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Statistical Analysis of U of Chicago Graffiti 157

Posted by kdawson
from the off-the-wall dept.
quaith writes "Quinn Dombrowski, a member of the University of Chicago's central IT staff, has been recording the graffiti left in the Joseph Regenstein Library Since September 2007. To date she has photographed and transcribed over 620 pieces of graffiti; over 410 of them are datable to within a week of their creation. She has now published in Inkling Magazine a statistical analysis of the entire graffiti collection covering such subjects as love, hate, despair, sex, anatomy, and temporal fluctuations of each of these. After November, both love and despair graffiti drop off significantly until spring, while sex graffiti reaches its one and only peak in December before declining for the rest of the school year. The story includes links to all of the original graffiti photos, which the researcher has made freely available to use under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license."
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Statistical Analysis of U of Chicago Graffiti

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  • Well Documented (Score:3, Interesting)

    by spiffydudex (1458363) on Monday February 08, 2010 @02:43AM (#31058572)

    I must say there is a good amount of documentation. Now I know that I am more likely to come across a happy smile face than a sad face.

  • by Gopal.V (532678) on Monday February 08, 2010 @02:56AM (#31058612) Homepage Journal

    They're thinking, they're feeling. And they want you to know. That's why they paint it on walls, cliffs and carve it into the school benches. There's this school of thought that believes that it will go away if nobody reads it. But they've really never done something, stood a few feet away and sighed about getting it off your head. Ignoring it and waiting for it to go away is dumb.

    Keeping tabs on the expression gives you a much more clear indication of what the pulse of the otherwise silent are thinking. This is a fun experiment because nobody wall painting is doing it because they want to be part of a statistic ... unlike a girl with a clipboard asking questions.

    I remember being in a train in melbourne, riding past a few walls full of legal graffiti (union lane?) and wondering what the line between art and vandalism really was.

  • Re:License? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Hurricane78 (562437) <deleted.slashdot@org> on Monday February 08, 2010 @03:11AM (#31058658)

    Well, what did you expect, from a mindset is not attached to physical reality?
    That it would make any sense at all?

    The wall with the graffiti is a physical object.
    A paper photo in your hand would be a physical object.

    But neither the graffiti itself, nor a photo of it, are physical works.
    They are ideas/information. Other rules apply.

    “Licensing”/“copyright“ is a concept, based on the misconception that ideas/information would be physical objects, and the false need of some people, to control that information.
    Trying to argue with it, using logic, is (because of that false base assumption) by definition impossible.

    The real physical rules for information are: If it’s out there, it’s out. Period.
    So you either never give it out, and won’t be able to prove that it exists at all. Or you give it out to your chosen group.
    Which can for example be people that you trust. Or, as in this case, everybody.
    In case you gave it to everybody who wants it... well, you should have thought earlier about that everybody could store and copy it at will. (Just like looking at the physical wall and then telling someone, or drawing it from memory, is storing and copying.)

    It does not matter if people want to accept that. Just as it does not matter if people want to accept gravity.
    You can try to enforce weird rules of behavior onto people, trough mental tricks of psychology. And it may be easier to do in this case, than it is for gravity. But in the end it’s futile. Because you can’t control the whole world. Even with ACTA.
    If nothing else, you will end up banning the ability to look at it, because some people became really good at memorizing and reproducing it later. And everybody who can’t remember it, will by definition not remember that it existed.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 08, 2010 @03:21AM (#31058684)

    We also have some brilliant graffiti in the grout between the tiles in the downstairs bathroom in the Bartlett dining commons. For example,
    "I'm a celebrity, get me grout of here!"
    "Commutator subgrout of prime order"
    "I'm on the groutside looking in"
    "What's this all agrout?"

  • Interesting (Score:3, Interesting)

    by oljanx (1318801) on Monday February 08, 2010 @03:39AM (#31058756)
    But a sample of 620 pieces over three years isn't large enough for useful analysis. I'd like to see this concept applied to graffiti large cities. I'm sure there are crews responsible for removing the graffiti that could document it in the process.
  • Re:Interesting (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jaminJay (1198469) on Monday February 08, 2010 @08:10AM (#31059588) Homepage

    I wonder if the FOIA would include all of the photos snapped along the lines before the scrubbers paint a fresh new "canvas" up... There would be literally decades of data, and I believe they already do analysis such that they can identify any person's style such that, if nabbed for one, you're done for all.

    PS: I know this occurs because I was at a freshly tagged station when the poor sod was taking (digital) photos and documenting everything before painting over them in a not-quite-the-same tan. Interest was piqued, questioning ensued.

  • by adosch (1397357) on Monday February 08, 2010 @08:59AM (#31059742)

    I think regardless of where you find it or what type of person are, graffiti is pretty entertaining and intriguing. I think the most amusing graffiti I've seen that encompasses about every walk of life, rank or status and is among the same topic fairing FTFA above was in a Port-a-john during different points in my life, most notably when I was deployed in Iraq. Considering the type of foot traffic that hit these port-a-john's is much more broader than the foot traffic that hits a university library and the fact that, at least when I was in basic training, it was a push-up affair every time you didn't have a black ballpoint pen on your person, the odds were pretty high for someone to carve their opinion in any artistic form into the wall for everyone else to ponder AND respond to.

    It's almost a comical affair now to realize I used to go out of my way to keep track of all the "Black Ninja Rule Number n" and actually look for them when I was pouring sweat trying to take a crap or try to unbuckle 50lbs worth of gear and stow it beside me with I pissed in those crackjack boxes.

  • Re:License? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mdwh2 (535323) on Monday February 08, 2010 @10:03AM (#31060118) Journal

    I saw graffiti on the toilet doors of the Tate Modern - the only way I knew it wasn't meant to be part of the exhibitions is because there wasn't a placard explaining what the graffiti was about.

    Some modern art is skillful, interesting and so on. But my general rule is that if you need a placard explaining that it's art and why it's important, it isn't very good art. For example, the exhibit that was nothing more than a standard rectangular mirror hanging on the wall (!) (if she bought that mirror, can they sue her for copyright infringement? Is my bathroom mirror infringing on her copyright?)

    I think it'd be funny to just hang up some joke fake placards, next to the graffiti, or next to random doors, bits of rubbish, or other features of the building, and see how long it takes to get noticed... (Indeed, for all I know, that's what someone did with the mirror - I can't really tell.)

  • Re:License? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bidule (173941) on Monday February 08, 2010 @11:00AM (#31060522) Homepage

    You can use the same logic to say that having laws against murder and rape is equally futile, because you can't physically prevent people from doing whatever they want to do without massively encroaching on their basic rights.

    No-no-no, no-no-no!

    Laws are not there to forbid you, but to protect me. I have the basic right of living, you cannot kill me. The fish does not have that right, so you can kill and eat it. Then it gets more complex as laws become the mirror of society: you cannot hug all the fishes and must share them, so killing is limited. On the other hand, you can share information because it cannot take part in a tragedy of the common.

    Well, that's the theory. In practice it's something on which you can go ad absurdum.

  • Not very original (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Locke2005 (849178) on Monday February 08, 2010 @01:16PM (#31062050)
    Something similar was done almost 30 years ago [openlibrary.org].

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