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Introduction: Censorship and Information Control During Information Revolutions


Event Summary

This discussion served as the introduction to a public dialogue series supported by the Censorship, Information Control, and Information Revolutions from Printing Press to Internet research project at the Neubauer Collegium, which brought together scholars of print revolutions past and present with practitioners working on the frontiers of today’s information revolution. These events were not formal panels with presented papers, but free-form discussions in which experts bounced ideas off each other, discovering rich parallels between their work and sharing them in real time. Taking place from October through November, the eight dialogues united historians, editors, novelists, poets, and activists, and was be filmed and shared online to let the public enjoy and continue the discussions.

In this session, three co-organizers raised introductory questions to launch the dialogue series. Are there patterns in how revolutions in information technology stimulate new forms of information control? What can earlier information revolutions teach us about the digital revolution? How do real historical cases of censorship tend to differ from the centralized, well-planned censorship that Orwell’s 1984 teaches us to expect? How can forms of information control which were not intended as censorship have similar consequences to censorship, with or without human agency?


Adrian Johns (University of Chicago): Printing press, copyright, radio, piracy

Ada Palmer (University of Chicago): Inquisition, radical thought, comic book censorship

Cory Doctorow (Electronic Frontier Foundation): Digital information policy