Baudrillard, Simulations (Rachel)
September 28, 2004
Simulations by Jean Baudrillard
Publication Date: 1983
Length: 159 pages
Simulations consists of two main sections, the first titled The Precession of Simulacra and the second titled The Orders of Simulacra. Baudrillard’s focus in the first section of this book is to introduce the concept that the world in which we live consists of images and signs that have disengaged themselves from “reality.” The new postmodern world is made up of simulations that are not based on “reality” but are devised by our imaginations. For example, he believes that in the past a map was a representation of reality itself. Today it is too difficult to distinguish between reality and the image of reality due to simulation. This blurring of what is “real” and “unreal” is what the author calls “hyperreality.” It is substituting signs of reality for reality itself. He believes that there are four phases of the image. The phases include reflecting a basic reality, masking or perverting a basic reality, masking the absence of a basic reality, and bearing no relation to any reality (its own pure simulacrum).
In the second half of Simulacra, Baudrillard discusses the three orders of appearance, which include Counterfeit, Production and Simulation. Counterfeit is representative of the “classical” period from the Renaissance to the industrial revolution and occurs when a basic reality is masked or distorted. Baudrillard believes that in the Renaissance “the false is born along with the natural.” He introduces the concept of stucco, where castes and artificial signs bind society, where social power is created.
During the industrial revolution, signs did not have to be counterfeited because they were produced on a massive scale. He proposed that through this series of production and reproduction objects became undefined simulacra, one just a copy of the other. Reproduction masks the absence of a basic reality.
The third order, simulation, is the order of the modern world. One must use this model as a point of reference. Things can no longer be based on the order of production, and Baudrillard compares the third order to DNA and codes, where a point of reference no longer exists, where the structure of the sign is digital. He argues that science has become man’s thought process and that everything is presented to us in question and answer form. He believes the answers to the tests we create are predetermined. You can approach a subject at any angle to capture the mood or response you desire! The media use samples, for example public opinion polls, and manipulate “that which cannot be decided.” Any question asked already has a fabricated response. A self-fulfilling prophecy occurs when one uses polling. The question creates the answer.
Throughout Simulations, Baudrillard focuses on media, society, and technology. Current media technology has changed how people think and function. The boundaries between the masses and the media have imploded and it is impossible to separate them. The media reach a huge mass of people, feeding them the same information. In return, the masses make demands on the media as to what they want to view. This exchange between the media and the masses blurs the boundaries of reality.
In society, the vast number of signs and simulations blur the boundaries of reality.
Simulation- the representation of a system that imitates reality
Hyperreality- substituting signs of reality for reality itself
Simulacra- images, signs and codes
School of Thought
Simulations belongs to the postmodern school of thought.
Thoughts Text Triggered
Reading this text reinforced the idea that the media are so intertwined in the reality of our lives that they have become a part of our reality. It is difficult to distinguish between news and entertainment, fact and fiction. Reality TV is simulation at its best, not even reality. This text encouraged me to think about the possibility that things exist in order to prove a reality that is not there. For example, people have created symbols (religious, etc.) to represent a reality that they cannot prove. Overall, this book has opened my eyes to the intellectual changes made by society and it has given me another angle from which I can study the media. Baudrillard’s cynical and somewhat dismal views of the world and the age of digitization are intriguing, leaving readers to ponder whether the reality they have created for themselves could ever be more insane than the reality in which Baudrillard lives.
The context of this book is based in postmodern society and examines mass media and emulsion in the general population.
Applications of Text
Baudrillard’s ideas can virtually be applied to any area of modern society. One application of this text is to the interactions between current media and technology and society. It demonstrates the power of the media to effect changes in society. For example, in the past there was an instance where the media told people that there was an oil shortage. This affected society’s behavior when people reacted to this misinformation. The shaping power of the media is vast and should always be under scrutiny. Another application of the text is the numbing effect the media have on society. Some children, after simulating “reality” through video games, become numb to the violence in the real world. Children have resorted to gun violence without realizing the horror of what they are doing.