Responses by Sandro Heierli, art director, DDB Germany, Robert-Jan Blonk, interactive producer, MediaMonks and James Delaney, managing director, BlockWorks
Background: The goal of The Uncensored Library was to raise awareness for press freedom. With the help of MediaMonks and BlockWorks, we wanted to find a creative way to reach out to young people because they are vulnerable to governmental disinformation campaigns, and often don’t know the full political situation in their countries. We wanted to bypass censorship in countries without press freedom and making banned information available for them.
Reasoning: Minecraft is an open world game where users can create whatever comes to mind, and it is still available in countries with cyber censorship. We used this loophole to bring censored information back to these countries within Minecraft books. We used a medium that young people can playfully interact with and can learn about the issue of press censorship. Also, since our main goal was to make the website a place where people could grasp the concept, we crafted an online adaptation of the Minecraft Library where we can invite people to join the library, and where everyone comes together to further share and spread the word.
Challenges: We had never played Minecraft before. So, when we came up with the idea, we had to dive deep into the game to come up with a concept and design that works. Besides the technical challenges, we also had to get censored articles from journalists and translate them. With help from Reporters Without Borders, we got their articles and consent in time. We were also surprised by the pickup of this scale. In the first three days, the website already had over 100K visitors and the world map has now been downloaded over 10,000 times. We’re happy that the website was able to process everybody’s requests and access, and still be able to spread the message.
Favorite details: We were happy to see that The Uncensored Library sparked a lot of interesting conversations in the online chat. Questions like, “What is freedom of speech and does it mean I can say anything?” evolved into discussions and answers were found within the community. People discussed Brexit, Social Darwinism, the opium crisis in the United States and whether or not vaping should be forbidden. Besides providing independent information, we built a discussion platform for young people to talk about the issues in their countries.
Visual influences: The library was designed in a neoclassical architectural style that is often used to represent culture and knowledge. We used this style to design a building that represents freedom of knowledge, and the power that the truth has over oppressive government authorities and regimes.
Specific demands: Not everyone has Minecraft, so we made the library accessible through a digital 3-D walkthrough on our website within the browser. 24 people from 16 different countries worked on building the library in Minecraft, so the time difference was also a challenge. But in the end, many people and many different ideas helped to overcome technical challenges and make the project a success.