Graffiti analysis part 2: University of Colorado – Boulder

This is the second in a five-part series of posts describing the results of my analysis of my graffiti corpora. I strongly recommend you read “Prelude to a graffiti analysis” first to understand the methodology, data, and sampling. You might also be interested in part 1, Arizona State University.

Go to the library to learn, college to get fuckedAn endearing hippie-town in the mountains with outstanding microbreweries, Boulder is home to the University of Colorado – Boulder. The U.S. News & World Report* states that their 6-year graduation rate is 67.0%, and their students’ incoming ACT scores, 25th-75th percentile, are 24-29 (roughly equivalent to 1110-1300 on the SAT).

Unlike the other corpora I’ve looked at for this analysis, this is the first time I’ve written about the University of Colorado on the blog. The trip to their library was neither overwhelmingly inspiring, nor overwhelmingly bad, and that’s reflected in their interestingness score: 1.38 unweighted, and 1.41 weighted.

Most interesting categories


Category Score
Greek 2.17
Reference 1.92
Quote 1.79
Drugs 1.67
Sex 1.62

Like with the Arizona State graffiti, it’s worth noting that reference and quotes are the easiest categories for getting higher scores: quoting/referencing song lyrics gets you a 1, TV/movies/pop lit gets you a 2, and literature/theater gets you a 3. Greek is also easy to score high in: just say something about the frat will get you a 2 or 3, whereas just writing its name will get you a 1.

Most common categories


Category % of graffiti
Reference 9.5
Sex 7.6
Quote 5.1
Insult 4.4
Advice 2.9
Meta 2.9
Presence 2.9

Quotes and references

Quoting sources directly, instead of only making references to them, is a trend found in the corpora from UChicago and Brown. The University of Colorado has about twice as many references as quotes (26 vs. 14), but the disparity is significantly less than at ASU, where it was an 8-to-1 ratio.

As expected, music is the biggest source of references. The genres are broken down as follows:

The distribution of sources for quotes is similar:

The “intellectuals” quoted at the University of Colorado are Heinrich Kaminski and Nietzsche, in case you’re curious. There are only four quotes from songs– three of them rock songs, one of them Latin.

Love vs. hate

There are six stated objects of love, and four statements of hate in the University of Colorado corpus. (There’s three additional objects of love– “hippies”, “sluts” and “douchebags”, but the context is obviously sarcastic.) Unlike at Arizona State, Colorado has a couple statements about love and hate: “If all of you turned your hate into passion to LOVE, Boulder would be a better place…” and “Hate no one and nothing “.


8 pieces of graffiti at the University of Colorado (3% of the total) make negative use of “gay” or “fag[g]ot”. (Yes, someone misspelled it.) While the percent of homophobic graffiti isn’t much less than Arizona State’s 4.2%, “gay” is used much more frequently in the University of Colorado corpus:

Sexual vs. non-sexual

The final metric I looked at was sexual vs. non-sexual use of words that could have either reading. Out of 25 examples of “fuck”, 19 were non-sexual. There were 8 examples of “suck”, with 7 of them non-sexual. Interestingly, three of the non-sexual examples take the usually sexual form “suck dick” (“Obama sucks dick”, “Lakers suck dick”, “UTAH Jazz suck 10 million dicks”), but it’s being used for emphasis rather than as a reference to oral sex. All five examples of “ass” are non-sexual.

See for yourself

The spreadsheets I used to compile the data are available as a Google Doc. If you want to download the data for yourself, just go to File > Download and choose your favorite format. If you do something interesting with the data, I’d love to hear about it (quinn – at – crescatgraffiti – dot – com). You can also browse the photo set on Flickr.

Next up

Part 3 in the series of graffiti analysis results is the University of California at Berkeley. There’s a problem with the results: I’m skeptical about the validity of some of them, because I suspect the sample size is too small. I’ve done the work, though, so I’ll present the results… with a lot of disclaimers and warnings.

* I hate the US News & World Report rankings, particularly the way the admissions office at UChicago has been eager to bend over backwards to improve their score, to the detriment of the school’s unique “personality”. But in case you’re curious, University of Colorado – Boulder is ranked at #86.

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