Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Assignment 4B


"Youth and Society, Urban Graffiti; Crime, Control and Resistance" is an interesting article by Jeff Ferrel. Ferrel tackles many issues surrounding the young graffiti writer in America and looks in detail at how and why these youngsters resist authority. Before writing the article Ferrel undertakes four years of fieldwork inside the Denver, Colorado graffiti underground. This fact allows us to build trust with the author as he has been there and seen the real life situations, rather than just another academic writing about what statistics show. The primary sources that he draws upon from this field research through out the article prolongs the readers trust and belief in what he has to say and the points he has to put forward. Quotes from numerous individuals; graffiti writers, gang members and council officials as well as many mentions of past articles written on similar studies help the authors points come across smoothly and believably.

Ferrel begins the article by looking at the meaning of resistance as he believes that if you perceive its meaning in the wrong way you can not look at the situation at hand in the correct way. After looking at how resistance has been treated in different contexts in the past he comes to the conclusion that resistance should be dealt as a balanced term one that is not treated too rigidly or too loosely. After this overview of resistance he can now zoom in to the subgroup at hand to discuss it in this context. If you look at the subtitles of the article; "Forms of Graffiti and Forms of Resistance", "Urban Authority, Social Control, and the Writing of Resistance", "Resistance, Identity, and Alternative Arrangements", and "Youth and Resistance", you can see that understanding resistance really is important to understand the remaining of the article as it is dealt with in every aspect.

Many interesting points are highlighted and brought to attention within the article. The techniques that have been used and suggested in some American states to stop graffiti are shocking and seem unnecessary. However the quotes from graffiti writers in the article show that the action of authorities is met with a "pleasurable response" as it creates a bigger "adrenaline rush," which as Ferrel shows is one of the main reasons people do graffiti. This provides the reader with an important point, one that can be learnt from; The harder graffiti is tackled, resistance from graffiti writers will appear bigger, better and cleverer. So to tackle graffiti the authority themselves must become clever and disguise there actions, not letting the offenders create a bigger war. The second important point drawn in the article is that graffiti is all about community, it creates communities within communities, communities of communication between like minded people. This alternative community is said to create "status and identity" and a "sense of family" to individuals and crew members. This is said in the article to bring together ethnic minorities, keep young people away from other more serious crime and out of gangs. They contribute to the community by painting commissioned pieces for schools and youth clubs. Bringing all this together we can conclude that Ferrel is really quite positive about graffiti writing and it appears that he feels that it is a admirable thing that these kids are doing, creating alternatives to the overbuilt cities that they are forgotten about and lost in.

The book "Design Against Vandalism" tries to provide as many answers to vandalism as possible in respect to different situations and places. It offers answers to those who would be dealing with vandalism ie. local authorities, manufacturers, designers and architects. The book is split up in to different chapters, written by individuals from different fields of research making it easy for those concerned to read the most important parts for them. The book doesn't miss any details, explaining clearly why things have went wrong in the past with certain approaches, and provides ideas and inspiration to how these things could be tackled better in the future.

The book sets out first to describe what kind of vandalism there is, who it is done by and why. It highlights different reasons such as the innocence of age; young children do not understand the value of property and so will play games that may result in unintentional damage. Peer pressure, status, respect and daring are highlighted as the reason why young teens vandalise moving on to more serious reasons such as revenge to individuals or institutions, general frustration and boredom. Other reasons behind vandalism are said to be for competition, the sheer excitement, political and peer pressure campaigns and simply the unintentional vandalism created by everyday wear and tear of bad design in our environments.

Many schemes are looked in to in detail to give examples and evidence behind the authors reasoning but the scheme which is focused on the most is "The Cunningham Road Scheme" which was initiated by NACRO (National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders) in Windes council housing estate, London. The author Ann Blaber describes the problems that faced the estate and why schemes to help hadn't worked in the past, coming to the conclusion that the largest cause of failure was the communication gap between tenants and council officials creating resentment between each others actions. Small group meetings between tenants and council officials were held along with a 3rd party to eradicate the resentment and get them talking about what was important. The scheme showed that involving the community in actions made them loose there feelings of apathy and helplessness and created a happier community. It is said in the book that vandalism is "one expression of the frustrations and disappointment of a community," but by eradicating this frustration and disappointment like the Cunningham Road Scheme, vandalism can slowly disappear. People start feeling like they care for there surroundings as they feel like they belong to them rather than the council coming in and doing what they want to be done making it feel like it belongs to the council. After looking at other schemes such as Bedford City Councils police scheme and surveys done in Greater London the book concludes that the key to tackling vandalism in council estates is management, community groups, feedback, scale and surveillance.

As the book believes that deliquent behaviour occurs when oppurtunities exist to do so it goes about explaining all the most vandalism prone areas so that these oppurtunities can be eliminated. It describes problems and answers to graffiti, lighting, street furniture, vending machines, toilets, garages, shops, empty property and building sites, looking in particular at schools and childrens playgrounds. It suggests what materials and layouts would be most advantagoues, and where and when alarm systems would be necessary. Overall providing all the information that one would need to create a vandalism free environment.

Both the article and the book have provided me with an expansive amount of knowledge and background in to the area of graffiti and in to vandalism as a whole. They both answer the question of why people vandalise but whereas "Design Against Vandalism" describes elaboratley why people vandalise, "Urban Graffiti; Crime, Control and Resistance" focuses more on how and why people resist authority. I feel that the articles ambitions are to show how authority have tackled resistance in the wrong way so that in the future they can look at it from the graffiti writers perspective taking in to consideration there thoughts, feelings and motives before carrying on the war of resistance. This way of reporting is quite personal as the author includes many quotes to get across these feelings. The book is more impersonal as although it draws on real experiences it is aimed more at providing straight forward descriptions and answers to places and objects. I feel both the book and the article are succesful at providing the information and conclusions they set out to provide. They are a mixture of opinion and evidence-based studies and provide help and hope for the future of tackling graffiti and vandalism.

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