Electronic Rituals wk1 reading

Facebook and FarmVille

  • the architectural design that intertwines FB and FarmVille is heightened by the formal and informal participation in ritual practices, ie digital rituals; identifying an underlying ritual structure in social gaming can help us better understand how they sustain levels of engagement and social solidarity
  • Boyd and Ellison (2007) social network sites: “web-based services that allow individuals to
    1. construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system
    2. articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection
    3. view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system” (p. 2) which they distinguish from “social networking sites.”
      • “networking” emphasizes “relationship initiation, often between strangers”
  • Facebook can be used both as a social network and social networking site; however, when friends reach to hundreds/thousands, it becomes less about networking and more about broadcasting
    • newsfeed can be a form of mass communication used to circulate content
  • Social gaming focuses on a smaller group of users to for a social network within a social network

Magic Circles

  • distinction between the space of game-play and the norms of everyday life; magic circles have their own set of rules, norms, and practices
  • magic circles as a ritual space


  • it is the nature of rituals’ ambiguity, “rituals’ oscillation between timeless history and contingent adaptation that allows us to believe in their overriding ‘truth’” 
  • The enacting of mediated rituals helps to legitimate that myth and instigate its accompanying symbolic power. Ritual becomes an active process of engagement and meaning making.
  • Members of social networks enacting ritual scripts through mediated technology, who then feel a sense of belonging or social cohesion through that behavioral action, enact a real sense of belonging that operates like a myth to make the collective seem real.
    • If people take something as real, it is real in its consequences 
    • ritual enactments in social networking casual games meld the real world outside the chalk line with the game space in new and meaningful ways
  • Couldry’s three basic definitions of ritual
    1. habitual action (any habit or repeated pattern, whether or not it has meaning
    2. formalized action (regular and meaningful pattern)
    3. action involving transcendent values (ie, holy communion)
  • A habit is not unimportant just because it is not “transcendental”
    • habitual actions can reinforce and deepen the larger ritual experience
    • gradations of ritual, with each passing gradation producing a stronger articulation of ritual
  • third places: communal spaces within the public sphere
    • media research has often focused on the perceived threats of media to communities; media such as TV began displacing time normally spent in third spaces (ie bars and coffee shops)
    • MMOs could be categorized as third spaces; even social networks???????????????

Religious Exoticism and the Logics of Bricolage

  • religious “nones” in advanced industrial societies: bricoleurs drawing from several “exotic religions” to construct customized, individual spiritual practice without identifying with a specific faith
    • doctrines and practices reflect privileged participants’ preferences; bricoleurs help determine the content of successful exotic faiths
  • Religious exoticism, according to Altglas, reflects fragmentation and reinterpretation of non-Christian religious traditions so that they will resonate with Western seekers. Because it revises and decontextualizes them, this cultural appropriation involves idealization that simultaneously denigrates and romanticizes non-Western faiths.
  • Spiritual seekers with prior religious affiliations look to spiritual traditions that are as different as possible from the ones in which they were raised in order to find their core identities and connect with a higher power. 
  • Individuals who become affiliated with exotic religions dedicate themselves to self-discovery and spiritual expansion by every means necessary, and they are pragmatic in judging spiritual paths by their immediate results. It is not surprising, according to Altglas, that the exotic religions that she has studied offer workshops and customized courses that are modeled on Western personal growth therapies.

Superstitious Rituals with Technology

  • When humans know just a little bit of how something works, the rest of it gets relegated to the realm of mystery and magic.
    • Today, technology is our magic: as increasingly complex and capable devices fill our lives and begin to perform more instantaneous tasks for us, your average consumer understands less and less about how these miracles are performed.
  • Blowing into video game cartridges, despite the fact that it caused more problems
  • closing apps in a smartphone for a “clearer mind”, despite it being a myth that closing background apps makes phones run faster
    • faith is stronger than the truth
  •  A phone, Nova suggests, is very nearly already a “magic wand” that can summon food—expect software developers and service providers to reduce the number of steps and interactions between our desire and its result.

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