her two sons, one of the flowers is pink, honoring her daughter, and one flower is purple, honoring a miscarriage she had. I was surprised when she told me that the vines are actually initials for her children, woven and interconnected to look like vines. She indicated that, when deciding about what tattoo she would get honoring her children, she did not want something cliché like a footprint but that she wanted something “girly and feminine.”

Fieldnotes while talking with Kim, page 1

Fieldnotes while talking with Kim, page 1

When I asked Kim where she got her tattoo done, she said Got Ink? in Burlington City, New Jersey. Her tattoo artist was Vicky Hunt. Kim then indicated that the experience of getting the tattoo was absolutely “nerve-wracking.” She does not like needles, and while she went to the tattoo shop dressed in a sweatshirt and jeans, she had to take off her sweatshirt because she was getting hot from the intensity of the experience. She indicated that she felt a burning sensation that eventually went numb, but when her tattoo artist paused to situate things she necessary for the tattoo, the sensation came back. Three months after getting the tattoo, she went back for a touch-up, and that pain was worse than getting the initial tattoo. She speculated perhaps since she went deeper under the skin it was more painful.

I asked Kim if she had a consultation before getting the tattoo, and she answered that she did. At the consultation, Kim showed her artist various flowers of which she was thinking and explained that she wanted the tattoo to be about her children and on what area she was interested. It took her artist a few days to draw the tattoo.

Kim is currently thinking about getting a tattoo when she hits five years of being free of breast cancer. She is thinking of having the tattoo on her wrist and having it say “believe,” with the “L” in the symbol of a pink breast cancer ribbon. Kim indicated that the tattoo must be easily concealed. When I asked her why, she indicated that she wants her tattoo to have a purpose and a meaning. “To me, that meaning is for myself.” I had commented on Kim’s current flower tattoo, saying that upon looking at it, it was not obvious that the flowers were for her kids and that the vines were actually initials. She expressed that she liked that about the tattoo, that the meaning was for her. She continued, I don’t want people “stereotyping me for the artwork on my body,” so keeping the tattoo not overtly obvious is important.

Fieldnotes while talking with Kim, page 2

Fieldnotes while talking with Kim, page 2

She then admitted that she may change her mind about the tattoo she gets. She tossed around the idea of having a butterfly with the body of the butterfly as the pink cancer ribbon. She indicated that butterflies were something her grandmother loved, and so whenever she sees a butterfly, it holds sentimental value for her, so incorporating the butterfly with the cancer ribbon might be an option, as well.

“But who knows,” she said. I might change my mind about that.

Kim had also indicated that many people become addicted to getting tattoos, and that this did not really happen to her, saying, If not for breast cancer, I don’t know if I would want another tattoo.

After speaking with Kim, I realized that I had no idea what her tattoo actually meant. After working with her for three years, I knew that she had a tattoo of flowers on her foot, but I did not understand that they were symbolic of her children and that the vines were actually initials of her kids. This experience made me wonder how many other tattoos I have seen thinking I knew what I was looking at when, in reality, the tattoo might have a completely different significance.

Taking the Extreme to the Extreme: Rico “Zombie Boy” Genest

Model. Actor. Sideshow freak. However you chose to label Rico Genest, also known as “Zombie Boy,” it would be hard to ignore the white elephant—excuse me, white skeleton—standing in the middle of the room. Or the carnival.

After watching the above YouTube video, my initial thought was, “To each his own.” This is a man who has taken the concept of a tattoo and has blown it to an expansive level. It is hard to miss that many of his tattoos are of the bones and muscles inside his body: brain, skull, rib cage. All are an outward reflection of what is inside the body. He comments that he appreciates true beauty and that you should be who you are. He’s pretty much nailed that down: just by looking at him, I’m not sure if I’m looking at skin or an exo-skeleton.

Rico is the same as a librarian. He has taken something he loves and has made it his world. Isn’t that what librarians do? They love books. They make books their world. They surround themselves in books. Rico, a man who loves art, has surrounded himself in ink. The only difference is that books remain on the shelves and do not manifest themselves onto the body while tattoos cling to the skin and reveal something much more personal about the bearer than silent books left on the shelf reveal.

Rico (right) next to Lady Gaga (left) in Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" music video, courtesy Google Images

Rico (right) next to Lady Gaga (left) in Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” music video, courtesy Google Images

He appeared in Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” video in his regular zombie-tatted self alongside a newly fake mirror-imaged zombie-Gaga. She dances around him and struts her, well, stuff. I found it curious that his entire appearance in the video is of him simply standing and staring. Lady Gaga dances around him and makes different facial expressions while he, on the other hand, remains stoic and unchanging. In this way, Lady Gaga is treating Rico as the center. Much like the Earth revolves around the sun, she revolves around him, making it appear that Rico’s thoughts about staying true to yourself and doing what makes you happy are as important and life-sustaining as the sun. Without each, you lose yourself.

