Tuesday, April 1, 2008


All this talk about archiving and memory and the discussion of Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, in lecture reminded me of another dystopian novel, George Orwell's classic 1984. Though because it was written in 1949, Orwell and indeed American culture itself had little knowledge of computers and even less firsthand experience.
In the novel Orwell's country (Oceania) has a group called the ministry of Truth, in charge of censoring data, and even changing or destroying all archived texts to coincide with what the government says. In the digital age this nightmare of a vision becomes nearly impossible. One would have to banish computers entirely from public access in order to accomplish the same effects which would be quite difficult anyhow. Thus the only way to keep people from revolt is not just limiting what can be seen, but completely disconnecting the public from their means of accessing and publishing information.
There is, however, a mistrust of digital information. This in turn might ease the censoring of important information on the internet throughout elementary to high school I was told not to use the internet as a source because the articles were not reliable.
The fact that data is accessed via the same websites and search engines also eases the censorship of data. It is no longer necessary to censor the whole web, just youtube, google, and wikipedia. In fact it is nearly impossible to find an article on Google's switching of pictures of post-Katrina New Orleans with those of the city after the hurricane using google.
On second thought though, this censorship might not even be necessary. The data overload in last week readings might leave us in an even more willfully docile state than ignorance, a constant fear due to the power of instant knowledge. But most of what I'm saying is probably not true, because some nut can post anything on the internet.

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