23 May 2008


MacDowall, Dr Lachlan (2005) Graffitimedia: How graffiti functions as a model for new media futures .

In Jones, Lyndal and Anastasiou, Pauline and Trist, Karen and Smithies, Rhonda, Eds. Proceedings Vital Signs: Creative Practice and New Media Now, The Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Federation Square, Melbourne.

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As emergent forms of design and technology are mobilised for both the archiving of graffiti and graffiti prevention, new media forms are also appropriating graffiti as a model for digital aesthetics and the democratic spatial practices of the contemporary consumer. This paper examines the popularity of graffiti as a model for new media production and the ways in which this interest rewrites the history of graffiti as a form of popular media.

From text recognition in Palm-Pilots to the digital tagging of mobile locative media, the generic practice of graffiti has provided a compelling model for both the aesthetics and function of new technology. “Playground ZEDZbeton 3.0” an outdoor projection by Maurer United Architects projects graffiti images that “emanat[e] architectural power,” producing urban space “as a variable, treacherous terrain.” In John Geraci’s Grafedia interactive media project, graffiti functions as a model for the democratic use of public spaces usually controlled by “companies with big advertising budgets.” It is the qualities compatible with the late capitalist urban subject that are most evident in new media’s appropriation of graffiti: an individualistic, self-promoting, highly-mobile and spatially engaged consumer, literate in popular culture and the transformation of archaic written forms into contemporary visual ones.

Graffiti’s appearance in the branding of new media also makes evident graffiti’s own status as a form of popular media whose global proliferation has been underwritten by the circulation of films, magazines and more recently, the Internet and digital technology.

At the same time however, government and law enforcement organisations have adopted new technology to restrict graffiti production: intelligent security cameras, international information databases, electronic matching of graffiti tags and collation of GIS statistics on graffiti have been among the anti-graffiti measures involving new media technology. New media futures are implied in this ongoing negotiation between graffiti as a model for surveillance and regulation and for democratic engagement in urban spaces.


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