Thursday, July 07, 2005

The Web is all around us - even on the walls | csmonitor.com


HYPERLINK THIS: New York artist Christina Ray's Grafedia tag on a Brooklyn lamppost. Replies are posted on her website.
COURTESY OF JOHN GERACI


By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

PORTLAND, ORE. – At a bus stop in Seattle, in blue chalk on the sidewalk, is a mysterious scribble: pote-kitea@grafedia.net. The cursive e-mail address is underlined in blue - a signal to passersby that they can use their cellphones to text message the address and receive a response. It is like hyperlinked text on the Internet, only here a phone, not a mouse, can "click" on it.
Graffiti artists are said to "tag" buildings, and practitioners of high-tech graffiti tag their e-mail address in blue underlined writing or on a distinctive yellow arrow to indicate their presence.

What people see when they type in the address posted on the wall or sidewalk ranges from the artistic - haiku and photography - to the practical - travel recommendations and advertisements. It's like a hidden code that links a person with others who have passed that way.

Graffiti, though illegal and considered a nuisance by cities, nonetheless remains a feature of urban life. In some quarters, tagging is viewed as a form of expression in the hands of artists. Grafedia - hyperlinked text on real surfaces - follows the same urban grass-roots traditions, though it may yet be co-opted by commercial interests as an advertising vehicle.

Another company that facilitates high-tech graffiti is Yellow Arrow, which concerns itself with questions such as: When does an object become art? What makes a landmark? Who says what counts?

By providing a name and address, anyone can register at yellowarrow.org (Watch Video) and order arrow stickers through the mail. Each arrow contains a code and a phone number. As with Grafedia, people can stick the arrows anywhere (their front doors, their jackets, their bumpers) and upload a file to the website, which anyone can access via cellphone or the site. Even travel guidebook "Lonely Planet" has caught wind of the project and encourages travelers to leave a trail of stories in the form of arrows wherever they go.

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