Author Topic: Understanding Baudrillard's Theory  (Read 139 times)

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Understanding Baudrillard's Theory
« on: November 04, 2019, 08:16:06 pm »
Baudrillard’s arguments in “The Precession of Simulacra”, the first section of Simulacra and Simulation, are initially impenetrable. They then begin to appear uncomfortable and contentious. The reader, then, finally begins to engage critically with the notion of simulacrum, and appreciate its relevance to modern society.

The first difficulty encountered is to try to pinpoint whether Baudrillard is making a claim about some new development in society, or whether he is simply developing previous ideas to theorize about the contemporary. It is clear that Baudrillard wants to make a claim about a cultural shift in postmodernity that is marked by something that is entirely different from the culture of previous eras. Simulacrum is not simply a development from simulation. It is a seismic shift in cultural understanding: “the most beautiful allegory of simulation… has now come full circle for us, and possesses nothing but the discrete charm of second-order simulacra” (Baudrillard, Page1). Similarly, Baudrillard is arguing that the idea of the referential object, that which is being represented, “disappears” (Baudrillard, Page1–3). Baudrillard’s thesis is that postmodernity and contemporary culture is profoundly different and new. There is no longer a real that is being represented, because signs of the real have replaced the real. Thus, “never again will the real have the chance to produce itself” (Baudrillard, Page2). In its place is a hyper-real: “a hyper-real henceforth sheltered from… any distinction between the real and the imaginary” (Baudrillard, Page2–3). Initially, this perplexing argument can seem unsustainable, contentious and uncomfortable, since it is an argument that culture lacks any real depth. Instead, society is made up of surface. Layer upon layer of representation has buried the real, and sent reality hurtling into the hyper-real world of simulacrum.

This is an uncomfortable notion at first, since there is a near-universal human preference for the “authentic”, the “real”. These are highly marketable commodities and ideas. It is much easier to sell something as being the “authentic” look or sound of some thing than it is to consumers and audiences something as the “synthetic” or “fake” look or sound of some thing. This hierarchy where real and authentic are privileged over synthetic and fake is what makes Baudrillard’s arguments so contentious and uncomfortable. There is a desire to resist and refute them, because human nature does not want to accept that there may be nothing real, no authentic referential point. There is a human wish to hold onto the hierarchy of some things being real and genuine, and thus good; and some things being synthetic representations and false, and thus bad, or at least inferior. Baudrillard’s concept of simulacrum and of the hyper-real threatens this hierarchy, and thus is controversial and uncomfortable.

There is, however, an uncomfortable truth in Baudrillard’s arguments. For example, Baudrillard discusses the experiment by American TV producers to film the Loud family for seven months in 1971 (Baudrillard, Page27–32). This may have been original in 1971, but it has now spawned an entire genre: “reality television”. The most obvious example of this genre is the television show, “Big Brother”, created by a Dutch producer in 1997, and exported worldwide in the following years. Baudrillard’s analysis of the Loud family would be just as accurate if he was describing Big Brother. Baudrillard argues that what is most “interesting is the illusion of filming… as ‘if TV weren’t there’. The producer’s triumph was to say: ‘they lived as if we were not there.’ An absurd, paradoxical formula” (Baudrillard, Page28), Baudrillard concludes. “Reality TV” — either the Loud family or Big Brother and etc. it present a very obvious example of simulacrum. In these shows, the aim to show something real, something genuine, something authentic. They attempt to show life how it is lived in the real, unscripted world. It is the antithesis to scripted TV drama. However, the real cannot survive, what Baudrillard calls, “excessive transparency” (Baudrillard, Page28). In order for something to exist as real, it cannot be exposed to the unnaturalness of permanent exposure.

This is analogous to Baudrillard’s idea of the “paradoxical death” of the ethnology of primitive cultures (Baudrillard, Page7–14). By encountering the Tasaday tribe, who had lived for eight centuries without any contact with humans, ethnography had the opportunity to study a tribe in their primitive state. However, in interacting with a primitive tribe, the tribe loses its virginity: “in order for ethnology to live, its object must die; by dying the object takes its revenge for being “discovered” and with its death defies the science that wants to grasp it” (Baudrillard, Page7). Ethnography is, ultimately, left without its object of study, because the subject is no longer primitive and no longer without contact with outsiders.

Both the examples of “reality TV” and ethnography may seem peripheral to daily life. However, simulacrum does have very real examples in our everyday life. Baudrillard’s opening example of the map is a good example of this (Baudrillard, Page1–3). The aim of the map is to represent the territory it depicts. The map acts “the double, the mirror” of the real thing (Baudrillard, Page 1). However, when maps are so ubiquitous, so accessible and so detailed, they cease to represent the world. Instead, the world is approached first through the map. Prior to experiencing a new place, one experiences it by taking a walk through the place in Google maps. One can rotate the view to see whatever one wants to see, and see areas that one might not be able to see if one actually visited that place. Thus, the pre-gazed upon map shapes expectations and understanding of the place before it is visited. The place is not viewed through virgin eyes, but through the pre-conceived idea of what the place is like based on how it appeared in Google maps.

