A Critical Review and Taxonomy of Graffiti Texts

Jim Whitehead ejw at cse.ucsc.edu
Fri Jul 11 12:01:37 PDT 2003

Looking at the Writing on the Wall: A Critical Review and Taxonomy of
Graffiti Texts
Jane M. Gadsby


Graffiti abounds in the world around us. It's visible on almost every
conceivable surface, even on some that defy all logic. With the bounty of
such material to draw on, graffiti has become a logical focus for many
scholars from a variety of different disciplines. Attitudes towards graffiti
have a wide variance. Varnedoe and Gopnik (1990) compare art and graffiti in
their book. They see graffiti "as a whole is a composite phenomenon, part
childish prank, part adult insult" (77). Abel and Buckley (1977) take an
entirely different stance. They look at the writing of graffiti as a
psychological phenomenon, "a form of communication that is both personal and
free of everyday social restraints that normally prevent people from giving
uninhibited reign to their thoughts" (3). I have reviewed over a hundred
texts on the subject of graffiti and the diversity in viewpoints range from
graffiti as amusing (and/or annoying) to graffiti as a significant
linguistic event.

- Jim

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