Centrum för kognitiv semiotik (CCS)

Humanistiska och teologiska fakulteterna | Lunds universitet

Constructing a Digital Archive on Street Art: Methodological Challenges A pilot study of Athens, Greece

George Stampoulidis

One aim of this communication is to discuss street art as a form of public art and activism (Bengtsen 2014), derived from the urban graffiti subculture (Lewisohn 2008) which has aroused scholarly interest globally from different perspectives. Another aim is to explore a fairly dynamic field made up of figurative multimodal manifestations of verbopictorial rhetoric.

In this presentation, I shall focus on the pilot phase of an anticipated bigger project aiming to create the first publicly available digital archive on street art focused on multimodal verbopictorial rhetoric. 158 pictures in 8 datasets (recovered between 2008 and 2016 in central Athens, Greece) have been coded and placed geographically on a digital map with filterable categories. I want to emphasize that the categories, the layers and the methodological flowchart are flexible, and thus can be modified in the future depending on the new datasets and upcoming results. The development process of this pilot database will be discussed and a number of concrete examples of the visual results will be showcased.

The following issues are addressed:

1.    Annotation scheme and coding.
2.    Potential corpus-based analysis with a large number of examples.
3.    Subjectivity issue is a weakness; Inter-coder agreement could probably be reliability equivalent.
4.    Geographical Information System (GIS).

The exploratory analysis of these data suggests that multimodal verbopictorial rhetoric plays a central role in the interpretation of street artworks, and the application of digital geographical distribution suggests a new instrument for visual cataloguing as a conceptual tool for deeper and comprehensive understanding of street art world.

The preliminary results of this study could serve as a road map for digitalization of street art not being divorced from the geographic location and context (MacDowall 2008: 6).


Bengtsen, P. (2014). The Street Art World. Lund: Almendros de Granada Press.

Lewisohn, C. (2008). Street Art: The graffiti revolution. New York: Abrams.

MacDowall, L. (2008). The graffiti archive and the digital city, In: D. Butt, J. Bywater and N. Paul (editor). Place: Location and belonging in new media contexts. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, pp. 134–147.