Community space1 best describes the interchange between community, discussions of specific spaces, and the issues surrounding the illegal use of public space. Public space can be disputed and analyzed from various cultural, social, and historical interests, such as media, politics, museums, private property, advertising, and city planning. This chapter will question assumptions about who has the right to be represented in public space and what meaning is created for writers versus those outside the community. Is controversy the goal, and what do writers get out of it? What discourses are created through their public act? What effect does this interaction with media have on graffiti writers? How does this influence activist strategies and a desire for social change among graffiti writers? Does this fit within the notion of democracy that is supposed to involve a debate? Are our systems—educational institutions, museums, galleries, and youth centers—functioning in a way that allows youth a say and a way to practice within a system?
The participants practiced in private before they performed within a community space shared not only by peers, but by others who were ignorant of—even hostile to—their group. My goal in writing this book is not to judge but to understand how the material structure of hip-hop graffiti culture has played out both specifically within the lives of individual writers and generally in terms of their sociopolitical context.