Baudrillard’s theory of the role of simulacrum in structuring our lives is pertinent. It is unsettling; however, the “reality” that the “real” is only experienced after it is experienced in the virtual is a defining feature of contemporary postmodern society.

Works Cited

Baudrillard, Jean. Simulacra and simulation. University of Michigan press, 1994, Page 1–42.

Taken from an article entitled 'A Basic Understanding to Baudrillard’s Theory' by Ruby Z on Medium.com

Re: Understanding Baudrillard's Theory
« Reply #1 on: February 18, 2020, 12:38:25 pm »
If this world really is a simulation, comprised of agreed-upon meanings, the "filling in" of blanks, and all comes down to mass perception, as well as the exclusion of the things that are supposedly not part of this reality, how do we go about exploring what is actually all around us, what ISN'T, and the real, invisible-to-our-naked-eye goings on "out there"?

It's almost like what we can't see isn't real, because we simply cannot verify its existence with our more pronounced physical senses. We have come to understand what air is (or wind) but we can't "see" it. How many other things exist all around us, that we can't wrap our heads around? It could be many, it could be none...but I'm I'm doubtful it's none.

Not long ago, we believed going out into the open seas was a death sentence, that one's ship was sure to fall off the edge of the planet. That really wasn't long ago.

Can't we think harder? Doesn't more work have to be done, to uncover the nature of what exactly is going on here? We're at a stage as a species where we seem to have plateaued. And for all the protestations to the contrary, and the belief in how far we've progressed, we are living in a dark age. One in which we are giving ourselves over to minuscule devices that either hold our attention - or incessantly break our focus - depending on how you look at the situation.

Can't we come up with a way to truly explore the avenues we just haven't gone down before? I know I want to step it up. Who's with me, and how do we proceed?

Metron

  • Guest
Re: Understanding Baudrillard's Theory
« Reply #2 on: February 18, 2020, 06:01:17 pm »
If this world really is a simulation, comprised of agreed-upon meanings, the "filling in" of blanks, and all comes down to mass perception, as well as the exclusion of the things that are supposedly not part of this reality, how do we go about exploring what is actually all around us, what ISN'T, and the real, invisible-to-our-naked-eye goings on "out there"?

It's almost like what we can't see isn't real, because we simply cannot verify its existence with our more pronounced physical senses. We have come to understand what air is (or wind) but we can't "see" it. How many other things exist all around us, that we can't wrap our heads around? It could be many, it could be none...but I'm I'm doubtful it's none.

Not long ago, we believed going out into the open seas was a death sentence, that one's ship was sure to fall off the edge of the planet. That really wasn't long ago.

Can't we think harder? Doesn't more work have to be done, to uncover the nature of what exactly is going on here? We're at a stage as a species where we seem to have plateaued. And for all the protestations to the contrary, and the belief in how far we've progressed, we are living in a dark age. One in which we are giving ourselves over to minuscule devices that either hold our attention - or incessantly break our focus - depending on how you look at the situation.

Can't we come up with a way to truly explore the avenues we just haven't gone down before? I know I want to step it up. Who's with me, and how do we proceed?

Yes we have hit a plateau of sorts, sadly however it's a tar baby of a plateau, the kind of technological distraction that acts like quicksand for the soul and draws farther from each other with each simultaneous social media exertion.



You've seen it enough to know it's so - we tear into each other with reckless abandon as our device-driven "reality" is a space where we never really have to gauge a real emotion with anything more granular than an emoticon.  :-\

So we go on to social media, overshare as a form of overcompensation for emotional needs unmet.

Step it up?

Meditate. 8)

I've given this answer before but it holds. Stilling the internal dialog of the mind is critical.

Want to make tech work FOR us in such a practice? Sure you do, so how about making it instant feedback friendly using one of these:



Well then good sir (to invoke Ben Franklin) I've given you a savior device, will you let it work for you?

 :o

Re: Understanding Baudrillard's Theory
« Reply #3 on: February 18, 2020, 10:28:22 pm »
If there were an emerging-from-Platos-cave moment would we(at least in our current form) be capable of handling it?

Metron

  • Guest
Re: Understanding Baudrillard's Theory
« Reply #4 on: February 18, 2020, 10:41:25 pm »
No, not presently. :-\

Re: Understanding Baudrillard's Theory
« Reply #5 on: February 19, 2020, 05:52:27 pm »
If there were an emerging-from-Platos-cave moment would we(at least in our current form) be capable of handling it?

Pro'ly not.

