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Graffiti analysis part 5: University of Chicago

This is the last in a five-part series of posts describing the results of my analysis of my graffiti corpora. I strongly recommend you read “Prelude to a graffiti analysis” first to understand the methodology, data, and sampling. You might also be interested in part 1, Arizona State University; part 2, University of Colorado – Boulder, part 3, University of California at Berkeley, and part 4, Brown University.

FUNDespite the admission office’s recent attempts to make the University of Chicago more welcoming to the well-adjusted and increasingly selective, UChicago is still where fun comes to die. There are students who wouldn’t have it any other way, and others who hate every minute of it. Both groups, at some point or another, end up in the Regenstein Library, where the school motto (Crescat scientia, vita excolatur, ‘May knowledge grow from more to more and so be human life enriched’) is emblazoned near the entrance. The U.S. News & World Report states that the 6-year graduation rate is 91%, and their students’ incoming SAT scores, 25th-75th percentile, are 1370-1560.

This project started when I began documenting the graffiti in the stacks of the Regenstein Library in fall 2007. For two years, the only graffiti I cared about was what I found in “the Reg”, and that shaped my expectations about what university graffiti should look like. Unfortunately, I subsequently discovered that the UChicago corpus really is unique, leading to disappointment whenever I’ve sought out graffiti elsewhere. To put it in terms of an “interestingness” score, UChicago’s unweighted score is 1.8, with a weighted score of 1.85. Gilbert Ryled upTo be fair, this includes data from bathrooms– including the B-level (sub-basement) men’s bathroom, possibly the nerdiest place on earth. None of the other corpora include bathroom data, though I suspect this only helps their score, because bathrooms often drag interestingness scores down. If you exclude the bathrooms, the unweighted score is still 1.74, and the weighted score is 1.79– still .2 higher than the next-highest score, from Brown.

Most interesting categories

This ranking includes the graffiti from the bathrooms. Almost all the B-level men’s bathroom graffiti is a reference; the interestingness score for references, excluding the material from the bathroom, is 2.1

 

Category Score
Reference 2.45
Religion 2.17
Time 2.09
Meta 2.02
Orthography 1.93

Most common categories

Without the examples from the bathrooms, references make up 5.1% of the corpus.

 

Category % of graffiti
Quotes 10
Reference 9.5
Sex 4.7
Despair 4.2
Meta 3.7

Quotes and references

When I was only looking at UChicago graffiti, I undervalued graffiti quoting other sources, dismissing them as “typical”. But looking across corpora from different universities, quotes don’t seem to be typical at all– only Brown and UChicago have a high number of quotes; the other three schools rely more heavily on references. Where Brown has about twice as many quotes as references, at UChicago they’re about equal, if you include the B-level men’s bathroom. If you exclude that data, the pattern is more like Brown: about twice as many quotes as references.

The references to “intellectuals” are almost all from the B-level men’s bathroom. There are 20 examples of references to music, broken down into the following genres:

The “other” genres here are R&B, classical, country, hip-hop, reggae, metal, and funk. As for the sources of quotes:

“Scholarship” includes quotes from such works as “Sister Outside: Essays and Speeches” by Audre Lorde, “Science and the Modern World” by Alfred North Whitehead, and Nursing World, vol. 23-24 (1899). The last of these may just be a coincidence; the piece of graffiti in question reads “Nurse, pass the bread.” On the other hand, there might be a really great story behind it. Similar to Brown, about half the quotes are from songs, a total of 76 pieces in the following genres:

Again similar to Brown, rock of various flavors makes up about half the music quotes. At Brown indie is the major sub-category of rock, whereas at UChicago, alternative and punk rock are the largest sub-categories. Beyond that detail, the similarities are striking: rap, pop, punk, and folk are all about equally represented at Brown and UChicago.

Love vs. hate

The UChicago corpus is unique in how many things are hated, and how many things people have mixed feelings about. Like Arizona State, people both love and hate their school, but UChicago students are also conflicted about themselves and “it”. Nine people are loved by name, including Milton Friedman, and “you” appears as the object of love four times. There are fewer sexually-tinged objects of affection than in the Brown corpus, and more references to food. Gen chem is loved but chemistry and biochem are hated. Again conflictingly, both “graffiti” and “when they erase the graffiti” are hated.

