Inked and in public: tattoos and disclosure
Wessely, Michael D.
University of Wisconsin--Whitewater
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This qualitative study will examine the phenomenon that tattooing has become. More individuals of all ages and groups are obtaining tattoos (Kosut, 2006). The current study will explore the motivations that individuals have for obtaining tattoo modification, as well as how they manage their tattoos online and in face to face situations. Popular culture in the United States has also fed into increased interest for tattoos. Media exposure of famous tattooed individuals in a variety of venues has increased, as has media programming dedicated to tattoos. Fifteen participants in three focus groups held in the Midwest provided insight into the complexities of tattoo motivations and communication management of their tattoos both online and in person. Qualitative responses from a questionnaire were also utilized as a supportive component. The current study used the theoretical frameworks of Tajfel and Turner’s (1986) Social Identity Theory, as well as Petronio’s (2002) Communication Privacy Management. Tajfel and Turner’s (1986) Social Identity Theory was utilized to examine tattooing in the scope of group interaction. Petronio’s (2002) Communication Privacy Management was utilized to examine publicness and privacy, information sharing, and communication strategies with regard to tattoo-related information. Results of this study found that individuals had emotional motivations for obtaining tattoos in conjunction with practical considerations. In addition, participants detailed how they managed disclosure of their tattoos with various people in different situations, both online and face to face.