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Ceci n'est pas New York - Notes on Baudrillard

Notes on Baudrillard - Part 2 [Apr 20] »

We attended a wedding in Vegas last week, and so I thought it was about time I commented on the death of Jean Baudrillard. (The Vegas connection will be apparent soon enough.)

Jean Baudrilard never existed; nor was he a maddening french philosopher; nor a Marxist turned semiotician.

[snip] The recurring theme of Baudrillard’s work is that we live in a world in which representation and simulation have come to dominate over what was once thought of as reality, to the extent that our reality now often is our simulation of it. That’s why it is now not only possible to be “famous for being famous”, but it’s what many young people actively have as an ambition. [/snip]

Baudrillard starts his “The Precession of the Simulacra” by quoting from Ecclesiastes:

The simulacrum is never that which conceals the truth—it is the truth which conceals that there is none.

The simulacrum is true.

This is a false citation, an analogy:

[snip] On the one hand, […] no one even remotely familiar with Ecclesiastes would be taken in by it. But on the other hand, to judge from the plethora of Baudrillard pages on the [Net], many of Baudrillard’s readers seem either to be fooled by the false attribution, or else not to care one way or the other. And maybe that’s Baudrillard’s point: that to the “masses,” Ecclesiastes is no more and no less than the author of the epigraph. [/snip]

Baudrillard recounts the feat of imperial map-makers in a story by Jorge Luis Borges, as follows.

[snip] [They produced] 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 [, a simulation]. After a while the map begins to fray and tatter, the citizens of the empire mourning its loss (having long taken the map 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 MetaMap - is all that’s left. [/snip]

Anyone who has visited Main Street USA in Disney Land, or “the strip” in Las Vegas has flirted with our attraction with simulation. While in Vegas we can be in Venice, Paris, New York, and beyond through time and fantasy. This statement is neither fully true, nor fully false; the distinction is lost in the simulation.

For Baudrillard our postmodern culture is caricatured by News & entertainment, and we mistake these as accurate maps for reality.

Ultimately, I see the Internet as our MetaMap, our HyperReality evolving in an ecstasy of communication. And our map is fraying. It’s hard to know what to believe on the Net, disinformation is rampant (think viral marketing or even Wikipedia). This is not reality.

Welcome to the Simulacrum. We are the map makers.


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