Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Postmodernism Lecture 7 - Hyperreality...

Baudrillard claims that modern society has replaced all reality and meaning with symbols and signs, and that the human experience is of a simulation of reality rather than reality itself.

Baudrillard suggests that the world we live in has been replaced by a copy world, where we seek simulated stimuli and nothing more.

“…his postmodern universe is one of hyperreality in which entertainment, information, and communication technologies provide experiences more intense and involving than the scenes of banal everyday life, as well as the codes and models that structure everyday life. The realm of the hyperreal (e.g., media simulations of reality, Disneyland and amusement parks, malls and consumer fantasylands, TV sports, and other excursions into ideal worlds) is more real than real, whereby the models, images, and codes of the hyperreal come to control thought and behavior…

…In other words, an individual in a postmodern world becomes merely an entity influenced by media, technological experience, and the hyperreal…”

Hyperreality is ‘More real than real…’


The character of Neo is woken up to the fact that the reality that he’s lliving in, is actually a construct. He’s living in a simulation. And then we find out that the real world is actually this dystopian nightmare.

The world that we take for granted is a copy; a simulation. Baudrillard is suggesting the world we live in is nothing more than an unreal world, that is interrogative which allows us to believe it is real.


It was about someone trying to get back to the truth; someone trying to break through the simulation; someone trying to actually get their head into the real world.

Postmodern minds try to get away from the constructed world to see it as it is.


‘Disneyland is a perfect model of all the entangled orders of simulacra. It is first of all a play of illusions and phantasms: the Pirates, the Frontier, the Future World… Disneyland exists in order to hide that it is the “real” country… Disneyland is presented as imaginary in order to make us believe that the rest is real, whereas all of Los Angeles and the America that surrounds it are no longer real, but belong to the hyperreal order and to the order of simulation. It is no longer a question of a false representation of reality… but of concealing the fact that the real is no longer real…’

We know that Disneyland is artificial, it’s a big fantasy place full of European castles. But he argues that all of America is in fact an illusion; it’s all as constructed. It’s just that because Disneyland is clearly hyperreal, we look at Las Angeles and popular culture etc as being concrete and true. He’s arguing that everything is constructed, that everything has moved into a simulation.

Umberto Eco (1932-Present).

“… once the "total fake" is admitted, in order to be enjoyed it must seem totally real. So the Polynesian restaurant will have, in addition to a fairly authentic menu, Tahitian waitresses in costume, appropriate vegetation, rock walls with little cascades, and once you are inside nothing must lead you to suspect that outside there is anything but Polynesia… And if in the wax museums wax is not flesh, in Disneyland, when rocks are involved, they are rock, and water is water… When there is a fake hippopotamus, dinosaur, sea serpent it is not so much because it wouldn't be possible to have the real equivalent but because the public is meant to admire the perfection of the fake and its obedience to the program… A real crocodile can be found in the zoo, and as a rule it is dozing or hiding, but Disneyland tells us that faked nature corresponds much more to our daydream demands. When, in the space of twenty-four hours, you go… from the fake New Orleans of Disneyland to the real one, and from the wild river of Adventureland to a trip on the Mississippi, where the captain of the paddle-wheel steamer says it is possible to see alligators on the banks of the river, and then you don't see any, you risk feeling homesick for Disneyland, where the wild animals don't have to be coaxed. Disneyland tells us that technology can give us more reality than nature can…”

He is discussing how Disneyland makes the world even more vivid than the world is. The problem is that when we’ve been to Disneyland, and we’ve seen nature perfected; when we’ve seen environments at their most perfect, the world that we live in starts to feel less by comparison; the real world that surrounds us starts to feel disappointing, bland and banal.

‘The pleasure of imitation, as the ancients knew, is one of the most innate in the human spirit; but here we not only enjoy a perfect imitation, we also enjoy the conviction that imitation has reached its apex and afterwards reality will always be inferior to it…’

So this made up reality starts to feel superior and preferable to the world in which we actually live.


