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Terms of Use(rs): Strategies of Bypassing Censorship on Social Media

Vortrag von Charlotte Reuß

All times GMT = MEZ (UTC +1)

13 December 2022


09.00-09.15: Silvia Genovese (University of Edinburgh) - Productive Censorship: The Circulation of Photographs from Kashmir After 5 August 2019

09.15-09.30: Camille Melissa Waring (University of Westminster) - Deghettoising of the Internet: Cleansing the Internet of transgressive sex sub-cultures

09.30-09.45: Discussion

09.45-10.00: Nelly Ating (Cardiff University School of Journalism) - Visual Politics: Amnesty International's Evasion of Apartheid Regime Censorship

10.00-10.15: Charlotte Reuß (University of Applied Arts Vienna) - Terms of Use(rs): Strategies of Bypassing Censorship on Social Media

10.15-10.30: Discussion

Program & Free Registry

Since the age of the first societies in human history, pictures and images have played and are still playing an essential role in the creation, organisation and perpetuation of social and political orders. Together with other non-textual products, they shape the sphere of visual culture, through which ideas are often introduced and conveyed. For this reason, political powers have commonly sought to legitimise themselves and to strengthen their standings through visual culture. Yet, visual culture has often also challenged political powers through the introduction and circulation of other images of contradictory character, foregrounding certain conditions or realities that states, governments and political groups may prefer to conceal.

Censorship has been one strategy that such and other political powers have employed to confront the unwanted appearance of certain materials in the visual sphere. Often understood as the centralised assessment of material and the enforcement of restrictions vis-à-vis the circulation of those deemed inappropriate for one reason or another, censorship is commonly perceived as a well-organised mechanism geared towards suppressing the communication of certain types of information. However, the way it operates may be much more complex and indirect for at least two key reasons. Firstly, because censorship relies on the interpretation and judgement of specific institutions and individual censors. Secondly, because censorship tends to trigger informal layers of suppressive systems and assessment mechanisms, such as cultural conventions, grassroots censorship, and self-censorship. In our time, these also include state, corporate, and private forms of algorithm engineering, further dissociating censorship from any of the tangible powers invested in controlling visual culture.

In seeking to explore how censorship has affected the development and manifestation of visual culture worldwide, Censorship & Visual Culture creates a platform for scholars from a wide range of academic fields and disciplines to experiment with an underused research paradigm. Indeed, more traditionally, the study of visual censorship has revolved around the questions of what, why, and how visual materials have been excluded from a given visible sphere, and what practices have developed to share them within restricted social circles, nevertheless. While still interested in elaborating understandings about these issues as well, the workshop is even more eager to consider two additional complementary questions. The first of these asks What representational conventions and image-production practices have emerged precisely due to censorship restrictions? The second inquires How have subsequently these representational conventions and image-production practices continued to shape the historical and more recent visual cultures familiar to us today?

Censorship & Visual Culture will investigate these and related issues in connection with examples and case studies from any historical period. But it will particularly expand the knowledge base about the conception, implementation, and operation of visual censorship against the background of the explosion of image-production and communications technologies that occurred between the late modern period and our time (i.e., between the mid-eighteenth to the early twenty-first centuries).

To this end, the workshop will feature presentations from scholars working in research areas such as visual culture, media and communications studies, cultural history, visual sociology and anthropology, cultural studies, history of art, photographic history, and related fields of research. Interconnected with the questions raised above, the event will consider a wide range of topics, such as:

  • the politics of visual censorship in democratic states;

  • visual censorship in dictatorships;

  • censorship in digital visual culture;

  • liberal and/vs libertarian uses of visual censorship;

  • cultural hegemony and visual censorship;

  • grassroots visual censorship;

  • self-censorship and the development of visual culture.

The workshop will be hosted online, via MS Teams. Bookings will close 48 hours prior to the start of the event, and registrants will receive a link to join the event via their provided email address up to 24 hours before the event.


  • Claudio Monopoli | PhD Candidate in Historical, Geographical, Anthropological Studies, University of Padua, Italy

  • Gil Pasternak | Professor of Photographic Cultures and Heritage, De Montfort University, UK