I was in Year 11 when my best friend asked me what my “Big Six” (the six major planetary placements in my astrological chart) were: Sun, Moon, Ascendent, Mercury, Venus and Mars.
A full astrology chart has twelve placements that are completely unique to us according to location, time, and date of birth. Astrology offers a celestial theory to determine physical characteristics, personality dispositions, and environmental compatibilities. Should we dig a little deeper, we can identify romantic or platonic compatibility, understand the impacts of changing planetary alignments or explore the interaction between each of our placements.
And in 2017, if you took the reading of your astrology chart seriously, then you had Co–Star downloaded on your phone.
Launched in 2017 by NYU psychology graduate, Banu Guler, Co–Star transformed astrology reading’s place in contemporary pop culture. It combined astrology readings with social networking and an aesthetic monochrome design, allowing friends to track and compare astrological charts.
Co-Star is an aesthetic convergence of astrology readings, social networking, and paywall temptations. The app’s distinct aesthetic comprises a completely monochromatic interface, daily mysterious aphorisms, and therapist-like personality reads. But most distinctly, Co–Star offers us the ability to track and compare our friend’s astrological chart.
Co–Star claims that its “powerful natural-language engine uses NASA data, coupled with the methods of professional astrologers, to algorithmically generate insights about who you are and how you relate to others”.
Now although we don’t know the extent of this supposed “NASA data”, it is clear that the combination of social networking, astrology chart breakdowns and a moody aesthetic serves up a hit for the insurrection of the digital Zodiac. Astrology has worked its way into many of our pop-culture references since its initial rise in the 20th century.
However with or without Co-Star, astrology theory has worked its way into many of our pop-culture references. The study and socialisation of astrology has been an oscillating talking point in pop-culture since gaining mass media popularity in the 20th century.
Since 2017, Co–Star has grown immensely. It now boasts more than twenty million downloads and continues to lead the astrology tech market.
The app has a distinct daily message feature which details mysterious Tumblr-like predictions and astrological readings at random times of the day. When asked about her experience with these notifications, a friend, Amelia, said, “I guess the daily notifications became foreboding. If a Co-Star notification popped up with an ominous reading for that day, my mind would begin to cycle through bizarre bad scenarios that had the potential of happening. The notifications could prompt premonitions, when it was probably written at the whim of a copywriting intern – so I deleted the app”.
Not only do we see eerily personalised (or vague depending on your attitude) astrology readings like Amelia’s, but now we face secretive pay-walls that hide your “relationship analysis”.
Accompanying enticing premium content, Co-Star has introduced a shop where you can purchase a personalised report that details your year ahead for $39.99. Or maybe you can test the foundations of your relationship with a duo compatibility check for an inconsequential $4.99. But it gets better. You can now access and read your friend’s relationship secrets if you simply “unlock [them] for $14.99”. The app has taken the commodification of astrology theory so far that in 2018 the New York Times published an article titled, “How Astrology Took Over the Internet”.
In more recent times, Co-Star keeps up with evolving technology developments, releasing an experimental ‘Co-Star: Astrology Vending Machines’. This machine was launched in Manhattan this year and enables users to ask open-ended questions to the stars and instantly receive an answer based on their natal chart information provided.
Traditionally, the practice of astrology and natal chart analysis predates modern science, NASA or vending machines to third century BCE Mesopotamia. It is interesting to consider how contemporary astrology utilises Artificial Intelligence and ‘NASA Data’ when an ancient study of the stars existed so potently.
Regardless, the study eventually made its way to India, then to Greece during the Hellenistic period and only centuries later to the back end of your newspaper in the seasonal column.
The traditionally nuanced cultural aspects of astrology theory has been arguably moulded to the commodification and aesthetic-marketing that contemporary society is willing to pay for. Now, we fall victim to enticing paywalls, revolving TikTok rhetoric and shallow attempts of self-discovery all made palatable by the satisfying colour palette and interface masks like Co–Star.
Asking the [co]star[s] looks a whole lot different.