Media Reality

Kenneth Coane '10, English 65, The Cyborg Self, Brown University (Fall 2006)

Jean Baudrillard explains in the essay, Simulacra and Simulations, that things that were once a simulation, were designed to represent something, eventually become something new on their own. This is referred to as a simulacra. One of the best examples that are given in the essay is with icons used in religion and how they eventually become the new reality of that religion.

"All of Western faith and good faith was engaged in this wager on representation: that a sign could refer to the depth of meaning, that a sign could exchange for meaning and that something could guarantee this exchange God, of course. But what if God himself can be simulated, that is to say, reduced to the signs which attest his existence? Then the whole system becomes weightless; it is no longer anything but a gigantic simulacrum: not unreal, but a simulacrum, never again exchanging for what is real, but exchanging in itself, in an uninterrupted circuit without reference or circumference."

This principle of simulacra could be applied to most forms of media. For example, television is a form of simulacra, since the shows that depict events, whether fictional or true are not true in the Baudrillard sense of the word. They are always somehow removed from the original, if there is an original to be had in the first place. In fact any media that conveys information, being that it is a "medium" will certainly be removed from the original source of the thing that is being presented in that media. Other examples of media simulacra could be with the internet, radio, or even newspapers.

A terrific example of such, is when someone asks if they've seen or been some place, and the reply is that they've seen it on TV, or saw pictures on the internet. It feels like you know what it's like to have been there, but the actual truth of being there is in beholding it first-hand.

Discussion Questions:

What about if some fictional work was created to be exist solely on a form of media like the internet? Does this type of existence make it a simulacra, or was it never true in the first place?

In Baudrillard's world is anything actually beyond an imitation of anything else?

Could Baudrillard's argument be fundamentally flawed, due to the very loose definitions of reality and virtuality seen in mass media and the internet?

Can things be metaphors or representations of other tangible or intangible objects without becoming simulacra in the Baudrillard sense of the argument?

Website Overview Theory Jean Baudrillard

Last modified 30 December 2006