Cyberspace & Critical Theory

Simulated Death

jesse chan-norris (

What happened was simple enough. An email, apparently misaddressed, appears, and it seems to be some sort of internal corporate document. The mail is dismissed as some sort of weird mail routing error, and forgotten, or perhaps a nice reply is sent off informing the person of this error. It's a done deal. Following that, however, was a sequence of emails from other people at this organization, up to one which stated that the sender of the original mail was dead. The story goes on from there, with emails back and forth between people in this organization and the recipient of their mails. Talk of internal investigations, what was discussed with the original sender of the email, and the possibly joining the organization. All of this, and then, one day, a final email stating

You were amused. You were spooked. You were hooked. You were pitched...

So what does this mean? Here we have an actual email, which deals with an imaginary situation occuring within an imaginary organization and imaginary people. The conversation existed, but the situation was a simulation. So does that make for a simulated conversation as well? Does this differ from Baudrillard's simulated holdup? In that situation, the actual event still takes place. Regardless of whether or not the intent is to simulate the robbing of a bank, the fact does remain that taking money that is not yours out of a bank is still considered a robbery. But what of this case? The case where there was no crime committed, no situation. The recipients of the email took part in an event which never occured.

"It is now impossible to isolate the process of the real, or to prove the real." (21) So we have this situation of real emails sent to real people from people who don't exist about things that didn't exist. So we have a simulated event, and yet, we have real effects on the people watching this all pan out. It is interesting to note then that Baudrillard is right in this case. That here, had the people coordinating this situation not come forward to tell what was really happening, then the simulation would be as real in the minds of the real people as any real situation.

Making this situation even more interesting is that one of the recipients of this email got so fed up with it that he had his brother-in-law send an email to the people with whom he'd be corresponding at this imaginary organization stating that this situation had made him so upset that he had killed himself over it. By counteracting one simulated event with another one, does this make the situation now real, because this person took real action because of the situation by having this email sent, but it too was referencing an event that never happened.

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