After Nineteen Eighty-Four

Towards an ironic history of George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, a book about pervasive surveillance and censorship under totalitarianism.

Man reading 1984 in Thailand, being documented by cellphones.

Egypt, November 2014:

“An Egyptian college student carrying a copy of George Orwell’s novel ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ was arrested in Cairo, raising questions about free speech under the country’s government with President Abdel Fattah Sisi.”

Thailand, June 2014:

“Thailand has suppressed the film of Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell’s classic novel of dictatorship and surveillance, in the latest effort to quash dissent after last month’s military coup. Members of a film club in the northern city of Chiang Mai cancelled a screening of the film in an art gallery after police intimidated organisers with suggestions that it violated the law. Nineteen Eighty-Four has become a symbol of peaceful opposition to General Prayuth Chan-ocha, who seized power from Thailand’s elected government last month after months of violent street demonstrations.”


“Police in Thailand yesterday arrested eight people for demonstrating against the nation's increasingly repressive military junta, including a man dragged away by undercover officers for reading a copy of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four.”

Internet, July 2009:

“In George Orwell’s ‘1984,’ government censors erase all traces of news articles embarrassing to Big Brother by sending them down an incineration chute called the ‘memory hole.’ On Friday, it was 1984 and another Orwell book, Animal Farm, that were dropped down the memory hole — by In a move that angered customers and generated waves of online pique, Amazon remotely deleted some digital editions of the books from the Kindle devices of readers who had bought them.”

USA, 1984:

“The [CIA] also changed the ending of the movie version of ‘1984,’ disregarding Orwell’s specific instructions that the story not be altered. In the book, the protagonist, Winston Smith, is entirely defeated by the nightmarish totalitarian regime. In the very last line, Orwell writes of Winston, ‘He loved Big Brother.’ In the movie, Winston and his lover, Julia, are gunned down after Winston defiantly shouts: ‘Down with Big Brother!’”

USA, 1981:

“It was banned and burned in the U.S.S.R. under Stalin’s rule for its’ negative attitude toward communism, and reading it could’ve resulted in your arrest. It has also been banned and challenged in many U.S. schools. During the Cold War, a teacher in Wrenshall, Minnesota was fired for refusing to remove 1984 from his reading list. In 1981, it was challenged in Jackson County, Florida (for being pro-communism!).”

>  2 October 2016 | LINK | Filed in , , ,

A is for Activist

As a parent, I’ve had a very hard time finding progressive children’s books for my toddler. Innosanto Nagara felt the same way, so he and the Design Action Collective decided to do something about it. They are designing a picture book for radical tots — a full-fledged, pro-social and environmental justice ABC book. I've backed this on Kickstarter and you should too!

A is for Activist

Update: September 13, 2012. The book is funded and in production! You can order it now at

>  1 July 2012 | LINK | Filed in ,

Social Design in frieze

The international art magazine frieze put social design on the cover of this month’s edition. The cover story is a roundtable discussion I participated in about design and social responsibility. It’s a fairly critical look, touching on ethics, design education, and public policy. Issue #138 is on the stands now, or you can read the discussion online here.

Frieze Magazine, Design Matters

>  5 April 2011 | LINK | Filed in ,

Decision Points

Decisions, decisions. True Crime or Science Fiction & Fantasy? Marketing & Advertising?

Where would you shelve George W. Bush’s memoir?

>  11 November 2010 | LINK | Filed in ,
Brief Messages. In the West, the history of publishing often starts with the printed book. But before the book, short-form ephemera ruled: “The habit of spending money to read something a printer had decided to publish was an alien one.… What made print viable, Pettegree found, was not the earth-shaking impact of mighty tomes, but the rustle of countless little pages: almanacs, calendars, municipal announcements. Indulgence certificates, the documents showing that sinners had paid the Catholic church for reduced time in purgatory, were especially popular. These ephemeral jobs were what made printing a viable business through the long decades while book publishers — and the public — struggled to find what else this new technology might be good for.”
>  4 September 2010 | LINK | Filed in ,
Peace Posters. Helicopter Breakdown Press has just published The Peace Posters, a 32-page broadsheet newspaper which unfolds to 30 posters — and is available for free. To obtain copies for bedroom walls, workplaces, street poles, community notice boards, shopfronts and schools, email [email protected] with your postal address and how many copies you wish to receive. The collection also includes one of my posters.
>  4 July 2010 | LINK | Filed in , ,

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