Sunday, January 2, 2022

What is 'hyperstition'?

"A hyperstition," Dave Szulborski wrote in This is Not a Game: A Guide to Alternate Reality Gaming (New-Fiction, 2005), "can be loosely defined as a fictional work or belief system that somehow gradually takes on the appearance of reality. Obviously based on the concept of superstition, hyperstition is distinguished by being predominantly digitally spawned and proliferated."

He quotes someone else who said "the practice of hyperstition necessarily involves three irreducible ingredients, interlocked in a productive circuit of simultaneous, mutually stimulating tasks": numogram, mythos, unbelief. (Szulborski attributes this to This website no longer exists in 2022.) He defines these three ingredients:

  • numogram: "the gradual revelation of a belief system or secret knowledge through a numerical and/or symbolic system"
  • mythos: "the cumulative knowledge or narrative that is gathered from multiple sources," serving to question authority, though its own counternarrative may have flaws
  • unbelief: deliberate skepticism; as Coleridge referred to the audience's "suspension of disbelief" when enjoying fiction or drama, this "unbelief" is a "philosophical" application of the general behavior

Dave Szulborski. This Is Not A Game: A Guide to Alternate Reality Gaming. New-Fiction, 2005. was "a forerunner in online hyperstitional enquiry," according to this essay by Caoimhe Doyle and Katherine Foyle, which also pointed me to Szulborski's book.

"Hyperstition is a term that emerged in 2004 around the work of the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit (Ccru). A derivative of 'superstition,' the neologism 'hyperstition' refers to the process of fictions making themselves real."

Caoimhe Doyle and Katherine Foyle. "Murder By Telephone Numbers: Unreason and Serial Killing Through the Work of Douglas Adams." In Serial Killing: A Philosophical Anthology. Edia Connole and Gary J. Shipley, eds. Schism, 2015. p. 409.

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