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Rodriguez 1 Research Proposal Ghost writing: Graffiti artist/ audience relations Graffiti is a worldwide phenomenon that has done

by humans for millennia. In recent times, there has been an upsurge of graffiti throughout the United States, particularly in the larger cities of Chicago, New York, and San Francisco. The cities are facing problems in eradicating and preventing graffiti due to deep budget cuts that leave them ill equipped to handle the increasing instances of graffiti. Los Angeles alone removed 35.4 million square feet of graffiti (an 8% rise from the previous year) during the 2010-2011 fiscal year and faced a 6.5% cut in their $7.1 million graffiti eradication budget (New York Times, 2011). The rise in graffiti brings about mixed feelings from the citizens of the affected citiessome welcome the colour and vibrancy brought about by the tags (as they are referred) and feel that it gives their communities life and expression. Others see graffiti as a disservice to their respective communities, and are frustrated that someone would deface their property. Graffiti is not easily defined. Merriam-Webster defines graffiti as pictures or words painted or drawn on a wall, building, etc., while Dictionary.com defines graffiti as markings, as initials, slogans, or drawings, written, spray-painted, or sketched on a sidewalk, wall of a building or public restroom, or the like. For the context of this paper, graffiti will be defined through a mixture of the previous definitions, as: Markings on a surface that are illegal in nature, and may be placed in a number of ways, including but not limited to: spray paint, paint markers, adhesive paper, and exterior paint. Because the scope of graffiti is so vast, the focus will fall upon one of the most common instances of graffitimoniker graffiti. This graffiti is defined by the use of a number of different materials to place a set moniker on

Rodriguez 2 surface, which can range from a simple name to a colourful, heavily stylized rendition of a moniker. Given the illegal nature of their work, graffiti artists are incredibly hard to locate and as a result, their identities can only be surmised by their moniker. Some graffiti artists have been caught, but beyond their names, not much information is released about them. This ambiguity lends to the mystery of the graffiti artist, and so people begin to create their own ideas of what the average graffiti artist is like. Unfortunately, many people equate the illegal nature of the graffiti to the nature of the graffiti artist, and so the graffiti artist is often considered to be a hoodlum, a troublemaker, someone who has nothing better to do than deface other peoples property. Could it be that generalizations and stereotypes come into play as people mix their prejudices with the idea of the graffiti artist? While graffiti is illegal, and should not be condoned, misinformation and preconceived notions can heavily affect how a graffiti artist may be perceived, especially if the graffiti artist is caught and fits within the idea of the average graffiti artist. Additionally, moniker graffiti has strong ties with the hip-hop community, and so members of the hip-hop community may very well fall prey to preconceived notion as well. This misinformation can negatively affect minority groups, and perpetuate the structural violence (violence against a group of people that is perpetuated through social structures or institutions) surrounding them. Elimination of bias and adopting a neutral idea of the average graffiti artist can do well to reduce discrimination of members of the hip-hop community and minority groups. Purpose The question this research will attempt to answer is: How does the context of the relationship between graffiti artist and audience affect the audiences idea of the graffiti

Rodriguez 3 artists identity and motivations? While arguments exist both supporting and condemning graffiti artists, there does not seem to be research into what expectations graffiti artist have of their audience, as well as how a graffiti artists work may shape the perceived identity the audience has of the average graffiti artist. Without understanding the context of the graffiti artist-audience relationship, a highly negative perception of graffiti artists arises and paints them as lawless, unethical people. This research will examine if graffiti artists consider their audience in a manner that is not merely onlookers of their work, but rather as individuals who may be affected by their actions. It will also examine if graffiti artists have any ethical concerns when approaching an area to create graffiti. Theoretical Framework In order to disseminate and examine these ideas, my theoretical framework will primarily use an inductive approach to visual rhetoric as outlined by Sonja K. Foss, as well as the Aristotelian appeals (with a primary focus on ethos), and the concepts of identification & division (Kenneth Burke). Graffiti is text, but given the medium and stylized nature of the text, it falls into the realm of visual rhetoric. Foss claims that when analysing visual rhetoric, one must understand the rhetorical response, stating in a rhetorical response, meaning is attributed to the artifacts. Colors, lines, textures, and rhythms in an artifact provide a basis for the viewer to infer the existence of images, emotions, and ideas.(Foss: 306). Given the anonymity of the graffiti artist, one can only infer their meanings through their works. Foss also outlines three areas of focus in analysing visual rhetoric: nature of the artifact, function of the artifact, and evaluation of the artifact. These areas of focus give insight into the communicative elements of the graffiti, as well as how graffiti as a symbol can act upon an audience. While not all of

