Baudrillardian simulacrum

‘simulation’ and ‘the hyperreal’

Katie Walsh of the Tribune News Service wrote a review of Barbie with a fascinating sentence. “Our heroine is molded in the style of Neo of ‘The Matrix,’ or Pee-Wee, from ‘Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure,’ an innocent embarking on a journey outside of their cozy Baudrillardian simulacrum.”

I could guess what simulacrum meant. “An image or representation of someone or something.” “Something that replaces reality with its representation.” A caricature could be a simulacrum.

However, I was woefully unfamiliar with Jean Baudrillard (1929-2007). A University of Houston article notes that he “has been referred to as ‘the high priest of postmodernism.’  Baudrillard’s key ideas include…  ‘simulation’ and ‘the hyperreal.’ The hyperreal is ‘more real than real’: something fake and artificial comes to be more definitive of the real than reality itself.  Examples include high fashion (which is more beautiful than beauty), the news (‘sound bites’ determine outcomes of political contests), and Disneyland. “

A piece from Purdue: “What has happened in postmodern culture is that our society has become so reliant on models and maps that we have lost all contact with the real world that preceded the map. Reality itself has begun merely to imitate the model, which now precedes and determines the real world: ‘The territory no longer precedes the map, nor does it survive it. It is nevertheless the map that precedes the territory—precession of simulacra—that engenders the territory.'”

Do I “get” this?

To the degree that I have grasped some of these concepts, I relate to them. I will watch the 22 minutes of network news, recognizing that it’s not even close to the whole story. Social media can obfuscate as much as, or, usually, more than, enlighten the populace.  

There have been times that I would wander in a place I was unfamiliar with, making random left or right turns in a city, for instance. Sure, I could have gotten a map or, more recently, used GPS. But the discovery made the trip more exciting and fun. My wife did this on a walk through Paris this past May. 

The fear of Artificial Intelligence may be encapsulated by this: “These people could get replaced by digital simulacra of them.”WIRED, 27 July 2023.

You, experts of Baudrillard, are encouraged to clarify these concepts for me further. 

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