Surviving the Digital Age

An investigation into the history and function of ritual.

Our attention spans are shredded. Our nerves are exhausted. How do we cope, let alone thrive? In this workshop we will examine the history, function, and possibilities of ritual. Through a series of presentations, discussions, and guided exercises, we will consider various acts of communion and devotion through a widescreen frame of social phenomena, psychology, media studies, and classical philosophy that reanimates everything from the I Ching to Dada. Along the way, we will reckon with the role of ritual today, both as a solitary act of self-care as well as its potential for communion among strangers in an increasingly fractured age.

As we contemplate the tactics and concerns of the past, we will track the psychocultural shift from faith in the otherworldly to the city-state to the self and the screen—and we will ask whether we should find our way back again. Sharing the lessons learned from projects such as Before I Die, The Atlas of Tomorrow, and A Monument for the Anxious and Hopeful, we will work together to develop our own exercises that can help us better understand our desires, anxieties, and ideals.

Points of Discussion

  • Society. Mapping the threshold between isolation and community; the role of the commons in our individual and collective well-being. References and sources: Audre Lorde, William James, Richard Sennett, Tristan Tzara and Dada, Jamaica Kincaid, Junot Díaz, Ingmar Bergman, Virginia Woolf
  • Self. A consideration of ritual as a source of ethics, metaphysics, and the occasional existential crisis. References and sources: The I Ching, Descartes, Spinoza, Kant, Schopenhauer, Shunryu Suzuki, Carl Jung, Andre Breton and Surrealism, Thich Nhat Hanh, Albert Camus, Jorge Luis Borges
  • Image. Making peace with the psychic impact of non-stop entertainment, breaking news, and our virtual selves. References and sources: Daniel Boorstin, James Baldwin, Richard Hofstadter, Don DeLillo, Joan Didion, and contemporary critiques of social media and digital culture.
  • Application. Transforming theory into action, designing our personal rituals and developing strategies for collective encounters in our communities.


  • A framework for thinking about the cultural, technological, and psychological forces which shifted the focus from the public realm to the self—and a consideration of the value of anonymity in an age of personal brands
  • An understanding of the ways in which our technologies are amplifying age-old behaviors and rituals—and perhaps creating new ones
  • Inspiration—and a process—for developing your own personal rituals
  • Strategies for transforming the interstitial spaces in your community into places for contemplation and conversation