Posted by: soniahs | September 9, 2010

Exam reading: “Simulacra and simulation”

Jean Baudrillard’s “Simulacra and Simulation” is popular among a certain set of postmodern enthusiasts, including the Wachowski brothers. I won’t go into how this book influenced The Matrix- you can go elsewhere for that.

Here’s my summary:

Summary: Baudrillard’s main concern is for cultural impacts of mass/electronic media. Our culture of simulation has progressed to the point that simulation no longer refers to the real world- it is “hyperreal.” Reality has been replaced by nested systems of sighs, all referring to one another; he calls this “precession of simulacra.” Images began as reflections of reality, became masks for reality, then masks that mask the absence of reality, and are now not related to reality (but to other images). Examples include the Lascaux caves (we now only experience the simulation of Lascaux II) and Disneyland (an imaginary world, set up to mask the fact that America is itself only a simulation, in which people take on roles but never truly interact). In some sense, electronic media make everything a simulation (e.g., political scandals mask broader truths about the capitalist system, nuclear deterrence and how MAD means no one will ever have to use nukes since we know what will happen). He also discusses historical movies, which are more “real” than the reality was; history is no longer an active force-all cultures are congealing into one, and all that’s left is nostalgia. Takes “medium is the message” to extreme: e.g., culture (content) in museums is merely a support for the medium to operate (the visitor experience)- the point is to have visitors, not transmit the culture; also, advertising/propaganda are becoming the dominant features of mass media- publicity is all that matters (not ideas or meanings).

Comments: Briefly discusses how cloning & medical research are another expression of mass-production (reproducible, without aura)- rather than taking a cyborg approach, he links this phenomenon to Benjamin’s ideas. I’m glossing over education- says the only ways for non-conformists to not conform are either dropping out entirely or committing terrorism.

Links to: Benjamin (mass-produced society; body); McLuhan (medium)


  1. i think his main argument of point is that the truth and real is being camouflage by the mass media inside the culture.
    any ideas?
    the BEAST


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