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Wall of Support: New Perspectives on Students' Use of Graffiti

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Edinburgh Napier University

Room 1/09

Edinburgh

EH14 1DJ

United Kingdom

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What compels students to solicit personal advice from strangers by writing inscriptions on the toilet wall?

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By Mabel Victoria, Lecturer, Languages and Intercultural Communication

Why resort to graffiti to cope with depression, deal with the fear of ‘coming out’ or even to express their (dis)satisfaction with the university/university life? This exploratory study draws insights from current theorising in sociolinguistics and linguistic landscapes to examine how latrinalia or messages and pictures written on restroom stalls, collected over a period of nine months in one of ENU’s campuses, might reflect the larger context of the university. I analyse how contextual factors such as anonymity, the gender-segregated space and the public/private nature of toilet stalls play a role in this community of users. Based on latrinalia in the men’s and ladies’ toilets, I also discuss the differences in communication patterns between male and female writers, which confirm previous studies. I then explore how the existing latrinalia can be mined to generate invaluable insights about the needs and opinions of the student body. Lastly, I invite the audience to reflect: why might some students prefer to express their feelings by writing on the toilet stalls rather than filling in online satisfaction surveys, talking to their student rep/personal development tutors or using the SSLC to voice out their concerns?

Refreshments will be provided. Please feel free to bring along lunch.

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Edinburgh Napier University

Room 1/09

Edinburgh

EH14 1DJ

United Kingdom

View Map

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