Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Graffiti: Urban Tribal Language of the 21st Century

As many of my readers know, I grew up in Brooklyn, NY, which at the time was self-proclaimed as “the 4th Largest City in America”. My family apartment was in a New York City Housing Authority “Project” and we lived in a building with 35 other families attached to an identical building and surrounded by bricks and concrete. The only time we wrote on public property was sketching a game on the sidewalk.

The New York Times article “At War With São Paulo’s Establishment, Black Paint in Hand“ appeared on January 28, 2012 ( and talked about pichação, which is Portugese for covered in tar. The work involves great personal danger to access the best sites and has been studied extensively by scholars of urban culture. This particular communication differs from other forms of graffiti because it’s vertically titled black letters are difficult to understand by those outside the group.

The point for PSYOP is that communication is constantly evolving. Concentrating on one form or another can prove to be myopic. For example many of my posts have addressed Cyber Influence. Today’s post is the counterpoint. It may be difficult if not impossible to discern the most credible and efficient means of communicating to the audience until you get on the ground.

PSYOPers need to be good observers in the AO and must guard against developing preconceived notions before getting on site. If the decision is made to employ uniquely local means of communication, it is vital to have your messages crafted by credible local people. Of course the caveat is that you will need to have the message vetted by someone who can validate that the message is indeed what the creator purports it to be.

This incredibly broad array of communications alternatives is one of the reasons that PSYOP/MISO is the challenging and rewarding field it continues to be.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've been saying this for years. I'm glad someone else caught it too. Back in my hometown, I used to drive a liquor route which gave me a chance to follow the graffiti on the walls as they changed. I was able to tell you how the geopolitical landscape looked on a weekly basis without checking a map. Why did I choose 11B???