The classical assumption that scientific and technological progress are the main driving forces behind, what Weber called, the 'disenchantment of the western world', is basic knowledge in contemporary sociology. In this paper, however, it is argued that the implementation of digital technology also stimulates the religious, or more specific, animistic imagination. A qualitative analysis of
magazine (1993-2000) shows that various computer specialists, who are 'supposed' to be the pioneers of a rational, secular and disenchanted society, can be seen as 'technoanimists'. They consider our new technological surroundings as an intelligent, autonomous force and express feelings of humility. Exemplary for this phenomenon is a group of ICTexperts who refer to themselves as 'technopagans'. Paradoxically, the explanation for this unforeseen development of 're-enchantment' can be found in progress in the technological fields of Artificial Intelligence and Artificial Life. More generally, the ongoing process of rationalization seems to provide a good explanation for the contemporary emergence of technoanimism.
Relocating the Sacred to the Self and the Digital
Edited by Stef Aupers
Stef Aupers and Jaron Harambam
In the social sciences, conspiracy theory is often morally debunked as pathological, irrational and dangerous and, essentially, considered a form of ‘religious superstition’. Arguing that this simplistic labelling of conspiracy theory as ‘religious belief’ is primarily a form of ‘boundary work’ to legitimate the epistemic authority of the social sciences, this chapter studies the hybrid character of contemporary conspiracy theory based on the self-understanding of its advocates. The analysis shows that conspiracy culture is an unstable, multi-faced phenomenon that is situated at the intersection of three discourses: secular scepticism, popular sociology, and spiritual salvation. Mixing up secular science and spiritual salvation and simultaneously assessing how the world ‘is’ and how it ‘ought’ to be, may be a horror to academics; for conspiracy theorists it is having the best of both worlds.