Exordium (Beginning the Web)
At 5:00 a.m. on the way to catch an early flight, I stopped in my office to make final changes on a computer project that I was presenting at the "1996 Computers and Writing Conference," Utah State University. During the fifteen minutes that it took to add a few files to my office server, a dozen "hits" came in for one of my student Internet projects, Project #17. The requests came from educational, government and commercial resources. They came from all over the world and from many states: Japan, Australia, England, California, and New York. When I returned from Utah, because of a server overload, I censored Project #17, removing it from the Internet. Yet the hits kept coming because all were the result of keyword searches performed using the Alta Vista Internet search engine. The keywords were always the same, some variation or euphemism for the word "breast." Project #17, I should explain, was a student project written in hypertext about the commodification of women's breasts in U.S. Culture (in advertising and on the Internet). As part of the project, the student listed a few dozen cultural euphemisms for women's breasts that had been indexed by Alta Vista.
The question is why was project #17 censored.
In a simple sense, it can be blamed on the technical problem of server size (too many requests
for files bog down my small server and stop students from getting needed materials). Yet there
is a more complex answer that asks us to analyze how the body is
censored in culture, one takes many paths; paths that overlap, separate, converge, and
diverge; paths that do not offer a simple thesis or conclusion. It is about
"One-million horny lip-smacking men" and university
policies. It covers both word play and discursive
limits. It touches rights and property,
evil and bodies. The story
begins several years ago . . .