Harm minimisation and zero tolerance: a graffiti perspective

Spooner, S 2011, Harm minimisation and zero tolerance: a graffiti perspective, Masters by Research, Global Studies, Social Science, and Planning, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Harm minimisation and zero tolerance: a graffiti perspective
Author(s) Spooner, S
Year 2011
Abstract This is a qualitative collective case study that seeks to understand the phenomena of graffiti and its related subcultures. By employing Interpretivist techniques, the research attempts to raise questions about harm minimisation, zero tolerance and graffiti, as well as broaden the debate about these distinct policy approaches for local communities. The research setting encompasses the geographic area of the Knox municipality, situated in outer eastern Melbourne. The researcher has openly disclosed a working relationship between herself and the Knox City Council, where she has been employed as both a Graffiti Management Officer, and a Community Safety (Crime Prevention) Officer, for the past six years.

The study has canvassed the views of young people immersed in the aerosol art culture, and this has contributed to the unique nature of the study. Two professionals working in the area of youth policy and welfare were interviewed to assist in answering the research question proposed (What is the value of harm minimisation and youth inclusion approaches, using graffiti as the basis for debate?). The views of the professionals have particularly contributed to the debate around public space management and appropriate opportunities for youth participation. The perspectives of the young people involved in this research have been gauged using a focus group of six young people, all involved in producing legal street art, and all over the age of 18. A freelance aerosol artist was also interviewed to include the views of a professional street artist in this research.

This research used an Interpretivist theoretical approach. The semi or unstructured interviewing techniques employed in this study have provided rich data and a broad range of responses from the professionals engaged in the study. Whilst a similar methodology was employed to canvas the views of the street artists, their responses were less elaborate, and the researcher comments extensively on the secrecy of graffiti and aerosol art subcultures.

The results of the individual interviews and focus group (involving the participants described above) were organised into four important themes to fulfill the ‘presentation of findings’ component of this research. These themes were The Political and Policy Tensions of Graffiti Management, Valuing and Involving Young People, Strengthening and Connecting Young People, and finally Young People in Places and Spaces. The presentation of findings and subsequent analysis has showed that there are significant opportunities to meaningfully engage with young people and work in partnership to examine public space management, including creating options for aerosol art.

The analysis also reveals that the young people participating in this study do not necessarily want absolute power and control over deciding on options for public space. Rather, they merely want their opinions to inform local policy in this arena. Indeed, the findings of this research are contingent upon local authorities’ capacity to shape and mentor communities in understanding the graffiti phenomena. Clearly, graffiti needs to be first understood in the context of local communities before it can be ultimately controlled and managed.
Degree Masters by Research
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Global Studies, Social Science, and Planning
Keyword(s) graffiti
aerosol art
zero tolerance
harm minimisation
young people
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Created: Fri, 14 Sep 2012, 11:20:51 EST by Brett Fenton
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