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Modern Magics: Examining Occult Infrastructure

  • Author(s): Slaughter, Richard Aubrey
  • Advisor(s): Bowker, Geoffrey
  • et al.
Creative Commons 'BY-NC-SA' version 4.0 license
Abstract

Infrastructures are vast, relatively obscure systems that subtend our everyday. Infrastructures are often built to be hidden from view, or become relatively invisible through familiarity. Users of infrastructural systems are unable to directly examine infrastructures and their relations to the human. As a result, adaptive and creative infrastructural imaginaries are deployed in order to render otherwise occult infrastructures relatively relatable to the anthropic. While this is an ongoing concern for users of technical infrastructures, magical practitioners of various traditions have historically dealt with occult infrastructures and their imaginaries. The purpose of this dissertation is to analyze how these practices aid users in effectively relating to infrastructural systems. This project examines conceptions of infrastructure in both technical and magical contexts through the use of manual and automated qualitative methods. Using EmPath, a neural network designed for the qualitative assessment of texts, I analyzed data from university students and magical practitioners pertinent to their relations towards infrastructural systems. I theorize that human relations towards occult infrastructures can be understood through an extension of Daniel Dennett’s typology of the perceived intentionality in relatively agential systems, and argue that magical practices aid in the this process of rendering occult infrastructures relatable to the anthropic.

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