Simulacra – Perversion of Reality

The concepts Baudrillard writes about in Simulacra and Simulation are hard to grasp at first. After all, no one should be particularly fond of finding out that the world––the reality––in which they live in may very well be the simulacra of another reality. From what I read, it seems to me that Baudrillard’s understanding of simulacra is closer to that of Plato’s than Nietzsche’s. Be that as it may, all three of these philosophers shared the same negative view of simulacra. Baudrillard and Plato particularly wrote about the deceptive power behind a simulacra. From Plato’s point of view, a simulacra that is not entirely the same as the original may be constructed to in fact replace the original. This theory can be applied to Plato’s perception that the world in which we presently live in is in fact a simulacra of the “perfect” world. In other words, our world is a distorted version of a utopian world that exists. However, if you were to take Plato’s example and apply Baudrillard’s theory, than the utopian world that Plato mentions (the original) ceases to exist.  This is due to the simulacra (the hyper real) replacing the original to the point were it becomes the only reality. 

 

If I had to give an example of a simulacra it would not be an object but a truism (of unknown origin, but usually attributed to Winston Churchill) that states, “History is written by the victors.” Simply put, whoever wins (let’s say a war between two countries) gets to decide what events they want to reveal and which ones to hide. This distortion of the events that took place becomes the reality as time passes by. 

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Jean Baudrillard- Simulacra and Simulation

What did I just read?

(Ok, I guess I’ll try this out anyway.)

As far as I can tell, Baudrillard is trying to tell me that a simulacrum is a representation of something either abstract or non-abstract. I’ll use something I’m more familiar with to help explain that: animation. Animation fits to being a simulacrum because it is a representation of ideas, scripts, and art. At least the final product is. What the final animation comes out looking like can be different from what was originally planned. Much like the images of God and Jesus Christ, we depict them in such a way that may be completely contrary from what they actually are. God could be a woman or have no gender, but He is always depicted as male and called “Father.” (I just did it myself by saying “He.”) Jesus is always shown with the same facial features, long hair, and a beard in images. He could have looked opposite than his images in reality (if he did exist at all).

The beginnings of animation are almost always much different from their final products, although the final products represent the work done by the animators as a whole. A good example of this is Disney’s buddy comedy from 2000, “The Emperor’s New Groove.” It was originally called “Kingdom of the Sun,” and featured a darker plot and a love interest. The main villain Yzma (voiced by Eartha Kitt) in the ENG is played as a humorous mad scientist; when in KOS, she was a witch with a history of dealing with the dead.

Despite all the work done in “Kingdom of the Sun,” the end product was “The Emperor’s New Groove.” The movie you can buy at the stores is a simulacrum of the fall outs and successes that happened in the animation studio.

 

Here’s a link to a pencil test of “Kingdom of the Sun.” It is a musical number done by Eartha Kitt that never showed up in the final movie.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hr6MlW5rNYo

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 To be graded Medium

Simulacra and Discussion

“The simulacrum is never what hides the truth-it is truth that hides the fact that there is none. The simulacrum is true.”- Ecclesiastes

                Simulacra are images which appear as something different without actually having that something’s features. It’s the idea that it is a copy with no original. We talked pretty extensively in class on Tuesday about what it means, how we interpret it, and what some examples were. Some of the real life examples mentioned in class included a horn to a horse (unicorn), those people that have surgery to become as close to dolls as possible, and Disneyland. I have a hard time grasping the idea because it raises more questions. For example, to what extent do we judge the original from the idea that it was conceived? If we bind a horn to a horse and somehow manage to sustain life in the horn from the horse, is it now not just a horse with a growth on its head? Or the people that have surgery; even if they have surgery sure they take on the physical appearance of a Ken or Barbie but the “essence” that is Barbie was not only what she looked like it was her lifestyle, the cars she drove or the clothes she wore, I find it hard to believe we could find a blonde actress/pilot/astronaut/doctor/NASCAR driver. But then again she wasn’t actually any of those things, she just had the accessories so it still asks the question of where do you draw the line. To me this was the same with Disneyland. Yes this is an copy that existed without there being an original and that it is functional to what the design would be but it isn’t like the cartoons. I know that when I talk to Goofy or Mickey that there is someone in a suit and dogs/mice don’t talk. So does that make it any less of a simulacrum? Or is that how you draw the line, based solely on functionality and not necessarily on all the details?

 Someone in class even mentioned are we not simulacra ourselves? I thought this was a really interesting question. If I remember correctly the overall premise in the question was if we have an idea of ourselves that we exist a certain way and there was no original for us, are we not simulacra? And this forces the other question of perception. Because we may see ourselves as who we want to be but everybody else can’t see that person, they only see what is here and tangible; and this kind of a difficult concept to grasp.

There was another example mentioned in class of mansions and castles. I am still uncertain of how I fall on that example. The mansions and castles are copies from blueprints or drawings but that’s the only place they existed before and these places become simulacra based on the fact that they won’t actually be “untouched” (that the rooms and furniture only exist the way they do in the pictures). I am still trying to decide where I fall on this topic.

One of the final questions asked was, why do we even care? And I don’t think Baudrillard intended to define every little thing but simply make it apparent that simulacra exist and define this for the purpose of a compare/contrast with simulations and notice that we are exposed on a daily basis. 

 

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Simulacrum….

