Category Archives: Research

Predicting Tattoo-Book Popularity

For those of you interested in how my new adventures in data science are intersecting with my old adventures in tattoo history, you can visit my Github to read a long technical report on a work in progress. I’ve created a prototype popularity calculator that works by using historical book data from OCLC’s Worldcat (books with a keyword stem of tattoo* published between 1850 and today). When it is up and running in its final form, users will be able to try out different book titles to see which might lead to bigger archival holdings in libraries. Here’s a taste of some of the predictions that the current model outputs.

I think where you really see the model start to shine is at the bottom of the test sample. Given that the training data for the model is holdings in libraries, many of which are academic libraries, you can see that for four different title variations for a book about Maori tattooing, a slightly more academic title has the greatest popularity. More tests are needed to see if this holds true for all books, or if the model can predict that a sub-genre like Maori tattoos might have more academic interest than some other type of tattoo topic. And note, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was actually not part of the data set for training because it’s extreme popularity made it a serious outlier. So it was interesting to see where that might have ranked had it not experienced viral popularity.

I’m definitely open to help getting it up and running on this site as well as the Center for Tattoo History and Culture. So if you are a programmer/developer type and want to help, feel free to reach out (or just submit code to the Github). Looking forward to more adventures in digital humanities work in the future!

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Tattoo History and Digital Humanities

I’ve been more than a bit absent from actively publishing tattoo-history related research and news on both this website and its companion social media accounts. If you’re curious as to why, I decided to go back to school for a *very intensive* program in data science (like I-can-barely-find-time-to-shower intensive, if that’s any indication of the rigor of this program I’m in). But as with most school-based research projects over the years, I’m focusing my capstone project on something tattoo-related.

The concept of digital humanities has long been a favorite of mine to read about and weigh possibilities, but I didn’t have the tech skills in coding and modeling to do that kind of work. Well…now I do! I’ll offer one small glimpse at what I have on tap for the future. Here’s a quick screencap from some code I wrote that tallies the top word counts of title words in all tattoo books (and marginally tattoo-related books) published between 1850 and today. Looking forward to sharing some really interesting, if visually unexciting, research soon!

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Tattooed Transculturites–Read My PhD Tattoo-History Dissertation Online

My dear fans and followers, a gift from me to you for the new year: I’ve put my PhD dissertation, Tattooed Transculturites: Western Expatriates Among Amerindian and Pacific Islander Societies, 1500-1900, available online for viewing.

At this point, some of it is based on outdated research, but I still stand by 98% of this. I hope to get a popular-reader-friendly version of this published some day, but in the meantime, those of you who would like to geek out on academic jargon and some in-depth archival research can enjoy! Prepare for a looooooong read–it’s a 513 page document.

As you know, one of my big missions with tattoo history is to debunk myths that have arisen from assumptions, bad scholarship, and storytelling. I am always saddened when I continue to read about the Cook myth when, as this dissertation’s first half demonstrates, there is ample evidence for European tattooing (including being tattooed by non-European indigenous peoples) prior to the late 18th century. Since I wrote this, I’ve discovered several more important examples to add into the roster of tattooed transculturites, so a published version of this text will be even richer when that happens.

Feel free to reach out to me at with any corrections or additional information that I might want to incorporate upon a revision for book publication.

And note the cover-page authorship is under my old married last name…ah History, a testament to how you preserve the good along with the bad!

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