My Semester Project…Graffiti Culture: A Divergent Voice

When I started this project I knew almost nothing about graffiti or the huge culture that surrounds that art form. I simply took a camera and began taking pictures whenever I was in the city. Over the course of six weeks I was able to interview a number of graffiti artists around the city, and in Chicago, as well as gain a much greater respect and appreciation for the art. The following excerpt is spoken in my video, but I’m putting it here for you to read so that it is even more clear and understandable.

My exploration of the graffiti culture began as a discovery of a new divergent voice. Well, not new since graffiti has been around for a long time. Can graffiti be seen as a divergent voice, I asked? Can the art be a medium for a message that can get out to the public without going through mainstream media channels? What kinds of messages are there? During my exploration I discovered that there are many layers to the graffiti culture. Although people walk by graffiti every day, many only see it as vandalism or the disruption of public property. Most people do not really pay attention. Walking around with a camera for six weeks helped me notice things I might have never seen. There are sometimes messages hidden in the artwork if you stop to look, though the reasons for painting are varied. Some have no message, or if they do it would only resound with people who understand that culture, or are a direct part of it. I discovered that in many ways, graffiti is almost like a Zine, or a form of “community media” that those who are “in on it” would get, but those outside the “community” might not be interested in. And yet, like I said, if you take a camera or just look closely at the mural on 42nd St and 7th Avenue, or stop by the trash can in Brooklyn, or walk the streets of Inwood on a late spring evening, you might notice a divergent voice or two coming out through the paint in the walls or on the sidewalk. In the end, graffiti doesn’t have to be a divergent voice, but sometimes it can be.

Click the link below to watch my project. Although it is not uploaded in the Mville channel on youtube, it will be as soon as I can coordinate it.



Addicting Websites

We were talking in class a couple of weeks ago about websites such as MLIA, FML, textsfromlastnight, etc. Below are the links to a couple of those sites. In some way, these sites are a way for people to join together to share a laugh or a groan over the antics of our culture. Is it a sort of community? It certainly brings people of all ages and from all over the world together. I’ve found that it even flirts with being a sort of harmless cult, in the sense that you’ll hear a perfect stranger talking about something and know immediately that they got it from MLIA or one of those sites. I was telling my friend a story in Dunken’Donuts one time, about something I had read on MLIA, and the girl checking out my order started grinning and simply said “MLIA?” I laughed and knodded and we both knew that we were “in the know”. Maybe it’s a little creepy, but that’s a testiment to how access to the internet is bringing people together in so many different ways. Maybe that’s taking the optimistic view, but it’s just interesting to think about.
Anyway here are some links:

What other sites to you all know about?

Google/China and The Onion

Here’s my question: If a major corporation wants to enter the global world and introduce new countries to their services, do they have to respect the traditions and social constraints of the cultures they are entering, even when those traditions and norms are completely backwards and against the corporation policies, or even what Americans would consider privacy and free speech? When Google entered China they were all set on doing what they had to in order to make a smooth transition into that culture. According to an ABC news article , “China’s foreign ministry reiterated a commonly heard refrain here today at a regularly scheduled news briefing. “Foreign firms in China should respect China’s laws and regulations and respect China’s public customs and traditions, and assume the corresponding social responsibilities, and of course Google is no exception,” Ma Zhouxu said.”

That “respect” was called into question when someone inside of China used the Google search engine to hack into email accounts and target human rights activists – something that created a huge outburst of indignation. Now, as Google threatens to withdraw from China unless they can come to some agreement about censorship, many questions are being asked. In upholding the rights to free speech and activity around the world, is Google losing out on a major source of income and globalization opportunities? Which one is more important? I certainly know what my opinion on the matter is (I’m all for the former) but when monetary funds come into question the waters grow a little murky. I guess we’ll just have to see what Google decides.

I know we’ve talked about it in class a little, but what do we think…is The Onion a good example of print alternative media, or even radical journalism? It’s funny, but it’s also thought provoking. It’s fairly well-known, but does its large readership take it into the realm of the mainstream?