Homophobia

I’ve previously written an in-depth examination of homophobia at UChicago, but to provide the most recent data in a form ready for easy comparison with the other corpora, there are 16 pieces of homophobic graffiti (1.1%), when counting each word only once if they’re used multiple times in a single piece. The UChicago corpus uses a greater variety of words than any of the other corpora:

Sexual vs. non-sexual

All in all, UChicago’s sexual word use is fairly middle-of-the-road. In regards to the word “fuck” (with 57 attestations), UChicago uses it more sexually than Brown (14% vs. 9%), but less so than Arizona State (20%) or University of Colorado (24%). For “suck”, UChicago largely aligns with Arizona State with 25% sexual usage– well more than Colorado (12%) and well less than Brown (45%). UChicago, like Brown, has a relatively large number of attestations of “ass” compared to Arizona State and Colorado, but “ass” is only used sexually 27% of the time, compared to Brown’s 53%.

Interestingness by location

Since I had location metadata for the UChicago graffiti, I decided to look at whether any locale had particularly interesting material. The B-level men’s room blew away all the other locations, with an average score of 2.64. Other than that, the other locations (A-level whiteboard, study carrels, walls in the stacks, study desks in the stacks, and other bathrooms) were more or less equal, with the study desks showing slightly lower scores.

Categories over time

One of the most popular metrics in my pseudo-scientific graffiti analysis was the time-based data. In the limited data set I examined, there were some very interesting correlations, where love and despair tended to pattern together, whereas sex reached its one peak in December and declined for the rest of the year. I can’t even recall how exactly I assigned things to “love”, “despair” or “sex” to create that graph, but I re-did it over a longer timespan (fall ’07 – fall ’10, rather than just the 2007-2008 school year), and using the same categorization I used for the rest of the analysis. I didn’t document any graffiti during winter 2009, although there wasn’t much graffiti to document as the walls had recently been painted over.

Sadly, the data is quite scattered, without any clear patterns falling out of it. Category-frequency-over-time analyses, I fear, may be a non-starter.

Interestingness over time / interestingness vs. sample size

Feeling nostalgic for classic pieces of graffiti like “I’m in love and it’s finals week”, I started this analysis convinced that the UChicago graffiti corpus was getting less interesting. However, when I looked at the data, I discovered that it wasn’t the case at all. If anything, the score has been more consistently high over the last school year. Note that the unweighted score is being used here:

One methodological note: there’s 106 pieces of graffiti from the study carrels that were written in either fall 2009 or winter 2010. I took the average of those 106 pieces, and added 53 pieces of graffiti with an average interestingness of 1.58 to the data for each quarter.

Between fall 2007 and fall 2010, the corpus of new graffiti each quarter has fluctuated wildly:

I calculated the Pearson coefficient for interestingness and corpus size, and the result was -.11 — indicating that there is no correlation between the size of the corpus for a given quarter, and how interesting it is. This fact leads me to not be too concerned about differences in sample size between the different university corpora, with the caveat that a minimum threshold (approximately 250 pieces) is met.

See for yourself

The spreadsheets I used to compile the data are available as a Google Doc. If you want to download the data for yourself, just go to File > Download and choose your favorite format. If you do something interesting with the data, I’d love to hear about it (quinn – at – crescatgraffiti – dot – com). There’s no single photo set for the UChicago graffiti on Flickr, but anything in the Crescat Graffiti collection that isn’t labeled with the name of another university or library is from the Reg.

In conclusion

I calculated the standard deviation for the quarter-by-quarter interestingness scores at UofC, with a result of 0.105. The overall unweighted score for Brown, at 1.56, is about 2.5 standard deviations below the UofC average. As far as I’ve seen, the graffiti in the Regenstein Library has no peer.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Graffiti analysis part 4: Brown University

This is the third in a five-part series of posts describing the results of my analysis of my graffiti corpora. I strongly recommend you read “Prelude to a graffiti analysis” first to understand the methodology, data, and sampling. You might also be interested in part 1, Arizona State University; part 2, University of Colorado – Boulder, and part 3, University of California at Berkeley.

