Graffiti analysis part 3: University of California at Berkeley

This is the third 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 and part 2, University of Colorado – Boulder.

(m)ATHELETESThe University of California at Berkeley was my first stop when I expanded my study of graffiti to other universities. After the University of Chicago’s graffiti, I was struck by the violence, discussions of identity, and vaginas I found there.

According to the US News & World Report*, their 6-year graduation rate is 90% and their students’ incoming SAT scores, 25th-75th percentile, are 950-1210.

There’s only 143 pieces of graffiti in the Berkeley corpus, and this is problematic. A couple discussions on a given topic can skew the “most common categories”. If there’s only a couple pieces of graffiti in a given category, and they have a high score, it skews the “most interesting categories”. There’s only three quotes and four references, so looking at their source or music genre isn’t very informative.

The unweighted interestingness score for Berkeley is 1.43, and the weighted score is 1.47. In spite of the corpus size issues, the interestingness score might be one of the more valid results. I’ve looked at the interestingness score for the UChicago graffiti corpus quarter-by-quarter, and the score doesn’t vary much between quarters, even when the sample size for that particular quarter is the same size as the Berkeley corpus or smaller.

Most interesting categories

The “most interesting categories” data is skewed by the size of the corpus. I’ve included the number of pieces in each category; the top two categories are most affected by the small corpus.


Category Score Pieces
Classes 1.75 2
Love 1.67 3
Religion 1.5 6
Social 1.5 8
Sex 1.44 9

Most common categories

Berkeley students apparently have a lot of advice to share.


Category % of graffiti
Advice 10%
Sex 6%
Insult 5.4%
Social 5.4%
Religion 4%

Quotes and references

There’s only three quotes (from a pop song, a rock song, and the Bible) and four references (to a punk song, a gang, and two references to sports).

Love vs. hate

There are four things that are loved, and one thing that is hated in the Berkeley corpus; it’s so small that I don’t think it can be trusted to be representative. But, for whatever little it’s worth…


There are three homophobic pieces of graffiti in the Berkeley corpus (2% of the total graffiti). All of them are variations on fag[got]: “fag”, “Asians are fags”, and “cheat more faggot”.

Sexual vs. non-sexual

Once again, the corpus size causes problems. There are three instances of “fuck” — two of them are non-sexual, one of them (“fuck girls”) is ambiguous. There are two examples of “suck”, both non-sexual. There are no examples of “ass”.

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 4 in the series of graffiti analysis results is Brown University. Corpus size isn’t a problem there– in only a couple hours at Brown University’s Rockefeller Library, I amassed 931 pieces of graffiti, 64% of the amount of graffiti I’ve gathered over the span of three years at UChicago.

* 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 California at Berkeley is ranked at #22.

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