Departmental Papers (ASC)

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Journal Article

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Journal for the American Society of Information Science and Technology





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When information practices are understood to be shaped by social context, privilege and marginalization alternately affect not only access to, but also use of information resources. In the context of information, privilege, and community, politics of marginalization drive stigmatized groups to develop collective norms for locating, sharing, and hiding information. In this paper, we investigate the information practices of a subcultural community whose activities are both stigmatized and of uncertain legal status: the extreme body modification community. We use the construct of information poverty to analyze the experiences of 18 people who had obtained, were interested in obtaining, or had performed extreme body modification procedures. With a holistic understanding of how members of this community use information, we complicate information poverty by working through concepts of stigma and community norms. Our research contributes to human information behavior scholarship on marginalized groups and to Internet studies research on how communities negotiate collective norms of information sharing online.

Copyright/Permission Statement

This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Lingel, J., & boyd, d. (2013). “Keep it secret, keep it safe.” Information practices, information norms and stigma. Journal for the American Society of Information Science and Technology, 64(5): 981-991. It has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving


At the time of publication, author Jessa Lingel was affiliated with Rutgers University. Currently, she is a faculty member at the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania.

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Date Posted: 09 July 2018

This document has been peer reviewed.