Be kinder than necessary; everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battleThe only Ivy League school I’ve had the chance to explore, Brown University has a library full of wood study desks in the bookstacks, palimpsests of text that has accumulated over many years. In only a few hours there, I amassed 931 pieces of graffiti, 64% of the total amount of graffiti I’ve gathered over the span of three years at UChicago. The U.S. News & World Report* states that their 6-year graduation rate is 95%, and their students’ incoming SAT scores, 25th-75th percentile, are 1320-1530.

Going to Brown University revitalized my love for the graffiti project; I had been getting discouraged after looking at one uninspiring graffiti corpus after another. I think a fair cutoff for what I consider to be a “satisfying” graffiti corpus is 1.5, and Brown makes that cut with an unweighted interestingness score of 1.56 and a weighted score of 1.59.

Most interesting categories

 

Category Score
Meta 2.03
Despair 1.77
Self 1.77
School 1.75
Reference 1.73

Most common categories

 

Category % of graffiti
Sex 10
Quotes 7
Love 5.1
Insult 4
Advice 3.1

Quotes and references

Brown University and UChicago are the only two schools that have a significant number of graffiti quoting sources directly, rather than just making reference to them. At Brown, there’s more than twice as many quotes as references (34 references vs. 72 quotes). There’s enough quotes from music for an exploration of genre to be worthwhile.

The “other” sources include video games, sports, and internet memes.

As usual, music is by far the most common source of quotes, and it can be divided by genre as follows:

Brown students quote music from a wider variety of genres than other schools (over 10 genres quoted, vs. references from 5 genres for Colorado and 4 genres for Arizona State), though this is almost certainly influenced by the larger corpus size. Still, rock (collectively) is more common at Brown than elsewhere: 48%, compared to 23% at Colorado and 33% at Arizona State.

Love vs. hate

There’s a lot of love, and not much hate at Brown. 13 names appear as the objects of affection, and “you” appears six times for love and three times for hate. There’s a wide variety of sexually-tinged objects of affection, from “hot wet pussy” to “hot eunuchs” to “girlfriend’s vagina”. In a corpus this large, it’s remarkable how few things Brown students hate.

Homophobia

There are seven clear examples of homophobia in the Brown corpus, and two ambiguous examples (“VJB likes men” and “Why are there so many homosexuals at Brown?”), the latter of which has the response “Stop homophobia.” 0.76% – 0.97% of the graffiti show homophobia, depending on how you count the ambiguous data. “Fag[got] is used twice as often as “gay”, and the corpus also includes the term “butt-chugger”.

Sexual vs. non-sexual

Given how sexual the Brown graffiti corpus is overall (10% of the graffiti was categorized as “sex”, the most common category), one might expect more sexual use of “fuck”, “suck” and “ass” than in the other corpora. That’s definitely the case for “suck” and “ass”: “suck” is used sexually 45% of the time, vs. 27% at ASU and 12% at the University of Colorado. “Ass” appears twice (vaguely) sexually at ASU and five times non-sexually at University of Colorado, but the 15 examples of “ass” at Brown are split about evenly between sexual and non-sexual uses. Perhaps most interesting, though, is the use of the word “fuck” at Brown. It’s used sexually 20% of the time at ASU, and 24% of the time at the University of Colorado, but less than 10% of the time at Brown.

See for yourself

The spreadsheets I used to compile the data are available as a Google Doc. If you want to download the data for yourself, just go to File > Download and choose your favorite format. If you do something interesting with the data, I’d love to hear about it (quinn – at – crescatgraffiti – dot – com). You can also browse the photo set on Flickr.

Next up

To finish out the year, the last part of the analysis will focus on the University of Chicago, where this whole project began. In addition to the usual metrics, the UChicago analysis includes a second-look at the time-based analysis that was part of the original pseudo-scientific analysis.

* I hate the US News & World Report rankings, particularly the way the admissions office at UChicago has been eager to bend over backwards to improve their score, to the detriment of the school’s unique “personality”. But in case you’re curious, Brown University is ranked at #15.

Graffiti analysis part 3: University of California at Berkeley

This is the third in a five-part series of posts describing the results of my analysis of my graffiti corpora. I strongly recommend you read “Prelude to a graffiti analysis” first to understand the methodology, data, and sampling. You might also be interested in part 1, Arizona State University and part 2, University of Colorado – Boulder.

(m)ATHELETESThe University of California at Berkeley was my first stop when I expanded my study of graffiti to other universities. After the University of Chicago’s graffiti, I was struck by the violence, discussions of identity, and vaginas I found there.

According to the US News & World Report*, their 6-year graduation rate is 90% and their students’ incoming SAT scores, 25th-75th percentile, are 950-1210.

There’s only 143 pieces of graffiti in the Berkeley corpus, and this is problematic. A couple discussions on a given topic can skew the “most common categories”. If there’s only a couple pieces of graffiti in a given category, and they have a high score, it skews the “most interesting categories”. There’s only three quotes and four references, so looking at their source or music genre isn’t very informative.

The unweighted interestingness score for Berkeley is 1.43, and the weighted score is 1.47. In spite of the corpus size issues, the interestingness score might be one of the more valid results. I’ve looked at the interestingness score for the UChicago graffiti corpus quarter-by-quarter, and the score doesn’t vary much between quarters, even when the sample size for that particular quarter is the same size as the Berkeley corpus or smaller.

Most interesting categories

The “most interesting categories” data is skewed by the size of the corpus. I’ve included the number of pieces in each category; the top two categories are most affected by the small corpus.

 

Category Score Pieces
Classes 1.75 2
Love 1.67 3
Religion 1.5 6
Social 1.5 8
Sex 1.44 9

Most common categories

Berkeley students apparently have a lot of advice to share.

 

Category % of graffiti
Advice 10%
Sex 6%
Insult 5.4%
Social 5.4%
Religion 4%

Quotes and references

There’s only three quotes (from a pop song, a rock song, and the Bible) and four references (to a punk song, a gang, and two references to sports).

Love vs. hate

There are four things that are loved, and one thing that is hated in the Berkeley corpus; it’s so small that I don’t think it can be trusted to be representative. But, for whatever little it’s worth…

Homophobia

There are three homophobic pieces of graffiti in the Berkeley corpus (2% of the total graffiti). All of them are variations on fag[got]: “fag”, “Asians are fags”, and “cheat more faggot”.

Sexual vs. non-sexual

Once again, the corpus size causes problems. There are three instances of “fuck” — two of them are non-sexual, one of them (“fuck girls”) is ambiguous. There are two examples of “suck”, both non-sexual. There are no examples of “ass”.

See for yourself

The spreadsheets I used to compile the data are available as a Google Doc. If you want to download the data for yourself, just go to File > Download and choose your favorite format. If you do something interesting with the data, I’d love to hear about it (quinn – at – crescatgraffiti – dot – com). You can also browse the photo set on Flickr.

Next up

Part 4 in the series of graffiti analysis results is Brown University. Corpus size isn’t a problem there– in only a couple hours at Brown University’s Rockefeller Library, I amassed 931 pieces of graffiti, 64% of the amount of graffiti I’ve gathered over the span of three years at UChicago.

* I hate the US News & World Report rankings, particularly the way the admissions office at UChicago has been eager to bend over backwards to improve their score, to the detriment of the school’s unique “personality”. But in case you’re curious, University of California at Berkeley is ranked at #22.

Graffiti analysis part 2: University of Colorado – Boulder

This is the second in a five-part series of posts describing the results of my analysis of my graffiti corpora. I strongly recommend you read “Prelude to a graffiti analysis” first to understand the methodology, data, and sampling. You might also be interested in part 1, Arizona State University.

Go to the library to learn, college to get fuckedAn endearing hippie-town in the mountains with outstanding microbreweries, Boulder is home to the University of Colorado – Boulder. The U.S. News & World Report* states that their 6-year graduation rate is 67.0%, and their students’ incoming ACT scores, 25th-75th percentile, are 24-29 (roughly equivalent to 1110-1300 on the SAT).

Unlike the other corpora I’ve looked at for this analysis, this is the first time I’ve written about the University of Colorado on the blog. The trip to their library was neither overwhelmingly inspiring, nor overwhelmingly bad, and that’s reflected in their interestingness score: 1.38 unweighted, and 1.41 weighted.

