Speaker Jessica Lingel
Host danah boyd
Date recorded 15 August 2011
Drawing on an ethnographic study with online as well as offline components, this paper investigates information practices related to underground body modification procedures used to permanently (and subversively) alter one’s appearance. In contrast to procedures that have gained a degree of cultural acceptance, such as ear piercing or moderate tattooing, the practices at the center of this paper are much more extreme, and, importantly, often illegal. Eighteen individual interviews were conducted with people who had obtained, were interested in obtaining or had performed extreme body modification procedures, generating thick descriptions of practices related to researching, documenting and occluding these procedures. Using the constructs of information poverty and subcultural capital, analysis is centered on participants’ descriptions of maintaining social norms of secrecy; negotiating privacy across one’s social milieu; and the crucial role of community in perceptions of access to and uses of information. With a complex and holistic understanding of how this community uses information to navigate and enforce boundaries of insiders and outsiders, implications for theory and design are suggested.
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