During the past several years, quite a number of books and essays have come out about connections between African diasporic cultures, and computer and digital technology. For example, Ron Eglash wrote “African Fractals,” a book on the similarities between African fractal designs in such things as textiles and braids, and modern computer designs.
Since he mentioned braids and textiles, I thought of weaving in general and the animal known for weaving — the spider. In cultures all over the world, gods and other figures are known for weaving living things into existence, such as The Fates (Morai) in Greek and Neith in Egypt. In West African culture, there is the mother spider, Dada, of Dogon culture and the trickster, Anansi, of Ashanti, Akan and other diasporic cultures. Actually, a spider web is a fractal-like design. Eglash’s book hints at the relationship between the internet and world wide web, self-repeating or self-regulating system, and the significance of the spider, crossroads and tricksters in African-derived religions.
For instance, cultural writer Erik Davis wrote a few articles on the trickster and African diasporic influence on cyberspace, including “Trickster at the Crossroads: West Africa’s God of Messages, Sex and Deceit” and ““Roots and Wires”: Polyrhythmic Cyberspace and the Black Electronic.” The trickster is the god of communication, the perfect symbol for the internet, but just like the trickster, communication and the internet are “tricky.” The spider web is a trick, trapping unsuspecting prey.
In Stephen D. Glazier’s “Encyclopedia of African and African-American Religions,” there is a section on “Cyberspace, African and African-derived Religions.” He speaks about the modern diasporic religions are “African digital diasporic religions,” which ties itself to the upcoming documentary, “The United States of Hoodoo” about the modern manifestations of voodoo in American culture. As Glazier, Cyberanthropologist Steve Mizrach discusses in “The Ghost in the Machine: Haitian Voudoun and the Matrix,” how William Gibson‘s Neuromancer and Count Zero, which took from elements of Vodou culture, popularized the term cyberspace. Mizrach also relates the matrix, which means mother or womb, to the trickster and crossroads. Even in our current high-tech world, we never disconnected ourselves from the past; those aspects of our cultures seeped their way in.