Meditation Myth?
« Reply #6 on: February 19, 2020, 05:56:50 pm »
No, you don’t have to Meditate to be Happier or More Successful.

The meditation hype is causing its own kind of anxiety

It seems like every productivity/business/entrepreneurship book, podcast, conference or TED talk I look at today has the same solution to being a more successful, happier, saner person, it’s easy really: Just meditate for 20 minutes once or twice per day.

It’s not that I don’t believe in the power of mindfulness, it’s simply that meditation as a practice doesn’t fit with where I currently am in my life! I’m too excited, too optimistic and enthusiastic to sit still… maybe even too young.

Over the last few months I’ve come to terms that meditation is just not for me right now but I still need ways to make sure i’m not always in a reactionary mode.

Have “No Podcast” moments while commuting, cooking, cleaning or going to the gym

I’m a podcast freak, I’m subscribed to about 50 podcasts and never run out of content to consume. I rarely have a gym session or work commute without a podcast blasting information into my head. I love it. Here’s the problem though: podcasts also act as a great “thought numbing” device. The noise stopping you from being in the moment, from really focussing on what you’re actually doing.

I’m not saying to quit listening to podcasts, but to try to consciously decide on having ‘no podcast’ moments while cooking, for example. You’ll find that letting your mind wander while focussing on a repetitive task really isn’t such a bad thing.

Take a weekend break, away from home, alone

One of the most productive and ‘mindfull’ weekends of my life was a 2-day lone visit to Amsterdam. I hadn’t planned on being there, but I decided to extend my trip after a running a workshop during the week and realising that I really wanted to explore more of the city.

I spent 2 days just walking around, buying books, reading and walking some more. I didn’t visit anyone, didn’t make plans, just walked around alone. I’m not saying this is anything comparable to meditation, but if you, like me, are rarely alone, the whole experience of essentially not talking for 2 days is something extremely calming for the mind, even if it’s very strange at first.

I would suggest, if you’re going to try something like this, not to listen to podcasts or music as you walk around. Just focus on taking in the scenery, observing the people and really being where you are. In general, i’m starting to get the feeling that podcasts, even though I love them, are secretly killing our ability to be comfortable with quiet moments with no input.

Draw or Paint

Get a piece of paper, a few pens, and start drawing. Don’t know what to draw? Find something you’d like to copy and start trying to draw that. I do recommend listening to some music while drawing (A band called Dreyma are a nice pick). Drawing puts me in a hyper-focussed state, my mind is thinking of nothing but how to draw what’s on the page. It doesn’t matter if you suck, or have never sketched something before, just give this one a try and see how you feel after 30 minutes.

Write

Writing, even writing this article is a complete mind-calmer for me. Writing fiction, however, has an even greater effect. I write a lot of crappy short stories (which I never publish) just because I enjoy the process. My advice is to set a timer, get some paper and just start writing. It usually takes me about 10 minutes to even find a topic I want to write about and that’s not a problem. This exercise is not about creating anything good, it’s just about creating.

Play Music

I never feel more at-ease and non-reactive than when I sit down to play guitar or piano. If you can play an instrument, this is an amazing way to put your mind into a transe-like state. Don’t know what to play? Find the chords or notes to a song you like, learn it and play it over and over. I really don’t do this enough but I always feel amazing after playing the same Radiohead song over and over for an hour.

Jog or Walk (No Podcast, No Music)

Go for a long jog or a long walk with no input. I’m not going to go ahead an explain this one because it’s pretty much the same principles as explained before.

Don’t feel bad if you don’t meditate

The first thing you need to know about Meditation-Anxiety is that it exists. Most entrepreneurs I know wish they could meditate more, many beat themselves up about it.
Here’s the thing, maybe you’ll get into meditation 10 years from now, or maybe it’ll never be your thing. What’s important is that you really shouldn’t be feeling stressed about the thing that’s supposed to reduce your anxiety, help you live in the moment and make you happier. There are other ways to be mindful, reduce anxiety and pull yourself out of a reactive state.


Metron

  • Guest
Re: Understanding Baudrillard's Theory
« Reply #7 on: February 19, 2020, 06:13:38 pm »
No beef with any of those suggestions, or simply listening to the birds and lurking the shoreline alone - all paths to quiescence of the mind are good paths.


Re: Understanding Baudrillard's Theory
« Reply #8 on: February 19, 2020, 06:18:26 pm »
I didn't mean to spark beef neither, just offering an alternative perspective...


Metron

  • Guest
Re: Understanding Baudrillard's Theory
« Reply #9 on: February 19, 2020, 09:08:06 pm »
I didn't mean to spark beef neither, just offering an alternative perspective...



Heh, just don't marry a human caramel...  ;)




They look OK plated but the Carville scale of partisan "outrage" is on the Habanero end of the spectrum.

 ;D ;D