Viva: Emma Arnold

Master of Science in Environmental Sciences, Policy, and Management Emma Arnold will be defending her dissertation for the degree of Ph.D. (philosophiae doctor) at the Department of Sociology and Human Geography.

Aesthetics of zero tolerance: Psychogeographic and photographic explorations of graffiti and street art in Norway

Emma Arnold

Time and place for the trial lecture:

Time: 12th Desember 2018 09.15 AM

Place: Auditorium 2, Eilert Sundts Building

Title: Photography as creative geographical method for the study of urban aesthetic politics


Adjudication Committee:

  • Associate Professor Kurt Iveson, University of Sydney
  • Professor Harriet Hawkins, Royal Holloway University of London
  • Professor David Jordhus-Lier, Department of Sociology and Human Geography, University of Oslo

Chair of Defence:

  • Professor Kristian Stokke, Department of Sociology and Human Geography, University of Oslo


  • Professor Karen O'Brien, Department of Sociology and Human Geography, University of Oslo
  • Professor David Pinder, Department of People and Technology, Roskilde University


What does a city with zero tolerance policy against graffiti look like? This is what doctorate Emma Arnold explores in her dissertation Aesthetics of zero tolerance: Psychogeographic and photographic explorations of graffiti and street art in Norway.

Following several years of intense anti-graffiti discourse, Oslo officially adopted zero tolerance in 2000. Zero tolerance approaches toward graffiti have been criticised considerably. Described as ineffective, such strict regimes tend to worsen the quality of graffiti and increase the quantity of the most ‘undesirable’ of expressions. Despite this knowledge, there has been little aesthetic study on the implications of zero tolerance policy. If zero tolerance does not rid the city of graffiti and street art, just what does it achieve?

Using innovative ways of studying the city, urban/cultural geographer Emma Arnold walks the streets with her camera, trying to get lost. Combining sensory and artistic methods of psychogeographic walking and photography and taking Oslo as its main case, this study strives to understand how policy affects the visual urban landscape. Through walking over 300 km and taking more than 25 000 photographs, this work discovers that zero tolerance affects the city in diverse ways.

Zero tolerance policy against graffiti does not lead to a city with zero graffiti. Instead, zero tolerance has a number of unintended consequences, including: the emergence of aesthetic tensions between graffiti and outdoor advertising, the frequent subtle traces left behind in graffiti removal, and changes in style and form to both graffiti and street art. In an unexpected twist, this research also explores the presence of outdoor advertising, which became an increasing distraction during fieldwork. Outdoor advertisements that contain sexualised representations of women's bodies are common and this research suggests that their presence may result in a harmful production of sexualised space in the city.

This work challenges the reader to think about the aesthetics of the city in new ways, suggesting that illegal interventions like tagging can be seen as meaningful and important expressions of democracy while legal advertising may have a number of negative and troubling effects. In 1 essay, 3 journal articles, and an original book of photographs, this study adds to research on zero tolerance and the policing of graffiti. This study is unique in its aesthetic approach as well as its innovative use of methodology and demonstrates new and exciting ways of doing and presenting urban Research.


Scientific abstarct (pdf)


For more information:

Contact Katalin Godberg

Publisert 23. nov. 2018 09:56 - Sist endret 28. nov. 2018 10:16