Digital Animism: Towards a New Materialism

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With the advent of ‘the virtual world,’ we have naturally gauged the ‘reality’ of the virtual in terms of how close it comes to empirical experience. However, the common association of the virtual to simulation depends on a representational dualism that reduces it to a simulacrum of reality and prevents us from seeing its real import. Virtuality, rather than related to simulation, refers instead to potentiality. Far from being something that first appears with the digital-virtual as a technological simulation, the virtual constitutes the bare potentiality intrinsic to human experience, always subject to technological modulation. Despite the path of increasing abstraction marked by the evolution of the technologies of communication, I argue that the virtual world, paradoxically, reveals matter as ineluctably vital and in permanent movement and transformation. The digital thus does away with the dualism responsible for the modern disenchantment of nature and—decentering the human, placing it as equally part of a rhizomatic and entangled nature—lays the groundwork for an animistic ontology that is consonant with a new materialism.

Original languageEnglish
Article number264
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2023


  • animism
  • digital life
  • natural religions
  • new materialism
  • philosophy of technology
  • virtuality


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