Most interesting categories

 

Category Score
Greek 2.17
Reference 1.92
Quote 1.79
Drugs 1.67
Sex 1.62

Like with the Arizona State graffiti, it’s worth noting that reference and quotes are the easiest categories for getting higher scores: quoting/referencing song lyrics gets you a 1, TV/movies/pop lit gets you a 2, and literature/theater gets you a 3. Greek is also easy to score high in: just say something about the frat will get you a 2 or 3, whereas just writing its name will get you a 1.

Most common categories

 

Category % of graffiti
Reference 9.5
Sex 7.6
Quote 5.1
Insult 4.4
Advice 2.9
Meta 2.9
Presence 2.9

Quotes and references

Quoting sources directly, instead of only making references to them, is a trend found in the corpora from UChicago and Brown. The University of Colorado has about twice as many references as quotes (26 vs. 14), but the disparity is significantly less than at ASU, where it was an 8-to-1 ratio.

As expected, music is the biggest source of references. The genres are broken down as follows:

The distribution of sources for quotes is similar:

The “intellectuals” quoted at the University of Colorado are Heinrich Kaminski and Nietzsche, in case you’re curious. There are only four quotes from songs– three of them rock songs, one of them Latin.

Love vs. hate

There are six stated objects of love, and four statements of hate in the University of Colorado corpus. (There’s three additional objects of love– “hippies”, “sluts” and “douchebags”, but the context is obviously sarcastic.) Unlike at Arizona State, Colorado has a couple statements about love and hate: “If all of you turned your hate into passion to LOVE, Boulder would be a better place…” and “Hate no one and nothing “.

Homophobia

8 pieces of graffiti at the University of Colorado (3% of the total) make negative use of “gay” or “fag[g]ot”. (Yes, someone misspelled it.) While the percent of homophobic graffiti isn’t much less than Arizona State’s 4.2%, “gay” is used much more frequently in the University of Colorado corpus:

Sexual vs. non-sexual

The final metric I looked at was sexual vs. non-sexual use of words that could have either reading. Out of 25 examples of “fuck”, 19 were non-sexual. There were 8 examples of “suck”, with 7 of them non-sexual. Interestingly, three of the non-sexual examples take the usually sexual form “suck dick” (“Obama sucks dick”, “Lakers suck dick”, “UTAH Jazz suck 10 million dicks”), but it’s being used for emphasis rather than as a reference to oral sex. All five examples of “ass” are non-sexual.

See for yourself

The spreadsheets I used to compile the data are available as a Google Doc. If you want to download the data for yourself, just go to File > Download and choose your favorite format. If you do something interesting with the data, I’d love to hear about it (quinn – at – crescatgraffiti – dot – com). You can also browse the photo set on Flickr.

Next up

Part 3 in the series of graffiti analysis results is the University of California at Berkeley. There’s a problem with the results: I’m skeptical about the validity of some of them, because I suspect the sample size is too small. I’ve done the work, though, so I’ll present the results… with a lot of disclaimers and warnings.

* I hate the US News & World Report rankings, particularly the way the admissions office at UChicago has been eager to bend over backwards to improve their score, to the detriment of the school’s unique “personality”. But in case you’re curious, University of Colorado – Boulder is ranked at #86.

Book revision: now with more thanks!

The bad news: there’s going to be a delay on Amazon distribution for Crescat Graffiti. Apparently the cover text is too close to the edge (fair enough, there’s been a few copies where the final “o” is a tiny bit cut off).

As a rule, revising a book once you’ve purchased the extended distribution pack comes with a fee. But since it hasn’t actually been distributed yet, and there’s a problem with the cover, I get to do a revision for free. There’s a couple “warts” I’ve noticed as I’ve picked through the book that I can now clean up (there’s a page missing a header, I wouldn’t mind getting rid of the page numbers on the section title pages, maybe numbering the sections, minor stuff like that.) But, more importantly, I can also update the “Acknowledgments and Thanks” section to credit all the people who’ve gotten in touch with me since the book first came out.

So, if you’re responsible for any of the graffiti in the book, and haven’t gotten in touch with me yet, please do it soon so you can make it into the revision!

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