Artist Muntadas created "The File Room" (discussed in Steven Wilson's book Information Arts: Intersections of Science, Art and Technology as an archive of censorship, a living record of society's ceaseless efforts to control culture and values. The site uses the Web's global scope to collect and store essays, speeches and artistic works from all over the world which have been subject to censorship, from the Republic of Korea's criminal code to high school newspapers to art exhibits in rural areas city halls. "The File Room" classifies its growing holdings by location, date, media and so-called grounds for censorship.
Anybody can contribute new examples of censorship by filling out a short form on the site, which is also part of an art gallery in downtown Chicago.
The strange dichotomy is that the more censors try to curb information, the bigger and richer "The File Room" grows. Sadly, the site makes clear that the United States -- the creator of the modern idea of free speech -- has become one of the world's most ubiquitous censors. "The File Room" literally feeds off censorship, its archived categories growing all the time -- explicit sexuality, language, nudity, political/economic/social opinion, racial and ethnic, religious, sexual/gender orientation and numerous others. Many of these battles involve the so-called protection of children. The access to information and opinion the Net has given kids is one of the most terrifying ideas of the 21st century.
Beautifully organized -- with sections on visual arts, film/video, print, broadcast and electronic media, public speech, personal opinion, even commercial advertising -- the site has become a trove of ideas, opinions and artworks. It also carries an emotional punch. It's truly moving and outrageous to see some of the works (and thoughts) people and institutions are still trying to kill off. What a curious time -- the most sophisticated and open information machinery in history spreading like wildfire, and narrow-minded idiots all over the planet trying to turn back the clock. There are countless governments and institutions who still believe they can impose their views and values on their children and the rest of the world, if only they can practice censorship.
Online rights is a seminal issue, but the smaller fights sometimes obscure the new and much larger reality. Censorship as we used to know it is no longer a viable option as long as there is a World Wide Web.