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Tarot and Social Media?

The next speaker in this Social Media and Society session is Karen Gregory. Her past research has been with esoteric practitioners in New York City, in the wake of the global financial crisis: these were women who learnt tarot card reading as a new profession in an unstable job market. Tarot itself can be understood as a social medium: it was played by nobles in the 15th century as a game that enabled social interaction; it is used today as a self-help technique that serves as a social commentary and 'has a bit of Facebook built into it', Karen suggests.

Whether people believe in tarot hardly matters in this context: the cards are an aleatory technology, and prompt self-reflection; there is a temporality involved in the repeated card-flipping, as contained in every flip is the past, present, and possible future. More recently, tarot learner communities have moved online and onto Facebook, and are now sharing their ideas and knowledge through this medium, and indeed this has provided them with a new space to advertise their services, share their esoteric knowledge, and market themselves.

They refer to themselves in part as the 'Oprah generation', because they are influenced by the way Oprah's guests market themselves through networks. Karen points to the 'tarot diva' Sasha Graham as a typical example for this self-promotion through social and online media: this is the establishment of a public persona as a tarot reader.

These personal narratives are stories of emotional, immaterial, affective, entrepreneurial, and hope labour in an economy dominated by casino capitalism: these people, whose lives have been disrupted by the financial crisis, are speculatively reinventing themselves as tarot readers in hopes of making this persona professionally and financially viable. This itself is an enormous card flip.