Friday, August 28, 2009

ME: Tattoo audience research.

My partner Kyle and I chose to do Body Modification for our group project one in Multimedia Experience. We think that this topic can provide a wide range of visual data  as well as help tattoo and piercing lovers communicate and share information with each other. KCAI also allows a lot of first-hand feedback on the subject. I even know a tattoo artist, Barrett Leary, whom I hope to contact during the project. Below is the assignment for Monday (you can see Kyle's part of the research on his school blog).

research and brainstorm basic community info, demographics, individual and community wants and needs, motivations, etc

Tattoos are a growing trend that is now accepted by the media and is no longer seen as something unusual or rebellious. The earliest known examples were for a long time Egyptian and were present on several female mummies dated to c. 2000 B.C. But following the more recent discovery of the Iceman from the area of the Italian-Austrian border in 1991 and his tattoo patterns, this date has been pushed back a further thousand years when he was carbon-dated at around 5,200 years old. (Tattoos by Kate Lineberry).

According to 36% of people ages 18 to 25  have at least one tattoo. Esquire Magazine estimated in 2002 that one in eight Americans was tattooed.  People who get tattoos range from celebrities to prisoners and gang members and have various reasons for their decision. The national survey of adults shows these main statistics:

-Democrats are more likely to get tattoos (18%) than Republicans (14%) and Independents (12%).
- The highest percentage of people getting tattoos is in the west (20%).
-Females and males are pretty equal in getting tattoos (15 vs 16% respectively).
-Hispanics have the highest percentage of tattoos (18% vs 16% in the white population and 14% in black.)

Why do people get tattoos?
Tattoos are a method of self-expression and belonging to a specific culture or sub-culture. Many people find tattoos appealing because of the way they make them feel.
According to the previously mentioned national survey tattoos make people feel more:

Intelligent   5%
Sexy           34% (more women than men)
Spiritual     20%
Rebellious  29%
Attractive   26%
Athletic      3%
Healthy      4%
Strong        16%

The following interview with Mark Shwab explains how people choose tattoos and tips on how to choose a tattoo design. According to it, the most common designs are stars and flowers. Names translated in other languages, as well as names of family members and significant other are also common designs. Sometime the same tattoo is reproduced on more than one person as a symbol of friendship or connection.

According to the article Incredible Gang Tattoos and their Meaning, tattoos came to symbolize both the gory and the glory associated with gang life. Today it is not uncommon for gang members to tattoo their hands and armsnecks and even faces, as a demonstrated refusal to acclimate to social norms. Tattoos in gang culture represent a commitment that stays with the body even after life. Gang members are committed to the gang for life and shared tattoos are a way of unifying members of a gang.

The demographic that makes body piercings is pretty similar to the one that get tattoos. Tattoos and body piercings in the United States: A national data set made a research used random digit dialing technology  to obtain a national probability sample of 253 women and 247 men who were 18 to 50 years of age.  24% had tattoos and 14% had body piercings. Tattooing was equally common in both sexes, but body piercing was more common among women. According to the research, tattooing and body piercing are associated with risk-taking activities. Body piercing has a high incidence of medical complications. The following information shows how dedicated people are to the idea of their own individuality, even if it will be painful.

Piercing LocationAverage Healing Time
Ear lobe6 to 8 weeks
Ear cartilage4 months to 1 year
Eyebrow6 to 8 weeks
Nostril2 to 4 months
Nasal septum6 to 8 months
Nasal bridge8 to 10 weeks
Tongue4 weeks
Lip2 to 3 months
Nipple3 to 6 months
Navel4 months to 1 year
Female genitalia4 to 10 weeks
Male genitalia4 weeks to 6 months
Cheek4 to 5 months

Gen Xers lead piercing and tattoo fad explains the main reasons why people get tattoos and piercings:
"The glamorization of tattoos and body piercings in the media has sparked an interest in this trend. Jared Isenberg, 24, a Reno tattoo artist, said rock stars and MTV are a big influence on his clients."
"Body piercings and tattoos are a means of personal empowerment for some Gen Xers who are typically searching for individualism and control of their lives. Tattoos and body piercings are their marks of individuality and control."
"Others get tattoos and piercings to be rebellious and spontaneous." 

My classmate Amy was very kind to share with me a website with amazing information about the history of various piercings. Check it out!

There is one significant difference between tattoos and piercings that can influence the decision of  the person choosing between the two: tattoos are permanent, piercings are not.
If you are patient enough to read this, you will find out what are the societal and psychological reasons for some women to get body piercings.

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