Magic + Culture (Part I)

Understanding a Spike in Magic Today

With rainbow bagels, unicorn pool floats, and sparkling toast, we’re living though a spike in many-things magical. However when it comes to trend forecasting, value embodies itself not in the what, but in the why? Why is it that we’re seeking a spike in magic today, and more importantly, what does this mean for a change in consumer values?

Well, we can first take a macro pulse and discover, political distrust, health care concerns, global terrorism, media skepticism, voter helpless, a decline in religion on the western front and this newfound age of anxiety. What we’re living through is a seemingly dark, uncertain time.

I say, “seemingly”, not to discredit our current struggles, but to rather acknowledge the new means in which we consume media and gather information today. These new habits magnify our current situations, cranking them up to eleven, and making them more apparent.

That said, in such an illusive time of darkness and uncertainty, as a culture we collectively seek solutions. These solutions include a combination of answers, direction and hope, as they inversely compliment what we are experiencing.

Being the case, it only makes sense that we seek magic in such as time, as magic is an explanation for the inexplicable and a catchall answer to fill voids. How did the coin jump from one hand to the other? While impossible, the answer is simply “magic.”

More so, having spoken to professional magician Mark Lichtenstein, he professes that magic is “inherently optimistic.” When we watch Houdini upside down, tied up, in a glass box full of water, the audience cheers for him. Magic invites a sense of comradery and hope to the resolution Additionally, looking at NetBase social listening data, conversation around “magic” and its use in online social interactions is significantly positive. Magic is our lightness and answer and in this time of darkness and uncertainty.

However, while we can consider a societal climate where many are in a prying search for answers, we can also consider an opposing perception. We’re simultaneously living in a time where every answer imaginable is available with a mobile Google search. We’re also drowning in algorithms while Netflix and Spotify recommend answers before we’ve even asked the question, and we’ve been granted infinite memory. Furthermore, with the increase in quantifiability and an always on lifestyle, as we live in a time painted by uncertainty, we’re also living in a time painted by over-certainty.

In this sense, we therefore seek a different combination to again inversely compliment what we are experiencing. Here we seek the unknown, mysticism and escapism to reconcile our burden of an avalanche of answers.

Magic also acknowledge the other side of coin. While magic can act as a solution, it can also act as a questionable resolution. Magic is this fictional stretch and escape, where we use the term to make sense of things we don’t understand. It only makes sense that we would rely upon such an esoteric, colorful art as it provides a escape from today’s black and white 0’s and 1’s.

Conclusively, magic acknowledges both our search for answers and non-answers, providing lightness for our current darkness and darkness for our concurrent lightness.

In Part II, I explain why we are witnessing a specific style of magic.