Rodriguez 4 the Aristotelian appeals apply for my research, using ethos is vital to understanding the relationship between the graffiti artist and his or her audience. It could give insight into how the audience shapes the image of the average graffiti artist. Burkes concept of identification & division fits perfectly into this research, as it explores the multi-layered interaction between different communities. To Burke, identification is the connection among people or groups of people based on certain aspects, such as graffiti artists using graffiti as a message to identify with other graffiti artists. Division, as the word implies, drives people or groups apart, and the use of graffiti as a message by graffiti artists may cause parts of the graffiti artists audience to feel division from the artist. Using this concept as part of my framework can give some understanding of how graffiti artists identify themselves among their perceived audience. Methods Due to the large scope and area that graffiti artists employ in their work, I will be limiting the community to the greater UCF area. For this research, I will be primarily employing the use of surveys and interviews to understand the context of the relationship between graffiti artists and their audience. Through these methods, I may better understand who a graffiti artists primary audience is and whom they consider their secondary audience. Surveys will allow me to anonymously gauge the communitys current perceptions and ideas of a graffiti artist, which will be conducted both online through the website surveymonkey.com. An online survey is the most effective approach as it invites people to express their opinions in a way that can be perceived as free of judgement. I will be employing interviews to gather insight into the motivations and considerations of a graffiti artists audience. Due to the anonymous nature of graffiti artists, finding and interviewing a graffiti artist in the community may be too difficult, and so other

Rodriguez 5 methods of communication must be employed. Reddit is a popular internet community that engages in open discourse in a neutral and anonymous manner. Within this community, there is a sub-community purely devoted to graffiti and discussions concerning graffiti by selfproclaimed graffiti artists. Through engaging in discourse and interviewing graffiti artists on Reddit, I may gain vital insight into how a graffiti artist views their audience. Through these methods I can gain a wealth of information which I can then dissect and observe and patterns into how a graffiti artist views his audience, while also allowing me to discern what the community feels about graffiti artists. Discussion and Implications While graffiti artists are committing a crime through their work, they must also be understood to be individuals who share many of the same aspirations, fears, and hopes that non-graffiti artists do. Through this research, some light may be shed on the underlying motivations of a graffiti artists and dispel preconceived notions surrounding them. In many cases, graffiti artists are vilified, and when caught, are perceived much more negatively than other criminal offenders. Because of this, graffiti artists face harsh fines and possible jail sentencing. Through this research, a different approach to graffiti artists may be encouraged, and it may lead to understanding these artists on a case-by-case basis, rather than applying the same mind-set to graffiti artists who may have completely different motivations and consideration of their audience. This, in turn, may lead to the understanding that, while graffiti artists have the same intention (defacing property of some sort); the method in which they act upon that intention should determine the severity of their consequences. Additionally, this research may help to discourage the use of stereotyping and discrimination in generating the image and idea of the average graffiti artist, which can in

Rodriguez 6 turn alter, or even eliminate preconceived notions, reducing some of the instances of structural violence that are experienced by minority groups.

Works Cited Nagourney, Adam. "Cities Report Surge in Graffiti." Nytimes.com. New York Times, 18 July 2011. Web. 12 Oct. 2013. Foss, Sonja K. "Framing the Study of Visual Rhetoric: Toward a Transformation of Rhetorical Theory." Defining Visual Rhetorics. By Charles A. Hill and Marguerite H. Helmers. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2004. 306. Print.