‘Just outside Disney World, in Florida, you will find the spankingly ever-sowired, futuristic new town of Celebration - the one satirized in the film Shrek. Celebration was the brainchild of Walt Disney himself. He wanted to create a town with a sense of community and cleanliness…

…one clue that there is something a little peculiar about Celebration is that it looks scarily like the suburb that imprisoned Jim Carrey in The Truman Show… Another is the constant hype that Celebration is ‘real’…
… But what really casts doubt on the reality of the place is the way it pretends to some kind of permanence. Most of the homes are designed in turn-of-the century
style, like almost every Disney film you’ve ever seen. The shops have signs with bogus foundation dates like ‘since 1905’ when actually everything is less than five years old. It is designed to give a timeless sense of what smalltown America used to be like - or should have been like… Muzak is piped from speakers built into the roots of the palm trees in the streets…

Disney’s brochures call it a ‘hopscotch-and-tag neighborhood to be viewed from a front porch swing’ and a ‘special place for families … in a time of innocence.’

‘…When some of the families involved decided to pack up and leave, Disney offered to waive the rule that they couldn’t profit from the sale if they left in less than a year - but only on condition they signed a contract promising never to reveal their reasons for wanting to go…

… There are whole phone directories full of rules for residents… These can’t be changed, even by the elected Homeowners’ Association, without the written approval of the company. All power remains behind the scenes with Disney for as long as they want it…’

So this is a real town for real people but actually the truth is that there are rules. To maintain that perfection, certain things have to be managed and taken care of.


‘When people today talk about the real thing… they often mean something old-fashioned. They mean ‘real’ linen sheets or ‘real’ country villages with thatched roofs, of ‘real’ meals of roast beef… The trouble with that kind of real is that it harks back to days where authenticity was bought, either at great expense, or by misusing
women or black people or poor people, to provide these so-called ‘real’ things…

There’s a worrying extreme conservatism that lurks behind this. There are those who believe that an ‘authentic’ English town means that only people of Anglo-Saxon descent live there…’

Where do we get the idea of what is real?

For some people real was actually about suppressing the rights of others. So that real was just a construct, it was just a set of ideas by someone else to present the world in a particular way.

Truth is the one thing that we cannot rely on anymore.

“We live, not inside reality, but inside our representations of it.”

“According to Baudrillard what has happened in postmodern culture is that our society has become so reliant on models and maps [images] that we have lost all contact with the real world that preceded the map.

In his essay, he uses as a metaphor, the story of people who build a full sized map of their world and then they decide not to live in the world, but to live in the map version of the world. And while they’re living in the map version of the world, the real world crumbles and deteriorates. So they move from the reality into the simulation. He uses this to suggest that, that is what we are doing all the time, we are moving away from what is real into existing in a simulation. His problem is that we no longer know the difference between the two things.

“Reality itself has begun merely to imitate the model, which now precedes and determines the real world… It is no longer a question of imitation, nor duplication, nor even parody. It is a question of substituting the signs of the real for the real.

Baudrillard is not merely suggesting that postmodern culture is artificial, because the concept of artificiality still requires some sense of reality against which to recognize the artifice. His point… is that we have lost all ability to make sense of the distinction between nature and artifice.”

He [Baudrillard] argues that there are three "orders of simulacra":

1) in the first order of simulacra… the image is a clear counterfeit of the real;
the image is recognized as just an illusion, a place marker for the real.

2) in the second order of simulacra… the distinctions between the image and the representation begin to break down because of mass production and the proliferation of copies. Such production misrepresents and masks an underlying reality by imitating it so well, thus threatening to replace it. However, there is still a belief that, through critique or effective political action, one can still access the hidden fact of the real.

3) in the third order of simulacra, which is associated with the postmodern age, we are confronted with a precession of simulacra; that is, the representation precedes and determines the real. There is no longer any distinction between reality and its representation; there is only the simulacrum.

We now think this simulation is the world, and real.


It’s there job to ensure the food we eat tastes like we expect it to. They give us the flavours and smells that we associate with real things.

Based on their based about savoury:

“Succulent beef, delicate chicken, and tangy cheese lead the way for IFF’s family of savoury flavour profiles… Whatever your product segment, IFF’s outstanding savoury meat, tomato, dairy, seafood, and vegetable flavours deliver the true taste, aroma, and mouthfeel for every consumer preference.”

Notice the use of the word true in ‘true taste’. This isn’t a company dealing with the reality of food, this isn’t someone giving us a steak, it’s someone giving us a hyper experience of steak; what we would imagine steak to taste like. Recall the scene in The Matrix where they can’t choose between porridge or a fake steak. The idea is, is it a steak if it tastes like a steak.

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