miercuri, 5 mai 2010

All that is real melts into simulacra

Going back to the beginning of his "postmodern" phase, Baudrillard starts his important essay "The Precession of the Simulacra" by recounting the feat of imperial map-makers in an story by Jorge Luis Borges who make a map so large and detailed that it covers the whole empire, existing in a one-to-one relationship with the territory underlying it. It is a perfect replica of the empire. After a while the map begins to fray and tatter, the citizens of the empire mourning its loss (having long taken the map - the simulacrum of the empire - for the real empire). Under the map the real territory has turned into a desert, a "desert of the real." In its place, a simulacrum of reality - the frayed mega-map - is all that's left.

The term "simulacrum" goes all the way back to Plato, who used it to describe a false copy of something. Baudrillard has built his whole post-1970s theory of media effects and culture around his own notion of the simulacrum. He argues that in a postmodern culture dominated by TV, films, news media, and the Internet, the whole idea of a true or a false copy of something has been destroyed: all we have now are simulations of reality, which aren't any more or less "real" than the reality they simulate.

In our culture, claims Baudrillard, we take "maps" of reality like television, film, etc. as more real than our actual lives - these "simulacra" (hyperreal copies) precede our lives. Our television "friends" (e.g. sit-com characters) might seem more alive to us than their flesh-and-blood equivalents ("did you see what Jerry/Rachel/Frasier did last night?"). We communicate by e-mail, and relate to video game characters like Lara Croft better than our own friends and family. We drive on freeways to shopping malls full of identical chain stores and products, watch television shows about film directors and actors, go to films about television production, vote for ex-Hollywood actors for president (is he really an actor? Or a politician? It doesn't matter). In fact, we get nervous and edgy if we're away too long from our computers, our e-mail accounts, our cell phones. Now the real empire lays in tatters, the hyerreal map still quite intact. We have entered an era where third-order simulacra dominate our lives, where the image has lost any connection to real things.

Doug Mann: Baudrillard: A Very Short Introduction.

2 comentarii:

Anonim spunea...

Cum ar spune Marx si urmasii sai, reificare ;)

Turambar spunea...

Neah. Fics pe dos. Virtualizare. Ecranul de sticla groasa pe care il purtam in jurul nostru ori de cite ori interactionam cu lucrurile din jurul nostru.

Everything comes muffled thru it.