Simulacrum is an idea, a copy with no original, physically created and is an imitation of something in reality. We were discussing the difference between this and a raw creation or INVENTION. It’s hard to understand where you draw the line because the only difference is that a simulacra is an imitation of something already in reality – hence a copy without an original, because the imitative portion of a simulacra is not present in the original. But, how many people remember a time in their life when someone showed you a new product or invention and all you could think was, “Okay, thats cool I guess! But WHY DO YOU NEED THAT?” I think people over look this thought with most all inventions. But the thought comes when you realize that we already have a method or means of completing that task, entertaining oneself or storing things which could work just fine without the new invention. All the “labor-saving-devices” which have been invented…. escalators (imitation of stairs – or the act of going up stairs), washing machines and more…. are the simulcra or simulation because we already had a way of doing that activity, yet we imitated it with a machine or moving stairs ?

What about the typically huge, expensively rich and unique looking mansions and castles of historic European churches and kings. Their places of residence were made as an imitation of a normal house at that time – though after built it was really in reality. Kings and queens did this just so their power and wealth could be displayed. But the idea and sight of these huge homes could be a simulcra?
“America is disneyland” in the context of disney land being a simulation of childhood.  I think this means America is also a simulation, but that of a rising middle class. People migrate to and from America all the time, for the chance of  a better life. Those coming are told they have freedoms and work as much as they can until they possibly reach an accumulation of wealth higher than their life in the previous country. Others end up in a never ending cycle of their economic status and therefore do the opposite; they leave America in search for something better. This is how America is a simulation of a rising middle class; theoretically the structure of it’s government and guaranteed rights make it possible for people to change or better the economic status, but in reality this is nowhere in sight or possibilities to most citizens.

After reading and discussing Jean  Baudrillard’s crazyness “Simulacra and Simulation” I have come to a realization that I think he was trying to make.
It is a natural and unavoidable human tendency to to lean towards simulations instead of reality. We love to day dream and create newer better or fiction-based/abstracts of possibilities. Instead of ONLY seeing, viewing, and understanding the environment around us – humans like to take it a step further. We live to “make our own version of reality” – and hope it is better than before. Humans take what is already here and constantly try to create/invent/imagine/model/predict — all of these are simulacra to the original sight that gave you the idea…….
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Cleverbot as a simulacra

I’m still trying to wrap my head around what a simulacra is but, and correct me if I’m wrong, I think cleverbot is an example of a simulacra. It’s a simulacra of a conversation with another human. It is real in the sense that you type a phrase or sentence and you receive a reply from the algorithm that is cleverbot. It is fiction in that you are talking to math. So it pretends to be a faithful copy of human speech because it matches response patterns yet it is not speech coming from a person so it’s fiction. While I think this may be true I’m still not entirely convinced it’s right. So below is a link to cleverbot and you can decide for yourself.

Here is a link to cleverbot:    http://www.cleverbot.com/

Simulacra and Simulation Explained

Sorry for the long post. I decided to compile the excerpts I found the most insightful into one blog post, so the most relevant information would be the easiest to find. Links to the full articles can be found after each excerpt. Hope this helps!

The video in the post is a Dove Commercial which provides an intuitive grasp of Jean Baudrillard’s dense thesis by offering a concrete example. Poetically ironic, this video is itself a simulation (think about it).

Simulacra and Simulation Explained by two different authors:

1. “One of the most challenging concepts in Jean Baudrillard”s ‘Simulacra and Simulation’ is that of ‘the real.’ Intuitively we tend to distinguish what happens in the real world from what is represented to us. We know (?) that what we see on television isn’t the real world but rather a representation of it. But Baudrillard thinks differently. He uses the concept of ‘Simulation’ which he defines as the occurrence of something real which has no origin or reality through the use of models: a hyperreality. A simulation is an event which ‘stages’ an actual event and recreates its conditions and even experience. A simulation is like real life, only it’s not.
Usually we think we can tell a simulation from an actual occurrence, but Baudrillard’s definition of the concept argues the simulation is not something which follows the real, but rather a ‘real’ which does not stem from any other source or origin. A simulation for Baudrillard is not something which disguises itself as the real, but rather something which eliminates the actual ‘real’, the real which is distinguished from its representations.
When Baudrillard describes western culture’s move away from the real he argues that what we are losing is a construction of the real. For Baudrillard, what we think is the real is always in fact a simulacrum of the real.”

– The cultural Studies Reader Blog
http://culturalstudiesnow.blogspot.com/2012/10/simulacra-and-simulation-by-jean.html

2. “Simulacra – the plural of Simulacrum and “used to describe a representation of another thing, such as a statue or a painting, especially of a god; by the late 19th century, it had gathered a secondary association of inferiority: an image without the substance or qualities of the original” (Wikipedia).
Baudrillard goes on to establish the nature of simulation, that it is not the same as faking or pretending – it is a deception at a higher level. To simulate is to take on the appearance of reality and thus blur the boundary between truth and fallacy, real and imaginary. He suggests that faking and pretending (both the act of and the perception of) happen at a conscious level whereas simulation happens at an unconscious level, thus clouding the distinction of the real and the imaginary.”

–Adrian Park Newcastle Digital Media Research
http://culturalstudiesnow.blogspot.com/2012/10/simulacra-and-simulation-by-jean.html

Finally, here is a surprisingly apt example converted to text from a youtube video:

“One day during a long conversation online with SexyChick49, she asks him to send her a photograph of himself. Embarrassed by his elderly physique, Brad opts to send her a photo from his youth. Bard sends her this photograph and SexyChick49 is pleasantly surprised by his image. Whilst this photograph no longer represents what Brad looks like in his old age, he knows that SexyChick49 is more likely to accept him if he looks like a healthy young stud rather than the old man he really is. The photograph is the only representation of reality that SexyChick49 can understand, thus, becoming a new reality.
This can easily be applied to modern media production and consumption, where audiences are accepting edited, prepared realities as real life. A large proportion of the public’s understanding of the world comes from the media. The media’s manipulation of events distort public perception of reality. The representations of reality that audiences are presented with bear no resemblance to real events.”
–Youtube video by “How to do Theory”