Who Will Tame the Giants? An Investigation of Principalities and Powers in the Digital Age

Article by Lars Öberg in Scandinavian Journal for Leadership & Theology.

Abstract: This article investigates tech giants such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter in the light of the Pauline concepts of principalities and powers. It is argued that as people subjugate themselves to the digital frameworks of these modern giants, the way they perceive and interact with the world changes. The tech giants, similarly to the giants of mythology, constitute the very “place” where we, as users of the internet, are standing. The study argues that individuals who live their lives according to the frameworks of these modern-day principalities become participating members of the giants’ bodies and are thus influenced by their telos. As people increasingly access the world through these placeless platforms, and thereby giving sustenance to the principalities’ hollow bodies, their own existence becomes more and more disembodied. As modernity recedes, this kind of excarnation seems to have an accelerating effect on the shift in people’s worldview. The world which is formed by the tech giants’ frameworks is found to be less embodied and quite polytheistic. In a final discussion whether it is possible to exorcise or redeem these online principalities and powers the concept of egregore, or shared thought-form, is introduced. It is described how online activists try to manipulate these egregores through the reshaping of viral narratives by means of so-called “meme-magic”. It is concluded, however, that any attempt by the church to exorcise the demonic egregores on their home turf seem to necessitate a participation in the tech giants’ hollow bodies, which in turn might result in a sort of excarnation. A word of warning is therefore given against over-estimating one’s capacity to tame the tech giants through any form of social exorcism or political action.