And this graffiti in another part of that city:
Looking at them, I remembered an article that I had read a few years previous in the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy. According to Laurie MacGillivray and Margaret Sauceda Curwen, authors of "Tagging as a Social Literary Practice" (Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy (pp. 354–369) doi:10.1598/JAAL.50.5.3), tagging is "not simply an act of vandalism or violence; it is a social practice with its own rules and codes—a literacy practice imbued with intent and meaning."
Although the authors acknowledged the vast amount of money spent on cleaning up street writing, they believe that this is a meaningful form of literacy. According to them, "Tags can be a youth’s signature moniker, a slogan, a protest, a message, and occasionally a lengthy tribute. They differ from graffiti in that they always consist of letters in which alphabetic style, use of colors, and crafted script is highly valued. Inventiveness, flexibility, and playfulness with textual spellings and meanings are integral to the tagging community. Rarely recognized by outsiders, highly stylized script, one of the main characteristics of tagging, is often only readable by tagging insiders. (p. 358.)
A tag in Toledo, Spain:
The authors found that tagging accomplished several purposes. It sustained social relationships, was a form of dialogue and conversation, was a means to declare membership in a particular tagging crew (which was safer than a gang), provided commentary on larger societal issues, and a way to display talent.
The authors recommended that, "When educators open up the curriculum using students’ everyday literacy interests as starting points, they can also attend to issues of power, authenticity, and culture embedded in the social practices (p. 368).
Something to think about next time you see graffiti, tags, or street art.
graffiti, street writing, Laurie MacGillivray and Margaret Sauceda Curwen, of Adolescent and Adult Literacy,