The paper provides an overview of an internet-based genre typological database ( which is one of the results of a joint Estonian and Polish project “Creativity and Tradition in Cultural Communication” lasted from 2010 to 2012. The database includes approximately 600 units of paremic graffiti. The documental photos were taken beginning with January 2011, mainly in the public space of the city of Tartu, Estonia, but also elsewhere in Estonia and abroad.

The paper (1) outlines the concept of paremic graffiti and (2) introduces the basic structure of the database and its underlying principles, giving examples of how an academic database must take into consideration the specific nature of a genre and support the analysis.

Paremic graffiti is defined by graffiti where to convey his message the author has made use of proverbial generalizing sayings (including classic proverbs, their modifications or so-called anti-proverbs) as well as aphoristic quotes and humorous and juicy expressive catch phrases, slogans, clichés.The recorded graffiti texts allow identify syntactic formula patterns which refer to the existence of the paremic element. The paremic nature is indicated by the syntactic formulae of the graffiti texts as well as the purpose of – similarly to traditional folk wisdom – giving meaning to everyday experience. Paremic graffiti is characterized by topics like society, politics, criticism of the ruling authorities, ideology and religion, lifestyle, school, sex, alcohol, drugs and private matters. Paremic text in graffiti often involves and supports elements of pop-culture and helps to fill the human, philosophical, socio-political, self-expressive and sometime very aggressive and protest-minded aspirations of the author of a particular graffiti text. The aphoristic form and poetic style of expression so natural in paremics – consonance, rhyme – allows for a creative approach and in the message-centered graffiti serves as a means to be used for announcing one’s truth, platforms, mindedness and beliefs or will to influence the world.

Academic database of graffiti differs from Internet blogs and albums because it is based on the needs of particular researchers. For example the emphasis on the paremiological aspect can be highlighted in a database. In addition to this, search feature enables to find graffiti by textual parameters, while database contains metadata and folkloristic typology. Database spreads the phenomenon via Internet, participating in the reproducing of folklore and creating new cultural meanings.

I am going to outline the basic structure of the database and its underlying principles, giving examples of how an academic database must consider the specific nature of a genre.

  1. Ephemeral nature. Paremic graffiti disappears and changes quickly, making it difficult for the researcher to record the material, while marking graffiti as a dynamic context- and period-centered cultural phenomenon.
  2. Accumulating nature. It is important to reflect the open nature of graffiti text – in the course of      communication between different authors the meaning of paremic text can be subject to change, therefore long-term observations a prerequisite to revealing change in the meaning of any specific text (the database      includes recordings of the same text from different moments in time).
  3. Socio-cultural nature. The collecting and analysis of paremic graffiti should definitely apply context-centered methods which take into account the social context  (i.e. who creates for whom, where, when, for what reason, what is the  receiver’s cultural potential to interpret the graffiti text), and consider the connection that graffiti has with other domains and other forms of art.

Supported by project IUT22-5.