Sunday, November 17, 2002

Magic and computers
Arcane symbols written in certain patterns, ritual movements performed by the trained and devout, rigid discipline and a maniac attention to details, a focus that excludes the trivial for the abstractions of the art... It's quite understandable that good programmers and hackers tend to be called wizards.

When I try to explain to students what happens inside a computer of on the net, I might as well speak of magic, or perhaps magick:

The word “magick” relates to the power of the IMAGINATION - expressed through a harmonious marriage of Intellect and Intuition. Magick denotes the practical fusion of Art, Science, and Spiritual Wisdom, evoking the alchemist’s symbolic quest: to turn lead into gold, transmute the base into the noble. MAGICK is a fun word that suggests serendipity, spontaneity, creativity and productivity beyond all expectations.

Magic permeats the web, and is central to the informal metaphors with which we understand it. From wizards to codes and formulas, secret passwords and levels and tiers of security, the web-culture connects to the myths beyond science in order to make itself comprehensive to the layman. And it's perhaps the medium where we find the most public discussions of and papers on magick, not to mention the online shopping.

This might explain some of the popularity of medieval-like environments in games and chats. Pre-renaissance magic was real and expected, and it was how reality was perceived, explained and understood. The renaissance was a renewal of supposedly logical explanations and thinking, among other things the causal linearity. Medieval art as well as science was not linear and prioriticed differently, very much in the manner of a hypertext. Meaning was created through positioning, through references to other works, through proximity and distance, through similarity and absence, rather than by linearity and causality. This reminds me strongly of the nature of the world wide web, but also of the memex machine . The computer is created to promote a logic not based on causality and linearity, but on the workings of the human mind - that must magic and terrifying of all dungeons humanity have yet to explore.

No comments: