Parlez in the Parlor

Work thumb

Views: 178


This article investigates greeting rituals and negotiations between tattoo artists and studio clients as portrayed in “NY Ink” (2011–2013), an American reality television program about a New York tattoo parlor, The Wooster Street Social Club. Specifically, the study focuses on linguistic devices used toward goal achievement, assesses if and how gender influences goal outcomes, explores how power dynamics evolve, and discusses implications of prosody on negotiation practices between tattoo artists and their clients. Although media research has addressed reality television programming, little work has relied upon linguistic theory to analyze appropriate self-presentations at the local, interactional level. The examination of reality television programming allows the audience to witness seminal junctures at which point language not only reflects daily illocutionary acts, but a shift towards changing power dynamics in relational identities. A discourse analysis is conducted using nine artist-client greeting interactions, employing conversational logic theory, work on relational identity, power through discourse, and symbolic interactionism. Findings support the claim that culturally approved identities are revealed and mediated during artist-client greetings through prosodic devices (turn-taking, intonation) and conversational logic. The power dynamic between artist and client shifts in favor of the artist once goal negotiation begins through the use of intonation, specifically uptalk, but not turn-taking. Gender of the client or artist does not appear to be a factor in influencing goal-achievement in negotiation. Implications include reduction of relevance of turn-taking rituals, hyperinflation of intonation as the driver for power in artist-client conversational maintenance, and the presence of a framework for mutually beneficial outcomes in service-oriented negotiations.