This is the first part om the introduction of my theses about graffiti from 2006 (translated into English). 

1.1 Purpose and perspective (part 1:2)

The phenomenon of graffiti is a social problem that every year causes great costs. The main purpose of this study is to try to identify the basic mechanisms underlying young people’s involvement in the graffiti culture. What motivates young people to paint graffiti illegally in the public environment despite the relatively high risks associated with the activity? Is this rational behavior? The practitioners’ own perspective is the starting point. The study is exploratory and is mainly based on interviews with graffiti artists and former graffiti artists. A second purpose has been to put the phenomenon in a societal perspective to highlight links and dependencies between the graffiti artists and the surrounding society. To this, people who work preventively against graffiti have been interviewed. Here, articles and statements in the media and other official publications have also played an important role. The starting point for the study has been graffiti as a phenomenon, not as a problem.

In the study, three of the four levels of analysis that Layder (1993:71ff) describes in his research design have been taken as a starting point: self, setting and context. The level of analysis that constitutes the starting level is that which constitutes Layder’s third level, setting, which here is represented by the graffiti subculture. What this looks like and its internal logic are here the interesting questions. After that, the level of analysis is shifted to the individual, self. With the help of the knowledge gained at the previous level, the ambition here is to try to understand what this subculture serves for the individual. What do these people get out of participating in culture? Finally, the level of analysis is raised to a societal perspective, context. Questions raised here include the importance of society’s reaction to graffiti. The results of the study, I hope, will give the reader a picture of the graffiti phenomenon as both an understandable and interesting phenomenon.

This study is done against a background of a social constructivist perspective (see, for example, Börjesson 2003, Burr 1995, Rorty 2003, Swartling 1998) which includes a skeptical view of knowledge and facts. Social knowledge is always a consequence of interpretations made based on the culture, society, the time we live in and our individual background. The philosopher Gadamer (Föllesdal, Wallöe, Elster 1990:147ff) describes this as that we never can be able to free ourselves from our horizon of understanding. Giddens (1976:79ff and 162) discusses this in terms of the double hermeneutics. Social sciences are based on social actors’ interpretations of themselves and the world in which they live. The researcher, in turn, interprets this interpretation from his perspective. Based on such reasoning, it seems difficult to defend that one interpretation should take precedence over another because there is no “objectively” untended reality to fall back on or to search for. Reference to an objective world, objective or universal facts is ultimately about someone’s personal interpretation or opinion. What is studied is, as it has been expressed, “dead”, before it has ended up, or rather placed, within a discourse and thus a context of meaning (Bergström &amp. Boréus 2000:257). Knowledge is relational and anti-essential. The philosopher Rorty (2003:73) describes this as that science and other exploration cannot be about coming to a truth, because even if it should exist a objective truth, we would not know when we reached it. Based on these described starting points, the aim of this thesis cannot be to describe the phenomenon of graffiti. Rather, the goal is to try to describe the picture that the study has led to for me and to describe it so that the reader himself will have an opportunity to assess it and hopefully see the conclusions drawn as both reasonable, interesting, and thought-provoking.