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Virtual Spirituality: The Negotiation and (Re)-Presentation of Psychic-Spiritual Identity on the Internet

TitleVirtual Spirituality: The Negotiation and (Re)-Presentation of Psychic-Spiritual Identity on the Internet
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsRyan, T
UniversityUniversity of York
Thesis TypePhD thesis
Keywordscommunities of practice, Facebook, online forums, psychic practices, psychic spirituality, virtual spirituality

This research is an examination of how people engaged in psychic and spiritual interests use the internet to participate as a group through social media. Exploring how individuals take advantage of the opportunities afforded by the internet to pursue their interest in psychic spirituality reveals different ways of participating and interacting online. The ways in which individuals present their psychic-spiritual selves online, how they negotiate their online identities and make sense of their culture, is also examined.

Using an eclectic methodological approach, this research used a combination of ethnographic methods and autoethnography to explore online psychic-spiritual culture. Documentary analysis of website text and images, together with participant observation, both covert and overt, were used to examine websites. Facebook interaction and psychic readings in online discussion board forums based on psychic-spiritual interests were analysed using discourse analysis. Autoethnographic self-reflections were also collected and analysed in order to capture an intrapsychic perspective of psychic reading culture.

It was found that psychic practitioners use their websites to communicate the message that they are credible psychic readers whilst Facebook was found to be a site in which, through a delicate interplay of activity and performance, identity is constructed through interaction between the psychic reader and their Facebook friends. Psychic-spiritual discussion board forums meanwhile are sites of situated learning in which learner psychic readers learn to become appropriate members of the psychic-spiritual milieu. Also, although the sociological analytic mind does not easily accommodate the nature of psychic reading, the study did manage to obtain an intrapsychic perspective on psychic readings. Thus, members of the psychic-spiritual milieu have taken full advantage of the internet to pursue their interest in psychic reading culture.