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This review describes the ground-breaking research undertaken by Regensburg University in Germany into how people are illegally expressing themselves in public toilets (mainly through graffiti) and introduces the team’s website ‘Latrinalia.de‘ for capturing global photographic evidence.
Once again Germany is leading the way in innovative research into the Social Sciences.
For many people who visit Germany one of the first things they notice is the general cleanliness of the public toilets (which, believe me, is even surpassed by the spotless private ones!). I think it is safe to say that most seats in German toilets are more hygienic than the roadside restaurant tables in some other countries (microbially speaking). OK perhaps you don’t want to eat your burger and chips off a table that smells of bleach!
That well known German saying “Ich esse gern etwas Wurst auf deinem Klo” results from this national obsession with washroom cleanliness (Rough translation: “I would like to try some sausage on your toilet” – but warning – although taken as a complement by a lady it is generally better not use this phrase with a gentleman).
However this level of quality in closet facilities is by no means static – there is a serious movement in German toilet circles towards continuous improvement. Understanding how public toilets are used as templates for artistic expression and visual sensual pleasure is the latest initiative under way in Regensburg. In particular scientists are evaluating the results of this illegal creative behaviour in toilets and trying to understand its relevance to the evolution of language.
This research has been the topic of recent press attention in Germany and I would like to share this innovative development with the non-German speaking international community. The scientists involved are looking for help from overseas to support them with their investigations. This work is being undertaken by Franziska Hertlein, Bastian Hinterleitner, Constantin Lehenmeier, and Thomas Spröd from the University of Regensburg (Kloforschungsabteilung, part of Digital Humanities).
This toilet research team is collecting and analysing photographic evidence of inappropriate creative behaviour in public toilets. In the common vernacular this is referred to as toilet-graffiti – the team is investigating the text and graphics used for their psychological and linguistic content. Specifically they are interested in what it is that moves people to express themselves in such a manner on public toilet walls and doors and whether this can influence the development of language and culture.
One of the limitations of the research so far has been the restricted number of photographic samples available in Regensburg: this makes it difficult to produce statistically meaningful results. Therefore the team has introduced a website under the name of Latrinalia (Eine Plattform für Toiletten-Graffiti) to broaden their scope to include samples from international public toilets. The photo-website has four simple categories:
- new – here the latest offerings from public toilets are put on display
- hot – the most popular toilet displays uploaded recently
- vote – to allow visitors to vote for their favourite toilet display
- transcribe – for displays still requiring some explanation
In addition to being able to view and review the toilet images already gathered the site also provides a facility for visitors to upload their own local toilet displays. This powerful crowdsourcing approach means the research team will be able to collect public toilet visual experiences from around the world. This will allow them to make their research findings much more robust and to also determine how toilet displays differ from region to region or understand global toilet trends like the difference in behaviours between train station and high-school toilets.
They have already identified some clear trends between male and female toilets. The men tend to focus on sport, sex and politics whereas the ladies write about relationships and love. Sometimes the toilet walls are used as tools to request help or support (for example what to do when a relationship has broken down). Not surprisingly some content is just pornographic or racist and therefore rather tasteless in nature.
If you would like to visit the Latrinalia photo-site just click on the link here. I am sure the research team will be only too happy for any local public toilet photographic contributions you are prepared to upload (just use the upward arrow on the site – or click for the template here: ‘Bild hochladen‘).
To protect the innocent they have taken the precaution of replacing less respectable images and text with a substitute which you have to hover over with your mouse before seeing the original content. This is to prevent visitors accidentally seeing something in the toilet pictures which they might find distasteful.
I will monitor significant developments in this area and post updates to http://www.chrisduggleby.com as they arise.
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If you enjoyed this review of research by Regensburg University about how people illegally express themselves in German public toilets (graffiti) and the website ‘Latrinalia.de‘ please visit http://www.chrisduggleby.com again.