Monday, May 23, 2011

American Studies and the Survey

One of the reasons I have been so stressed over the La Malinche paper is because - shocking news! - I am taking more than one class this semester.  Two of my classes required major research projects for their completion.  For my American Studies course, I went on a somewhat different journey.  While I did stick to women, I ended up writing about modern American tattoo culture and the perceptions of the female body within it/due to it.  I researched a lot of history and theory about tattooing and the female body, but I also wanted tattooed individuals to recount their own personal stories so I could include them in my paper.  I made an online survey and ended up with over 1800 replies.  This will all be explained in depth in the paper (which will be posted on this blog shortly).

But there was another aspect about the survey which really threw me off.  When I made it, I expected about 20-50 responses.  Obviously, I got far more than I bargained for.  This is a completely new field of research for me - I am used to dusty books and online databases, not individual responses.  The survey I made was a bit flawed.  One person pointed out to me that some of my questions were leading, which I completely understand.  I was very clearly trying to gather answers which would make it easier to prove my thesis, which was a bit shaky at the very least.  

The thing that was really surprising, however, was the amount of responses I received.  I spoke about the phenomenon in a footnote in the paper:

Simply said, I did not expect such an outpouring of assistance  Not only were nearly 2,000 members of the internet community willing to fill out the survey, but many of the responses went into depth about personal experiences.  These were not yes or no questions.  Various survey responders expressed regret in not being able to give more thorough answers because of their own limited experiences, wished me luck in the paper writing process, and requested to see a finished version of this project upon its completion.  Many talked in depth about the meaning of tattooing in their own lives, its views in society, and considered the implications of gender within tattoo culture.  The popularity of the survey and peoples’ willingness to discuss body modification was astounding.  At one point, it was tempting to completely switch the topic of my paper to analyze why people would be so willing to take time out of their day to talk about tattooing.  Though this is not the point of my paper, I would like to question what it is about tattoo culture that makes most people extremely willing to discuss and display their modifications.  Or does this immense response have something to do with internet culture in general – having a forum where someone is interested enough in you to follow your blog and care about what you have to say over the other six billion people in the world?  The survey itself felt like a Wallace ‘special-for-me’ experience.  People answered it as if they were speaking directly to me, and many left their e-mail addresses offering a way to contact them for more information if necessary.  In the end, with only a little over a week to complete this paper, I was not able to read every single response.  While the answers were ‘special-for-me’, their reception to date has not been.  In the future, I would be interested in analyzing a large portion of these replies, but it was not possible for the exploration of this paper.  The answers I will be quoting for the most part come from question number six: “Do you think your gender presentation affected the stranger’s decision to touch you?  Do you think they would have acted differently if your gender presentation was different?”  This question really seemed to get to the heart of the problem I am attempting to analyze, and the answers to this particular question allowed me to sort the responses in the most efficient way.  The magnitude of response, however, has made me think about the degree of importance in my research and whether this survey will be useful for future projects within my academic career.    

This form of research was eye-opening to me and made me a little glad that my normal sources are not members of the internet community.  Although the surveys were very helpful, it was incredibly overwhelming and sometimes frustrating to read them. 

And I will be posting the paper next!  And stuff. 

It has been a difficult few weeks, but at least it is over?  Yes.  

1 comment:

  1. Hello! I just found your article on Tattoos, via tumblr. Needless to say, I found it extraordinary! It's just seems filthy to me, that people can treat women in such a way!

    I just got my first tattoo, and as it's on my chest, haven't had any real third party interest as of yet.

    Anyway. Having read on, I realised that you're doing, or have done, the same Degree I'm planning to do! I've applied to do American Studies next year, hopefully at Liverpool!

    How have you found it? Where did you study? I'm very excited to find someone who's actually doing it...!

    I don't really know how this works, but I'm going to leave a form of contact detail, so you can reply if you wish :)


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