The Wheel of Fortune
Early on in my study of all things media, I became fascinated with the concept of a tarot of the news. In fact, one of the first papers I wrote was a test run of a thesis proposal entitled “Tarot of the News: Readers, Querents and New Literacy.”
This tarot concept is a way of modeling the feedback loops that occur in digital news. It ended up being the seed for my thesis, which I am presently researching. Of course, the idea has broadened and expanded in many ways. But I still find myself fascinated with what happens in a tarot reading.
To my knowledge, there never has been a good study of the tarot from a media or philosophical perspective. It’s an area that begs for a thorough semiological, structuralist account. After all, a tarot reading is nothing more than the construction of a syntagmatic chain of meaning. What is different about it is that the signifiers themselves are not firmly anchored to their signifieds. “Cat” readily brings to mind a cat. But what does The Magician signify in a tarot reading?
In fact, the entire game of tarot is a fixing of meaning that requires a starting point of ambiguous polysemy. Good readers are skilled in the art of reading other people and using these cues to whittle down the inherent polysemy of the cards and create a meaningful “sentence” in the cards.
How does this apply to the news? It’s an analogy, and any analogy can be pushed too far. However, there are interesting similarities between the environment or ecology of the tarot reading process and the environment/ecology of news production. As always, representation is a problematic. For tarot, the question is does the reading reflect the querent’s life or destiny? For news, does the content accurately or adequately reflect something true about the world?