Believing in Bits: Digital Media and the Supernatural

ISBN : 9780190949983

Simone Natale; Diana Pasulka
256 Pages
156 x 156 mm
Pub date
Nov 2019
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Today religion and spirituality infuse digital and technological environments. These in turn produce new forms of religious and spiritual belief. As technologies that compute numbers, digital media apparently epitomize everything that is considered scientific and rational. Yet people experience the effects of digital devices and algorithms in their everyday lives through the lenses of magic and the supernatural. Algorithms are said to have the capacity to "read minds" and predict the future; Artificial Intelligence is seen as an opportunity to overcome death and achieve immortality through singularity; and avatars and robots are accorded a dignity that traditional religions restrict to humans. The essays in Believing in Bits advance the idea that religious beliefs and practices have become inextricably linked to the functioning of digital media. How did we come to associate things such as mind reading and spirit communications with digital technologies? Does the dignity accorded to the human and natural worlds within traditional religions translate to gadgets, avatars, or robots? How does the internet's help blur the boundaries between what is considered fiction and fact? The essays collected in this volume address these and similar questions, challenging and redefining established understandings of digital media and culture by employing the notions of belief, religion, and the supernatural.


1: Amazon Can Read Your Mind: A Media Archaeology of the Algorithmic Imaginary
2: Information Theory of the Soul: Spiritualism, Technology, and Science Fiction
3: The Return of the Sonic Ghosts: Phonographic Revenants and Digital Reanimations, from Paleospectography to Hauntology
4: I play, therefore I believe: Religio and faith in digital games
5: Ritual Magic and User Generated Deities on Instagram
6: Instant Karma and Internet Karma: Karmic Memes and Morality on Social Media
7: Disciples of the New Digital Religions: Or, How to Make Your 'Fake' Religion Real
8: Where Soul Meets Technology: Catholic Visionaries and the Stanford Research Institute as Precedents for Human-Machine Interfaces and Social Telepathy Apps
9:Plurality through Imagination: The Emergence of Online Tulpa Communities in the Making of New Identities
10:UFOs, ufologists and digital media in Brazil
11:Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, and Religion: Past, Present, and Future
12:Algorithm Magic: Gilbert Simondon and Techno-animism
Afterword: Religious and digital imaginaries in parallel lines

About the author: 

Simone Natale is a Lecturer in Communication and Media Studies at Loughborough University. He is the author of Supernatural Entertainments: Victorian Spiritualism and the Rise of Modern Media Culture, and co-editor, with Nicoletta Leonardi, of Photography and Other Media in the Nineteenth Century. ; Diana Walsh Pasulka is a professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington and chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religion. Her previous publications with Oxford University Press are Heaven Can Wait and American Cosmic. Her current research focuses on religious and supernatural belief and its connections to digital technologies and environments. She is a history and religion consultant for movies and television, including The Conjuring (2013), Conjuring II (2016), among others. She was principle investigator for the statewide program Teaching American History, religion emphasis (through the Department of Education) which supported middle; school and High School teachers in their efforts to teach religious history to public school students throughout North Carolina.

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