For a special issue of The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies.
My name is Heather Freeman (Professor of Art, UNC Charlotte, USA) and I am seeking research on Digital Paganism / Digital Occultism for a future issue of The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies. Please see the CFP (below) for details.
I am particularly interested in research on practices that employ scripting/programming, social media platforms, and/or mobile technologies. Most of the published research on digital practices is a decade old and focused on using then-new technologies to meet virtually and communicate. In 2018 this practice is not surprising, yet it stands to reason that digital Pagan and Occult practices may be much more nuanced and rich, even (or especially) when it is otherwise hidden from forward-facing social media platforms.
If you have existing research on any of these topics, or if this is something you might be interested in pursing, please email me at email@example.com. If you would like, I’d be happy to meet via Skype, Hangouts, or a phone call to discuss the CFP further.
Thank you in advance,
Professor of Art, UNC Charlotte (North Carolina, USA)
Request for Proposals: Digital Pagan and Occult Practice
Potential topics may include, but are not limited to Pagan and/or Occult intersections with mobile technologies, game design, programming, hacking, social bots, trolls, sock puppets; spellcasting in OSNs (on-line social networks); on-line covens; software as spell crafting; virtual familiars, fetches, and spirit homes; blogging and Craft community ; digital spaces and virtual collectives of marginalized witches; young Millennial and GenZ Pagans in on-line spaces; Pagan generational gaps and the ‘digital divide’; digital chaos magick, both historic and contemporary; ritual magick in virtual spaces or with digital tools; challenges in the ‘Nature vs. Technology’ binary.What is the current interplay between digital technologies and Pagan and Occult practice? Many deliberately distance their Craft from new media technologies, seeing screen-based mediation as antithetical to a nature-based practice. Yet many Millennial and GenZ Pagans and Occultists embrace these new tools. While earlier generations of Pagans used sites like Witchvox.com to find fellow practitioners, the rapid development of commerical on-line social networks, such as Facebook, present new avenues for Pagans and Occultists to pursue community.
Digital spaces have created myriad new tools and opportunities for magickal practice, from Phantasmaphile’s WitchEmojis to the mass binding spell on President Donald Trump. On-line magickal practices, tools, and actions leverage the power of vast social networks, making normally hidden and secretive acts highly public — sometimes as a side-effect, sometimes deliberately. Millennial and GenZ Pagans appear to use sites such as Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Reddit, and Twitter for their practice in a radically different way from older users. But is this actually the case? And if it is, are Millennial and GenZ beliefs and practices also different? Indeed, numerous blog posts on Patheos – Pagan have consider this question, with discussions ranging from ‘validity’ to a consideration of how digital natives adopt new technologies for magical practices. But are these new trends in on-line magical practice also new religions? Do Millennial and GenZ Pagans and Occultists have a different relationship to the gods and spirits and, if so, is this because of digital technology? Is there really an on-line schism between GenZ magical practitioners and older generations, or does it just appear that way on Instagram?
But these publicly available and searchable Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr feeds are only the most forward facing manifestations of Digital Paganism. What of ‘back end’ digital magick? On-line social networks are rich with (or polluted by, depending on your perspective) social bots, trolls, and sock puppets, which are software and account behaviors used to skew the appearance of popularity and therefore algorithmic rankings. Chaos magicians used software code in their operations from the 1990s onwards, yet there has been little written about this practice since the explosion of social media technologies in the last decade. MySpace, which is arguably the first widely adopted social media platform, come out in 2006; the first iPhone in 2007; the incredibly rapid development and adoption of these information technologies is astounding.
It seems obvious that Pagan programmers would adopt these new technologies towards their practices, but where are they? What are they doing, and why has this become so hidden, even as so-called “aesthetic witchcraft” has become so popular? There are certainly Pagans and Occultists building divination and astrology apps, but are they also discrete apps as spells? Or are their spells entirely backend? How do digital technologies (including OSNs, video games, mobile apps, AR, and VR, and other forms) present new ways for Pagans and Occultists to Know, to Will, to Dare, and to Be Silent? What are the roles of gender, race, age, class, and global location in the adoption and manipulation of digital media technologies for the pursuit of Hidden Knowledge?
And if there is a generational schism growing between GenZ and older generations of magickal practitioners, what might this mean for the future of Paganism in an increasingly networked and connected global society?
If you are interested in contributing to this special issue of The Pomegranate:The International Journal of Pagan Studies, please, email an abstract (200 – 400 words) to Heather D. Freeman (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Heather D. Freeman is Professor of Art – Digital Media at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and Director/Producer of the feature documentary Familiar Shapes: The Story of Social Bots, Early Modern Witches, and How Information Technologies Reveal Them.
Heather D. Freeman
Professor of Art, Digital Media
Co-Director, The Digital Arts Center (D+Arts) in the College of Arts + Architecture
Faculty Advisor to the UNC Charlotte Archery Club and the Digital Art Mob
Familiar Shapes — A documentary about social bots, misinformation, early modern witches, and how human behavior shapes them.
The Moving Image Workshop: Introducing animation, motion graphics and visual effects in 45 practical projects.
Department of Art & Art History
The University of North Carolina at Charlotte
9201 University City Blvd.
Charlotte, NC 28223