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grafedia

noun [uncountable]

hyperlinked text written by hand onto physical surfaces in public places and linked to online text, images, video, or sound files

'Graffiti, though illegal and considered a nuisance by cities, nonetheless remains a feature of urban life … 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.'

Christian Science Monitor 7th July 2005

Imagine if the Internet were all around you, extending beyond computers and wireless connections and expanding down city streets onto lampposts and the sides of buildings? This is the vision behind the new interactive concept of grafedia.

unlike graffiti, grafedia can be 'clicked on', using a mobile phone or other wireless device

Similar to graffiti, grafedia consists of pieces of text which are chalked or spray-painted in public places. Unlike graffiti however, grafedia can be 'clicked on', using a mobile phone or other wireless device, rather than a computer mouse. Grafedia usually consists of blue, underlined writing. Those wanting to interact send a text or e-mail to an electronic address which consists of the word they see written plus the extension @grafedia.net. They can then retrieve the rich media content, text, image or sound files, linked to that word.

Grafedia is an interesting concept, not least because its promoters see it as a way to unite the Internet with the 'real' world, encouraging the idea that the boundaries of the Web are in fact arbitrary, with any physical surface potentially becoming a web page. Grafedia can pop up wherever people feel like putting it, from walls, letters and postcards, through to bottles, beer mats and even tattoos! Though grafedia has massive potential as a promotional or advertising tool, its creators like to view it as a new take on the idea of 'a message in a bottle', an act of anonymous, artistic sharing of information.

If you'd like to know more about viewing or creating your own grafedia, check out the dedicated website at www.grafedia.com.

Background – grafedia

Grafedia is the brainchild of John Geraci, a graduate in Interactive Telecommunications at New York University. The grafedia server first went online in December 2004, and subsequent interest has far exceeded expectations, with more than 2000 images uploaded in the first six months.

The term grafedia is formed from a blend of the words graffiti and multimedia, taking the first and last four letters in the two words. Graffiti, meaning 'words or pictures drawn in public places', originates from late 19th century Italian word graffio, meaning 'a scratch'. Graffiti is, in fact, the Italian plural form of graffito, though this singular form has largely fallen into disuse. Graffiti is used as a mass noun in English, taking a singular verb, and grafedia follows this grammatical model.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

This article was first published on 9th January 2006.

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