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TechGnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in…

TechGnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Age of Information (1998)

by Erik Davis

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How does our fascination with technology intersect with the religious imagination? In TechGnosis-a cult classic of media studies, now back in print-Erik Davis argues that while the realms of the digital and the spiritual may seem firmly disengaged, mystical and esoteric impulses have in fact always permeated (and sometimes inspired) technological communication. A pioneer in scholarly discussions of the occult side of technology, Erik Davis has been called "the father of network mysticism" by Dazed Digital and compared to Marshall McLuhan by Howard Rheingold. TechGnosisopens with a discussion of two technologies that are foundations of modern digital communication- the technology of writing (and its connections to the hermetic tradition) and the technology of electricity (which is deeply infused with mystical and alchemical ideas). Davis proceeds to draw connections between such seemingly disparate things as online roleplaying games and religious and occult practices; virtual reality and ancient gnostic mythology; programming languages and channeled texts. The final chapters address both apocalyptic and utopian dreams of the future of technology, providing historical context as well as new models for how to think and feel our way through an amazing, confusing, and disturbing time. This new edition features a foreword by Eugene Thacker as well as a new afterword reflecting on surveillance; the current tech bubble; the growth of superheroes, horror, and other "uncanny cultures" online; the growing backlash against technology; and the need to revitalize the cosmic imagination.… (more)
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I first read this shortly after it came out, but I have periodically been back to it and I think it's still as relevant as when it came out - which is no mean feat for a book that deals with a fast-moving area like technology. I think the reason it has stood the test of time so well has to do with its focus on our own attitudes to technology (as much as on the technology itself). We like to think of ourselves as having attained a level of sophistication that has taken us beyond the kind of primitive attitudes which Arthur C Clarke was probably thinking of when he suggested that any sufficiently advanced technology would be indistinguishable from magic. The key insight of Techgnosis is that some of those primitive views still exert a strong influence when it comes to our reactions to technology and in particular, our hopes about what it can do for us (particularly its ability to "transform" our world). That insight remains as important now as when the book was first written. ( )
  Paul_Samael | Nov 9, 2019 |
“Erik Davis’ compendious recitation of the history of communications technology dominates the discursive landscape of techno-exegesis like a Martian war machine. In the grand style of H.G. Wells, TECHGNOSIS is an apocalyptic synopsis of this century’s technological climax.”
  TerenceKempMcKenna | Feb 24, 2013 |
Sharp and timely, TechGnosis reveals the occult and classical mythologies and symbolism underlying communication technologies from ancient history to digital file-sharing. It's an original and erudite piece of work, written with a flair and playfulness that belie the scholarly research evident throughout, and with just the right balance of wonder and scepticism. ( )
2 vote stancarey | Dec 2, 2006 |
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