Censorship: Who Holds the Reigns?

Censorship is hardly a new concept. Socrates was supposedly forced to drink poison after denying censors and continuing to teach his own philosophies, partly because they were “corrupting youth” (Newth). Sound familiar? Well, Justin Timberlake may not have been poisoned for exposing Janet Jackson, but the media censorship still tends to takes the guise of ‘protective’. Television and video games are often cited as corruptive. Censorship has changed significantly over the years, but Raiford Guins argues that if anything it has intensified. In Edited Clean Version: Technology of the Culture of Control, Guins discusses censorship in the Digital Age. He acknowledges a previous model that describes censorship as an act of exclusion initiated by institutions. The primary issue with this older construction is its medium specificity. Henry Jenkins taught us that we live in a world of converging media. In order for censorship to be understood, “it becomes necessary to regard censorial practices as circulating in excess of the political, historical, and social institutions through which they used to crystallize concentrate, and execute their procedures of power” (Guins xvi). The practice of censorship should not be examined in relation to a single institution, but to the censorial operations and their political, historical, and social motivations and implications.

Guins’ essay discusses the different censorial practices surrounding media in the United States. His chapters are focused around five of these practices (blocking, filtering, sanitizing, cleaning, and patching) and their respective technology. Though the types of censorship discussed vary (sometimes less so than others), Guins notes a seemingly increased amount of consumer control. The V-chip, for example, was intended to allow parents to manage their children’s television viewing habits. The device is meant to put the censorial control in the hands of the user (parents) rather than the broadcaster; however Guins sees a dilemma in this construct. In regard to the V-chip, “the question becomes not “what do you want” but “do you want A or B?” Blocked or unblocked” (Guins 45). Despite the appearance of self-censorship, the options are still limited. Censorial devices often promote the freedom of choice, but the power does not truly lie solely in the hands of the consumer. Instead censorship works to manage consumer choice under the guise of empowerment.

References:

Guins, Raiford. Edited Clean Version: Technology and the Culture of Control. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2009. Print.

Newth, Mette. “On Censorship.” On Censorship. Beacon for Freedom, 2010. Web. 13 Nov. 2013.

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