Graffiti dying out as artists switch to social media, say academics

Graffiti dying out as artists switch to social media, say academics

Graffiti is disappearing from Britain’s streets as young men turn to social media to make a name for themselves, according to research.

A sociologist says former street artists are now sharing work on Internet sites rather than public buildings, reporting “the rich kids of Instagram have killed the graffiti writer”.

Academic Nicola Harding, who noted the trend by speaking to graffiti writers and scouring online images, is to reveal her findings today (WEDS) at the British Sociological Association’s annual conference in Manchester.

She found that, since the early 2000s, graffiti artists were increasingly writing on council-run “legal walls” where street art was allowed and then getting interest by sharing this work online.

In this way they avoid the risk of arrest or injury that spraying graffiti near train lines or other off-limits places could bring, she said. It also means they have no need to deface buildings with their “tags” in order to build a reputation.

“Contemporary graffiti writing is changing – it is no longer an activity that is played out in urban environments, but also on the internet,” she said.

But only better-off graffiti writers could afford the tools to create a large effective online presence, said Ms Harding, of Manchester Metropolitan University.

“Graffiti has been a way for young men of low socio-economic status to take risks to achieve sub-cultural kudos. But now better-off artists are able to … bypass the risk associated with urban graffiti writing. In this way the rich kids of Instagram have killed the graffiti writer.”