Desk Graffiti

2013


I conducted a study of 162 wooden desks, cataloging the graffiti from years of students who once sat in them. Each desk was photographed and each identifiable drawing and phrase was catalogued.

Desk graffiti as an artifact represents a number of overlapping social interactions. Bored college students expressing themselves while being lectured at, defacement of private property in a public setting among peers, asynchronous and anonymous communication between students, a quiet tension between students and facility managers.

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Stats:

  • 162 desks
  • 3 left-handed desks
  • 15 like-new desks
  • 6 languages: English, Spanish, Latin, Korean, Chinese, Japanese

  • 90 references to names or initials

  • 42 references to Greek fraternities/sororities
  • 28 instances of the word ‘fuck’ in some form
  • 5 instances of the word ‘poo’ in some form
  • 3 other colleges referenced: Cal, UChicago, UCLA

Top Ten Drawings:

  • 64 hearts
  • 34 stars
  • 16 generic smiley faces
  • 13 triangles
  • 12 dicks
  • 11 faces
  • 7 Stanford “S”
  • 6 stick figures
  • 5 cubes
  • 4 anarchy symbols

Top Ten Phrases:

  • 19 “——-“ was here
  • 11 fuck
  • 9 ΣX (Sigma Chi)
  • 8 Stanford
  • 7 Hi
  • 6 KΣ (Kappa Sigma)
  • 5 ΣΑΕ (Sigma Alpha Epsilon)
  • 5 Love
  • 4 Σ
  • 4 Hello