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Pulled OCW Web Site is Back Online

The OpenCourseWare Web site for the “Visualizing Cultures” course (21F.027J) went back online last night after it was removed two weeks ago following complaints that it displayed culturally insensitive images without proper historical context. The version of the site posted last night is dotted with disclaimers to remind viewers that “some images may be offensive and difficult to view” and that depiction of the images “does not endorse their content.” A link to the disclaimer appears on each page containing images.

Additionally, before entering the main site, viewers must navigate through a page that introduces the class and suggests proper uses for the site and images.

The course’s creators Professors John W. Dower and Shigeru Miyagawa write on this introductory page that “to use the graphic imagery of the past to perpetuate cycles of violence and hatred runs counter to everything for which Visualizing Cultures stands.”

Attention was initially drawn to the site after it was highlighted in the MIT spotlight at http://web.mit.edu/. Members of the Chinese community at MIT and from elsewhere voiced strong opposition to images on the site, including one showing the decapitation of Chinese soldiers. They felt the images were presented in an incomplete and culturally insensitive manner that could easily be taken out of context.

Following the initial complaints and temporary removal of the site, a public forum was held with MIT administrators and members of the Chinese community. Additionally, the Campus Committee on Race Relations will hold a panel discussion about visual imagery this Thursday in 32-123 at 4 p.m.

Kelley Rivoire