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Urban Communication Regulation

Communication Freedoms and Limits


Edited By Harvey Jassem and Susan J. Drucker

Cities are where the majority of people in the world live. As such, it is critically important to understand cities when seeking to address quality-of-life issues. While the concentration of people in cities presents many complex issues that warrant attention, the focus of this book is on urban communication and human interaction as regulated by municipal governments. Thirteen scholars—whose backgrounds range from community organizing, to law, telecommunication, architecture, city planning, art, policy studies, and urban communication—examine public communication venues and opportunities, all of which are impacted by municipal regulation.

Whether it is the selective funding of public art, the establishment of architectural standards for public buildings, the regulation of signage, public assembly, food trucks, or telecommunication access, the authors in Urban Communication Regulation: Communication Freedoms and Limits contend that urban policy and regulation shape communication in cities. Through zoning, funding, "private law," and a host of other means, the regulation of communication has significant impacts on the quality of life for those who live in cities. The essays in this volume focus on many of these impacts, and suggest both why and how municipal regulation can improve the quality of urban communication.

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Chapter Three: The Roles and Regulation of Urban Graffiti as Communication, Art or Criminality (Gene Burd)


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The Roles and Regulation of Urban Graffiti as Communication, Art or Criminality


Belo Center for New Media, Austin, Texas

The ghost writers of graffiti trespass city borders and boundaries as they practice an outlawed non-commissioned “art” outside of the rules and regulations of art galleries and beyond review and control by benefactors, editors, publishers, politicians and police in contested urban spaces. They “speak” in the streets and pathways with their messages beyond the juries and judges as they seek to connect to the urban community without face-to-face confrontation in the geographical space and place on the urban commons. Their messages are fixed on urban structures and sites or hitchhike on vehicles in fluid mediation, evading immediate feedback and challenge by viewers. Fundamental and perplexing issues are raised by graffiti: Should it be prevented, controlled, or sanctioned? Is graffiti protected expression or prosecutable crime? (Young, 2013).

“Art crime” is one of many complex legal issues emerging from graffiti. From a regulatory standpoint, graffiti-related rights, rules and regulations vary greatly from country to country and city to city. Frequently considered criminal behavior, the seriousness of the graffiti offense ranges from petty crimes/misdemeanors to felonies carrying significant jail sentences. But graffiti is more than a potential crime, it is also potentially valued art. The artistic value of graffiti has been recognized by some evidenced by the practice of inviting graffiti artists into some cities...

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