GML Field Recorder Challenge

The GML Field Recorder Challenge is now closed. There are currently two applications for the prize under consideration. Results will be posted here shortly.

An easily reproducible DIY device that can unobtrusively record graffiti motion data during a graffiti writer’s normal practice in the city.

Project Description and Design Requirements:
The GML Field Recorder Challenge is a DIY hardware and software solution for unobtrusively recording graffiti motion data during a graffiti writer’s normal practice in the city. The winning project will be an easy to follow instruction set that can be reproduced by graffiti writers and amateur technologists. The goal is to create a device that will document a night of graffiti bombing into an easily retrievable series of Graffiti Markup Language (.gml) files while not interfering with the normal process of writing graffiti. The solution should be easy to produce, lightweight, cheap, secure, and require little to no setup and calibration. The winning design solution will include the following requirements listed below:

  • Material costs for the field device must not exceed 300 euros. Computers and equipment outside of the 300 euros can be used for non-field activities (such as downloading and manipulating data captured in-field), but at the time of capture a graffiti writer should have no more than 300 euros worth of equipment on him or herself.
  • The graffiti writer must be able to activate the recording function alone (i.e., without assistance from anyone else).
  • Any setup and/or calibration should be limited to 10 seconds or less.
  • All hardware should be able to be easily concealed within a coat with large pockets.
  • The winning solution should be discreet and not draw any added attention to the act of graffiti writing.
  • The resulting solution should be able to record at least 10 unique .gml tags of approximately 10 seconds each in length in one session without the need for connecting to or using additional equipment.
  • All data recorded using the field recorder should be saved in a secure and non-incriminating fashion.
  • The winning design will have some protection in the event that the device falls into the wrong hands.
  • Data should be able to be captured from both spray cans and markers.
  • System should be able to record writing on various surfaces and materials.
  • Data should be captured at 30 points per second minimum.
  • The recording system should not interfere with the writer’s movements in anyway (including writing, running and climbing).
  • All motion data should be saved using the current GML standard (
  • All aspects of the winning design should be able to be reproduced by graffiti writers and amateur technologists.
  • All software must be released open source. All hardware must include clear DIY instructions / tutorials. All media must be released under an open content license that promotes collaboration (such as a Free Art License or Creative Commons share-alike license).
  • The recording must be an unobtrusive process, allowing the graffiti writer to concentrate solely on the act of writing (not on recording). The act of recording should not interfere with the act of graffiti writing.
  • Bonus, but not required:

  • Inclusion of date, time and location saved in the GML file.
  • Who can participate?
    Participants are welcomed either as individuals or as teams made up of several persons. In the case of teams, one person must be designated
    as the team leader and will be solely responsible for communications surrounding the entry. In the case a team receives the Contest Prize, the Contest Prize will be distributed among the participants and affiliated organizations at the discretion of the team leader. Participants can represent themselves or be the authorized representatives of a group, company or academic institution.

    How To Enter:
    To enter simply send an email to challenge[at]graffitimarkuplanguage[dot]com containing a link to a single URL that contains:

  • Clearly illustrated project description (written in English). The description must be written at a level sufficient for a hobbyist technologist to reproduce the results obtained by the contestant.
  • Links to download all necessary software (including source code).
  • How-to guides (written in English) clearly describing how to make anything required for the device. The judge must be able to re-create all physical project materials based on included instructions for a project to win.
  • Video documentation of the device in use.
  • The submission processes will remain open from now (September 1, 2010) until September 1, 2011 November 1, 2011 (***EXTENDED***).

  • After the email has been received there will be a grace period, of no more than 30 days, where the system is built and tested to verify if it meets all of the requirements. In the event that the application is successful the participant or team leader (as the case may be) will be notified.

    The Prize Money:
    Contest Prize: 1,200 euros.

    A successful project (as described in accordance with these Rules) is eligible to win and be awarded only one (1) Content Prize. In the event a qualified participant or the team leader (as the case may be) cannot be reasonably notified, verified or confirmed based on two (2) attempts, a Contest Prize is declined or a potential winner is not in compliance with these Rules or eligible for award of a Contest Prize for whatever reason, the GML Field Recorder Challenge will remain open and an alternate potential prize winner will be chosen and verified in accordance with these Rules.

    Once a participant or the team leader (as the case may be) is notified, the project will be published to the website, and the Contest Prize will be sent within 60 days.

    Return of a Contest Prize or failure of a Contest Prize delivery will result in disqualification and an alternative potential winner will be chosen and verified in accordance with these Rules.

    Any costs or expenses associated with the acceptance and use of the Contest Prize are the sole responsibility of the contest winners. All prize details are at the sole discretion of the organizers of the GML Challenges. A prize winner may make no substitutions or assignment of the Contest Prize other than as specified in the Rules stated herein.

    The judging process will be conducted by Evan Roth, whose sole activity during the verification process will be to verify: 1) does the project meet the requirements as outlined above, 2) is the project reproducible by a non-expert and 3) is the recording process unobtrusive. Some of these decisions are subjective, and the final conclusion is as at the complete discretion of the judge.

    Why Are You Doing This?:
    The goal of the GML Field Recorder Challenge is to promote development surrounding projects that would benefit the GML community and directly forge connections between hackers and graffiti writers. By focusing on the GML field recorder, I’m highlighting a desire to capture “real” data. Much of this push stems from conversations with an anonymous graffiti writer from Vienna, who expressed the need for a system that would record tags not from the comfort of an art studio, but actually out in the wild during the course of a normal night of bombing. The way a tag looks and is written has everything to do with where it was written and the conditions surrounding its production. The development of a GML Field Recording device would greatly improve the quality of the data, which in the end is at the heart of the GML Community, forging a tighter relationship between the work being done on the streets and work being done behind the screen.

    The GML Field Recorder Challenge (including the prize money) is funded entirely by Constant, which is a non-profit interdisciplinary arts-lab that is based and active in Brussels since 1997. The artistic practice of Constant is inspired by the way that technological infrastructures, data-exchange and software determine our daily life. Free software, copyright alternatives and (cyber)feminism are important threads running through the activities of Constant.

    If you would like to fund future GML Challenges, please contact me at info[at]graffitimarkuplanguage[dot]com

    If you have suggestions for future GML Challenges, feel free to send me an email at info[at]graffitimarkuplanguage[dot]com or bring it up in the GML Forums:

    Much of the text for this document was adapted from NETFLIX and NASA

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