cyberspace salvations

Cyberspace Salvations

Although I have read “Techgnosis” (Davis 1998) and still am deeply impressed and quite influenced by William Gibson’s rendition of a voodoo-haunted cyberspace in “Count Zero” (Gibson 1986), and although I have been into the anthropology of religion, magic, and all other things that go bump in the night for the longer time of my being at the university, I am not on a quest for finding salvation in cyberspace [really?]. But spirituality [in the broadest sense possible] of course always has to be an issue when trying to understand cultures. That’s the background of my using according metaphors in e.g. creation myth. Just today I discovered the very interesting research-project Cyberspace salvations: Computer technology, simulation and modern gnosis:

In the previous century, most people expected that the rise of technology would lead to the rationalization, secularization and disenchantment of society. Ten to twenty years before YK2, however, a motley crowd of New Agers, SF-writers, hackers and “digirati” began to imagine a ‘New Age’ in which cyberspace was portrayed as a new version of heaven – an immaterial place where people can ‘get rid of the meat’ and attain disembodied immortality and omniscience, in a Gnostic fusion of the self with the divine realm of information. These were not isolated visions. The Internet is overflowing with the websites and chat-boxes of the spiritually inclined. Online computer games display Tolkienesque environments filled with monsters, magicians and other-worldly possibilities. Are these exceptions, or does computer technology actually encourage re-enchantment rather than disenchantment? The project “Cyberspace Salvations” researches such questions, to assess the nature and history of the elective affinities between computer technology and modern spiritualities, and find out how important these are for our present and future.

I am especially attracted to project 2 The gnostic dimension of gaming:

From Spacewar onwards, computer games have simulated “other” spaces and inter-dimensional travel. Since Dungeons and Dragons appeared as a textual game in the seventies, many games include pagan rituals, magical spells, mysterious keys, objects with totemic powers, and vision quests, often located in semi-medieval, Tolkienesque settings. This genre dominates the gaming-industry even more now that three-dimensional, rather than textual, simulations have reinforced the possibility of a simulated escape from the everyday material world.
Whereas many academic and popular comments, informed by a deep-seated suspicion of the social role of computer technology , represent computer games as mere alienated amusement or ‘play’, others portray them in a much more revolutionary light. In line with Baudrillard’s view that games exemplify the postmodern proliferation of simulation and the “disappearance of reality”, some designers regard the production of spiritual experiences as their “business.” Rushkoff argues that the bodiless immersion in these digital worlds of magic can not be disregarded as trivial entertainment or alienation, because fantasy role-playing serves, like traditional religion and formal psychotherapy, “as both spiritual practice and transformational tool.” Given these contrasting claims, the culture of computer games is a central and obvious testing-ground for our hypothesis. ↑[…]

via entry at interprete [where the sato now roams]