Graffiti analysis part 1: Arizona State University

This is the first 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.

Frats for the playas and/or gaysLocated in a college town that seems to have neither a coffee house nor a bookstore (and I don’t mean stores that sell textbooks along with school paraphernalia), Arizona State University is a rather bizarre place. The U.S. News & World Report* states their 6-year graduation rate is 56%, and their students’ incoming SAT scores, 25th-75th percentile, are 950 – 1210.

My visit to their library last summer was the most depressing graffiti trip I’ve made.

It should come as no surprise, then, that Arizona State didn’t fare too well on interestingness, with an unweighted score of 1.23 and a weighted score of 1.25.

Most interesting categories


Category Score
Reference 1.95
Quotes 1.8
Religion 1.63
Meta 1.57
Sex 1.4

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.

Most common categories


Category % of graffiti
Greek 11.4%
Sex 9.1%
Reference 7.9%
Presence 6.6%
Love 4.6%

Quotes and references

Based on my long-term exposure to the University of Chicago graffiti corpus, I went into the analysis looking down on the practice of quoting sources directly, given how common it is at UChicago. Remarkably, when looking across all five corpora, it seems that quoting sources is a phenomenon found mostly at the better schools (UChicago and Brown), whereas making references– without quoting– is more common at less good schools. Arizona State is the clearest example: there are over 8 references for every quote. At UChicago, the numbers are about equal; at Brown, there’s about 2 quotes for every reference.

Given how few quotes there are at ASU (a grand total of 5, and only 2 are song lyrics), looking at music genres is uninteresting. For the record, both quotes are from rap songs. The 41 references point to a variety of sources:

Here’s the genre breakdown for the 9 references to bands and/or songs:

Love vs. hate

There is far more love (25 pieces) than hate (3 pieces) at Arizona State, with names referenced as objects of affection 10 times, and school mentioned twice for love, and once for hate.


Arizona State has the most homophobic corpus, with 4.2% of the graffiti (22 pieces) making some reference to “gay” or “fag[got]“, not in a positive light. Both words are used equally often:


Sexual vs. non-sexual

The final metric I looked at was sexual vs. non-sexual use of words that could have either reading, e.g. “fuck me” (sexual) vs. “fuck finals” (non-sexual); “suck my cock” vs. “this sucks”; “fuck me in the ass” vs. “what an asshole”. Out of 25 examples of “fuck”, and 11 examples of “suck”, non-sexual uses were more common. There were only two examples of “ass” (“fat ass” and “hot asses”).

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 2 in the series of graffiti analysis results is University of Colorado — Boulder. It’s a significant step up from Arizona State.

* 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, ASU is ranked at #143.

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