About this Project

The digital revolution is triggering a wave of new information control efforts, ranging from monopolistic patent laws to the Great Firewall of China. These efforts are sometimes conspicuous, as with the deletion of archives or the arrest of authors, and sometimes subtle, as in the fine-print terms of service contracts that accompany the software downloads that saturate our lives. How are these efforts affecting creativity, innovation, and discourse? How do they endanger the circulation and survival of art and knowledge in the digital age? And how can we craft policies that will simultaneously protect creators, businesses, consumers, artistic freedom, and privacy? This project proposes to answer these questions by leveraging our knowledge of the print revolution after 1450, a moment like our own, when the explosive dissemination of a new information technology triggered a wave of information control efforts. Many of today’s attempts at information control closely parallel early responses to the printing press, so the pre-modern case gives us centuries of data showing how such attempts variously incentivized, discouraged, curated, silenced, commodified, or nurtured art and expression. Examining the digital revolution in light of the print revolution will help us avoid repeating past mistakes, and let us craft information control policies that will make the digital world a fertile space for art and innovation.

A public dialogue series will bring together scholars of print revolutions past and present with practitioners working on the frontiers of today’s information revolution. These events will not be formal panels with presented papers, but freeform discussions in which experts bounce ideas off each other, discovering rich parallels between our work and sharing them in real time. Taking place from October through November, the eight dialogues will unite historians, editors, novelists, poets, and activists, and will be filmed and shared online, to let the public enjoy and continue the discussions. For more details on the series and related events, please visit voices.uchicago.edu/censorship.


Why Trump’s Decision to Intervene in Campus Speech Policies Is So Dangerous

March 28, 2019

In a Washington Post op-ed, Ada Palmer (a member of the Censorship, Information Control, and Information Revolutions from Printing Press to Internet research team) brings historical context to a call opposing President Trump’s executive order to make federal research funding contingent upon universities’ free speech policies.

Multi-Pronged Project Explores Censorship, Information Revolutions

December 6, 2018

Ada Palmer, a member of the research team on the Censorship, Information Control, and Information Revolutions from Printing Press to Internet project, explains the goals for her research and why she believes centuries-old copyright laws are still relevant today.

What’s Next for Europe’s Internet Censorship Plan?

October 7, 2018

Cory Doctorow, a member of the research team on the Censorship, Information Control, and Information Revolutions from Printing Press to Internet project, considers the impact of an important European Union vote on copyright issues.


There are no events associated with this project yet.