Graffiti: An Interesting Language to Translate - Part 1

February 22nd, 2016

Anyone who lives in a big city, or even visits a city, will have noticed the sometimes-offensive and sometimes-fascinating amount of text present in what are often quite unlikely places of the cityscape.

Graffiti: An Interesting Language to Translate - Part 1 | One Hour Translation

Anyone who lives in a big city, or even visits a city, will have noticed the sometimes-offensive and sometimes-fascinating amount of text present in what are often quite unlikely places of the cityscape. We’re referring here to graffiti. Many of the texts of graffiti are the so-called work of gangs, who use graffiti as their bulletin board or their newspaper. You may be surprised to know that these specific inscriptions are designed to mark a gang’s territory, and they’re also used to send clear messages to other rival gangs’ members. This means that, if you’re able to read gang graffiti, then you should be able to understand what’s occurring in a particular neighborhood!

Perhaps Graffiti Can Educate Us?

You may assume that graffiti markings are a modern urban problem, but we can assure you that writing on walls is an ancient art. Our forebears were no different to us – they liked to make their mark just as much as we do. And perhaps even more so when you consider that, in order to make their mark, they often had to chip away at stone walls. Besides being quite interesting, translating graffiti inscriptions can lead to some fascinating insights into the cultures of the people that created them.

‘Graffiti Automatic Recognition and Interpretation’ App

We were interested to discover recently that there’s actually an app designed exclusively for unravelling the elusive code of gang graffiti. It seems that it’s based on a technology for recognising symbols, and its algorithm has been modified to interpret the inscriptions used by gang members to challenge rivals, to mark their territory, and to proclaim their group’s power.

So, in fact, gang graffiti can be a very helpful in providing information to prevent criminal activities. It offers the ability to track the movement of gangs, thus allowing communities to be aware, and to develop strategies to mitigate crimes and other violent incidents.

How Does the GARI App Work?

Users of the GARI app simply take a photograph of the graffiti and, together with its GPS coordinates, time, and date, the information is uploaded to the database. The user will then receive an interpretation of the graffiti’s message and a detailed analysis of gang affiliation: this will include the geographic location of similar graffiti in the area.

Understanding and Translating Graffiti

Graffiti has a low level of standardization, which makes it fairly difficult to understand; unlike the majority of texts to be translated. And of course there’s no instruction manual to serve as a guide: symbols vary a great deal when they’re drawn by different people.

Understanding the language of graffiti means giving the appropriate importance to extra-linguistic elements that serve as crucial relevance to the translation of graffiti. This may mean the colour of the letters which could well indicate membership of a specific gang, or typography, which allows us to identify the graffiti’s origin.

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