Maria Saridaki

Maria Saridaki

maria and marzia

Learning from the Source: from rituals to hybrid reality design

What can immersive experience design learn from ceremonial occult experiences? For decades our efforts to create immersive and meaningful interactive experiences have mostly failed. In this lecture we will present how we used the wisdom, care and purpose of ritualistic design in an effort to inspire and guide artists and designers that work with augmented and virtual reality. Magical practices, as manifested through occult ceremonies, have connected the internal with the communal, the ‘real’ world with the ‘other’, a new state of existence to which one arrives through the transformative ceremonial experience, a metamorphosis. Extended Reality (XR) often offers to participants a similar experience, transferring experiencers from the real world into the virtual, where narrative and interactions engage the participants in meaning making, eventually helping them to form new understanding and reality tunnels. In magical practices this state is referred to as an alternate state of consciousness, a change in the individual’s pattern of mental functioning. Altering participants’ state of emotion, mind and reality according to their will, is a common goal to the magician and the experience designer. Dion Fortune in 1934 paraphrased the famous Crowley statement, defining magic as ‘the art of causing changes to take place in consciousness, in accordance with will’, and it could easily be seen as a wonderful piece of advice for the XR design neophyte. Ceremonial magic and technology have been flirting since the dawn of the new millennium. ‘Technowitches’ like Patricia Telesco and Sirona Knight promoted the wide range of domestic appliances such as mobile phones and microwaves that can act as magical media. Neopagan authors have encouraged city-dwellers to form a psychic bond with electrical and mechanical objects, pushing for an acknowledgement of our techno-centric reality. Zoom and Discord are being used for rituals, apps for divination, sigil making and servitor creation are available and artists have used amazingly each new medium to form their craft. In our efforts for the last two years we worked closely with occultists, designers and practitioners, sketching an initial theoretical framework for applying ceremonial magic design to XR experience design, by drawing on occult rituals design components. We will share our findings, after applying this framework to: 1) a summer school of public game design and rituals in Eleusis the city of Mysteries and 2) the performative XR ritual OTHERWORLDS by the artist Sophia Bulgakova (2022), that offered a multidimensional participatory paganist performance within virtual and physical realities. We will look at our observations regarding onboarding and offboarding, personal and communal, liminalities, embodiment, haptic experiences, space-making and the importance of time, trust and transitions. Our aim is to invite practitioners from all traditions and paths to share their wisdom and experience, and be part in this open source framework of experience, connecting and creating new and existing worlds.


Maria Saridaki, PhD Maria is a researcher and curator of playful interactions, working on their different applications within and beyond the digital world. She has a PhD in inclusive interactions and a post-doc on digital storytelling. Since 2000, she has been blending occult practices with playfulness, looking for meaningful encounters and temporary playful zones in personal and public spaces. Since 2007, she has worked with communities, organizations and artists in different cities around the globe, building projects, festivals, workshops, strategies and playful temporary experiences. She is the artistic director of TRUST IN PLAY: European School of Urban Game Design and she is still in love with cities, liminalities and temporary spaces of metamorphosis and solidarity.

 Mariza Dima, PhD Mariza is an interaction designer and Lecturer in Games Design with a focus on Creative Technology for Games at Brunel University London. With a background in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) and User Experience design, she has worked with physical, mobile, and haptic interfaces to serve interactions in socio-cultural contexts, prominently in performance art, cultural heritage and social innovation. Mariza has led several projects in partnership with prestigious theatrical companies, museums, cultural organisations, SMEs, and visual arts institutions, and published widely on audience engagement, digital media and immersive technologies. She is currently investigating design frameworks that borrow from dramaturgy and affective storytelling to create immersive experiences with smart glass Augmented Reality technology.

Blessed Y’all Be