Fake Real, or Real Fake?

Gregory Halenda '08, English 65, The Cyborg Self, Brown University, Spring 2005

Cyberspace & Critical Theory

In "Simulacra and Simulations" Jean Baudrillard attempts to show how many concepts of everyday life are no longer real, but rather simulations. In fact, Baudrillard claims that simulations and the real can longer be delineated; as technology improves the difference between the two is growing more and more unclear. One of his better examples involves simulating a bank robbery:

Go and organize a fake hold up. Be sure to check that your weapons are harmless, and take the most trustworthy hostage, so that no life is in danger (otherwise you risk committing an offence). Demand ransom, and arrange it so that the operation creates the greatest commotion possible. In brief, stay close to the "truth", so as to test the reaction of the apparatus to a perfect simulation. But you won't succeed: the web of artificial signs will be inextricably mixed up with real elements (a police officer will really shoot on sight; a bank customer will faint and die of a heart attack; they will really turn the phoney ransom over to you). In brief, you will unwittingly find yourself immediately in the real, one of whose functions is precisely to devour every attempt at simulation, to reduce everything to some reality: that's exactly how the established order is, well before institutions and justice come into play.


Does this example effectively show how the real and the simulated have become one and the same?

What if one was to consider this situation a real fake hold up, rather than a fake real hold up. Does this undermine Baudrillard's argument?

Would cyberspace as described in William Gibson's Neuromancer world be an example of the hyperreal, a simulation, or a simulacra? Or is it just real?

How does the fake hold up where the robber is actually shot by the police compare to Bobby Newmark from William Gibson's Count Zero? If Bobby isn't actually physically entering a building and taking things, does his attack through cyberspace and his following dance with death correlate to the simulated robbery example?

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Last modified 7 March 2005