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Sunni Brown

Author, Chief Infodoodler, sunnibrown.com


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Why is visual literacy discouraged in most cultures & WHAT CAN WE DO to change that?

This LIVE CONVERSATION will open at 1PM ET/ 10AM PT on Monday, October 31th! Join me!

Visual literacy, if described as the ability to communicate via doodling, drawing, and sketching or described as the ability to display complex information in visual language formats, is often a literacy missing in adults despite it being a universal and natural inclination in children. Why does it disappear? And more importantly, what can we do to alter this course?

**ADMIN UPDATE: Sunni Brown has asked to extend her Conversation for two weeks. She will be jumping in to catch up with responses over the next two weeks. Happy posting everyone!


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  • Oct 31 2011: Is graffiti good or bad? I suspect it is good, there just are not that many places where it is acceptible. If we did provide a venue for graffiti, would people use it? What would Marshall McLuhan say, is it the excitement of making the graffiti or the graffiti itself?
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      Oct 31 2011: Okay, knee-jerk reaction: I do not love 95% of graffiti. Having read and watched a lot about it, I think it's most basic form is like peeing in public spaces. Not cool. But is the ACT of creating graffiti helping the tagger? Is that process of visualizing something beneficial to him or her? (Outside of the fumes.) Mostly likely, yes. I just wish taggers also came with a healthy respect for public property and a more evolved sense of content and aesthetics.
      • Oct 31 2011: Banksy must have the most horrible bladder control problem then. And why does graffiti have to benefit the tagger, and not the audience? Why does it have to benefit anyone or anything? If taggers had a healthy respect for public property then they wouldn't be a tagger.
        • Oct 31 2011: I don't think of Banksy as a graffiti artist, in the traditional sense. Many graffiti artists are claiming a neighborhood and Banksy is testing our sense of what belongs to all of us while making social commentary, doodles, and sharing his wit and perception.
      • Oct 31 2011: You are kidding right? Im not a fan of graffiti but I got to accept some of those individuals have an extremely well developed abilitie for painting, while I accept taggers must develop a respect for public property I totally disagree about your opinion that they should "evolve sense of content and aesthetics".
        I mean if you dont like it or to be more precisely if you dont understand it, then please do not critize it.
        And thats goes for any kind of art which finally is just a form human expression.
      • Oct 31 2011: I think one thing I would bring up is, logistically and semantically, there is a difference between graffiti and tagging. Tagging is a form of communication, traditionally used by street gangs, which often times involves an inherent message from the tagger. It is routinely used to mark turf and often involves the taggers Moniker, or street name. It is also used to warn rival gangs, and to market street level drug trade.

        In contrast, graffiti is more of a form of expression in my experience. While it may involve the individual's moniker, the sheer time which is spent on the creation of this expression generally, lends it to being more than simply marking territory or getting their street name out. Though I've never spoke with any of them to know their exact reasons for the amount of work they put into the creation of their particular mark.

        Dylan Jones quoted this on his blog, which he cited from http://www.huntfor.com/arthistory/C20th/graffiti.htm. He highlighted the final paragraph which I thought stated well what I was attempting to say as well.

        "The difference between tagging and graffiti is arguable, but some say it's a clear one: tagging is gang-motivated and/or meant as vandalism (illegal) or viewed as too vulgar or controversial to have public value; while graffiti can be viewed as creative expression, whether charged with political meaning or not." Dylan Jones on http://www.ecademy.com/node.php?id=82981

        My goal is not to make this a discussion about tagging vs graffiti, but seeing that the two terms were being interchanged above, and having dealt with both in my career, I felt some clarification couldn't hurt.
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      Oct 31 2011: Also, no. When cities provide a public space for graffiti, it's almost never used. The element of rogue action is removed so it doesn't seem to attract most taggers.
      • Oct 31 2011: that is what I suspected, thanks for your candor.
      • Oct 31 2011: I don't think that is true. I come from a rich graffiti culture (Detroit) and while I am not an expert I have seen some amazing public sanctioned graffiti spaces such as Gent Belgium. I think knee jerking to graffiti is odd given that the topic is linguistic expression through visual modes, graffiti is almost the epitome of that.
        • Oct 31 2011: I do think there is something here and just hope visual thinking remains accessible to all, devoid of social structure or position
      • Oct 31 2011: I don't agree with you Sunni. Here in Holland, most legal graffitti places are used intensively. Just try googling 'irenetunnel delft' and you'll find thousands of results. Legal places often result in aesthetically more pleasing pieces, since graffiti-artists have more time to finish their piece. Also, see Robert Cornell's comment on the difference between tagging and graffiti.
        For many graffiti artists, the purpose in making a piece, is 'to be seen'. If public spaces for graffiti are not used, they are most likely not visible.
    • Oct 31 2011: If you provided a venue for graffiti, it would be not fulfilling the purpose of graffiti, which is to deface something you are not supposed to.

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