Digital Superstitions: Form Giving and Setting

I’ve been thinking a lot about my digital superstitions project. There are several outstanding questions for this work:

Form – What will the artifacts look like? I think the sweet spot here is something between familiar and unfamiliar. Superstitions are rooted in culture, history, and personal beliefs, and so it wouldn’t make sense for it to be overtly foreign. To try and figure this out, I’ve been looking into the form of superstitious objects people have now. There are a couple of categories:

a) Religious objects – In every religion, there are rituals and icons that can help users achieve desired outcomes. For example, a small St. Christopher medal is said to help travelers. These icons can have a number of forms, though statues and pendants are common.

b) Historically lucky (no longer meaningful) – Do you know why a rabbit’s foot would be good luck? A horse shoe? No? Me neither. At one point, there were beliefs tied to these objects that explained their luckiness. However, they have lost that meta-information over time. All we have left is the knowledge that these objects bring good luck. Interestingly, these objects also seem to have a high degree of buy in from people. These objects tend to have the form of decorative or whimsical objects.

c) Personally significant – These are objects whose significance is particular to one person. A lucky shirt, the lunch box your mom bought you, etc etc. In terms of form, there are a lot of possibilities for how this could be embodied.

Setting – I’m also interested in the settings in which people will use these objects. There seems to be some continuity in when/where people currently use superstitious objects.

a) The home and the places we live. This includes statues, lucky clothing, decorations, imagery. The home is a big canvas for these objects.

b) On the body. Tattoos are a common example, as are things we keep in our wallet and pockets, and the things we wear on our bodies.

c) The larger environment. Some people believe that landmarks or public objects are lucky (see John Harvard’s statue in Harvard Yard).

Impact – The last question I wanted to investigate was whether or not these objects would actually work. I have decided that they do not work, but are inspired by objects that can impact a data predictive future.


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