Rico "Zombie Boy," Courtesy Google Images

Rico “Zombie Boy,” Courtesy Google Images

In “Born This Way,” Lady Gaga celebrates the differences of human beings, making the case that it is okay to be different. When Rico is showcased, his purpose is clearly to acknowledge just how different people can be. But…Rico was not “born that way.” Getting the tattoos was something that he chose to do, a personal and external alteration of the body. Instead, then, I argue that Lady Gaga celebrates the differences of decisions that human beings can make. While Rico was not born with a tattoo of a brain, rib cage, or skull, his choice to take on those tattoos is what shapes who he is as a person, what comes naturally to him.

Upon making the mistake of scrolling down the page to read the YouTube comments, I found that there was a clear division in how Rico was accepted. Several women acknowledged that he was attractive and sexy. Several males countered that he was a freak and was not to be taken seriously. Of course, YouTube comments are usually not meant for the weak of heart: f-bombs and other offensive comments appeared, revealing just how polarized people are when thinking about Rico. One person insulted Rico’s “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” comment, attesting that Rico is trying to be deep but is using a cliché. He also threw in a choice word, but we’ll leave that out.

After looking at the comments, and rolling my eyes at the vast typos (nothing better than trying to take someone seriously when they have about as many typos as the ideas as they are insulting), one thing was clear: This man straddles the idea of what you can do to your body. As stated, librarians surround themselves with books. Lawyers surround themselves with clients. Athletes surround themselves in fitness. And Rico? He surrounds himself with what makes him happy…tattoos.

 

The man of the hour, courtesy Google Images

The man of the hour, courtesy Google Images

 

Where in the world is Rachel? My Research Progress

Courtesy Google Images

Courtesy Google Images

I’d like a map, please.

At this stage in my research, I have completed the following:

  • Completed two in-person interviews
  • Completed two online interviews
  • Received two extra e-mails from teachers with tattoos stating their experience
  • Attended the Skindustry Expo in Allentown, PA
  • Read articles pertaining to tattoos
  • Researched videos that pertain to tattoos (emphasis on YouTube)
  • Have made arrangements to meet with a tattoo artist at a local parlor and have him walk me through a routine visit

After pooling responses from both the in-person and online interviews, one thing is clear: I would like a map, please.

After speaking with an administrator and a teacher for my in-person interviews and corresponding with two teachers with tattoos via e-mail, I have noticed a pattern: tattoos are not Public Enemy number 1. The teachers commented on how they have never had a bad experience with having a tattoo, and one teacher went as far as explaining how she uses having a tattoo as a learning experience for her students.

Thus, I am thinking about putting a positive spin on my article on tattoos in education. Before, I planned on fighting for the idea that having a tattoo doesn’t make one less capable. Yet, it seems a lot of people are already there. So, I will jump ahead with that mentality and comment on just how positive tattoos can be in education.

I already have quotes from people who are okay with teachers having tattoos. Now, I am working towards getting a balanced article by getting quotes from people who are adamantly against tattoos (perhaps in general, or perhaps strictly on teachers).

I am feeling somewhat apprehensive about the direction of my article. All of the research is spinning before me like a whirlpool, and it is overwhelming. I would love thoughts and feedback on my plan for discussing the positives of tattoos in education. Thanks for your help!

Post Online Interview: E-mail

Courtesy Google Images

Courtesy Google Images

My expectations going into this interview were to find out more about tattoos and about the way people with tattoos get treated. The interview with Carol was similar to my expectations in that she answered each question that I had asked with a thorough response. When comparing online interviewing with in-person interviewing, I noticed that e-mail interviewing lends itself to getting clear-cut answers. Since the questions are directly in front of the person, it is convenient for them to shape their answer around the inquiries. Without me contributing anything to the discussion, which is what I did in the in-person interviews as suggested in Postmodern Interviewing, Carol was able to keep the focus entirely on her background with tattoos without pausing or being influenced in any way by my contributions to the conversation. What was different from what I expected about the interview was that Carol told me something very personal when discussing the tattoos that she had. I felt honored that she shared that information with me. I am not sure if I would be comfortable telling a stranger something about my personal life, and I appreciated the fact that she did that with me.

From the interview (which included a follow-up e-mail), I learned that Carol is a pediatric nurse who does not have tattoos in visible areas. While she wants more tattoos (she currently has two), she would not get them in visible areas. When she indicated she had to refrain from getting the tattoos in visible areas, I asked a follow-up question about whether or not it was written in their policy for tattoos to remain hidden. She indicated that her work does prohibit visible tattoos and that failure to recognize this policy could result in a loss of her job.

While I do not have any more follow-up questions for Carol, I have spoken with several proponents of tattoos in the workplace (Carol being one of them.) I would like to speak with someone who disagrees with tattoos in the workplace and have a discussion about why. Therefore, I hope that next I will speak with an employer or business owner and dig deep about their policies and the reasoning behind them.

What was successful about the interview was the depth of information with which Carol provided me. She answered my questions succinctly and generously tuned me into the meaning behind her tattoos and ideas for future tattoos. In regards to strategies discussed in Postmodern Interviewing, “From the Individual Interview to the Interview Society” discusses a type of asymmetrical encounter in which “participants have different functions: One side asks questions and records information, and the other side provides answers to the questions asked” (37). In this case, an e-mail interview can certainly be considered “asymmetrical” since both sides, or “participants” are not engaging on a multi-level conversation. Instead, there is a set list of questions to which the respondent offers information. I do feel that this worked out well, as Carol enlightened me with many things about her life as a nurse with tattoos and the significance of each tattoo.

Courtesy Google Images

Courtesy Google Images

Drilling Down the…Drills?

Taking a different spin on tattoos, I delved into scholarly articles that were, well, scholarly. In the following blog post, I analyze three different articles that begin by discussing tattoo kits used in Maori culture and ultimately end up with cutting instruments of Maori culture. They each cite one another, and I will comment on their similarities and differences.

The first article, “Tattoo in Transition: A Post-European Maori Tattooing Kit” by J.B. Palmer is found in The Journal of the Polynesian Society and was published in 1958. Outdated? It would appear so. Until I turned the cover page and read the material. The article focuses on the “period of change in post-European Maori culture” (387) and discusses how the European invasion influenced the culture of the Maori in relation to their “technologies,” or tools, at that time. The article gives an in-depth look to the tattooing kit of the Maori (and presents a diagram of this) and how the tattoo kit changed due to European influence, noting that the invasion “resulted in the disappearance of men’s tattoos” (389). While the article provided definitions for each tool, it also delved into the significance of each tool.

To spin off of this article, Palmer then cites the second article I read, “Terminology for the Ground Stone Cutting-Implements in Polynesia” by Peter H. Buck, Kenneth P. Emory, H.D. Skinner, and John F.G. Stokes. It was published, too, by The Journal of the Polynesian Society and appeared in 1930. Again, seemingly outdated, but since the time period they are studying is in the past, the information they disseminate is relevant today. The first article cites this article by indicating what the definition of a chisel is, as defined by Buck et al. When reading the second article, I noted that it provides definitions of certain cutting implements in the Polynesian culture, such as “edge,” “bevel,” “gouge,” etc. These two articles are in conversation with one another because the first article uses the second as a means to define the significance of the chisel as it proves their topic of post-European Maori culture, and the chisel is a direct example of how the European influence changed their cutting methods. Both of these articles provide a diagram of the different cutting utensils. While seemingly insignificant, using the second article’s definition was critical to the first article’s analysis of the European influence as the definition validated the point they were making.

The third article, “Stone Implements of Pitcairn Island” by Kenneth P. Emory, published by The Journal of the Polynesian Society in 1928,while written first, uses two strategies the aforementioned articles use: terminology and analysis. Emory’s article defines key cutting implements (while, also, including diagrams of each utensil), but then takes that terminology and builds on it to indicate what the tools hint at about the Polynesian culture. For example, after describing and defining “adze,” a cutting tool, Emory elaborates the definition by including an analysis of what the tool indicates: “the apparent prototype of the adze with a tang at an angle to the blade, gives grounds for the assumption that the development of the angled adze took place outside of Hawaii” (126). Here, Emory defines the tool but gives grounds for the greater meaning behind the tool.

All three articles seem to be in conversation with one another because they pool the definitions of the stone cutting tools, yet they deviate in their assumptions of the tools and the greater meaning. Where Buck et al. provide only definitions of stone cutting tools, Palmer and Emory dive deeper and discuss what the tools can show us about history. Palmer takes advantage of the post-European invasion and discusses what the cutting tools suggest about the shift in Maori culture, and Emory analyzes the specific dimensions of each cutting tool and looks towards what it indicates about history. Thus, they all rely on one another for the definitions, but each takes its own unique spin.

I noticed that all three articles refer to sources found in The Journal of the Polynesian Society and did not seem to deviate from different publications. I noted, too, that some of the same authors were reference throughout all three articles, and Kenneth P. Emory contributed to two of the articles mentioned. Despite the fact that Emory serves on two articles, each article is noticeably different in their purpose and implications, and I did not feel that he was saying the same thing in both articles.