At the core of this collective experience, we find a fabricated system of meaning that limits human participation to that of mindless spectator, while a digital hyperreality is slowly born.
We live in a world of signs, where almost everything around us has become a matter of signification, connected with an explosive growth in media and related to changes in conduct of everyday life.
Our current society has replaced all reality and meaning with symbols and signs, and human experience has now become that akin to a simulation of reality.
The Baudrillardian concept of ‘simulation’ refers to the idea of creating a reality; reproduced, and based on a foundation of widely interpreted symbols.
Simulated reality appears so real that one cannot separate the ‘real’ from simulation.
In fact, simulation dominates the real, and never again will the real have the chance to produce itself, because simulation is all there is, according to Jean Baudrillard.
Simulated reality is not a singular concept. The simulation itself is made up of infinite imitations of the operations of a real-world processes or systems over time. These are known as ‘simulacra’.
Simulacra are copies that depict things that either had no reality to begin with, or that no longer have an original. Representations stand in place of a perceived real, or are simply the ‘real’ itself.
Inside the control structure, these simulacra are not merely mediations of reality, nor even deceptive mediations — they are not based in a reality at all. No attempt hide a ‘reality’ is made.
Instead, all we see is a process of how symbolism of culture and media constructs perceived reality, programming false understandings and making lives and shared existences illegible.
Society has become so saturated with simulacra, and lives so saturated with the constructs of society, that all meaning has long been rendered meaningless by being infinitely mutable.
The onslaught of television, media growth and the constant bombardment of images, are now intended to represent reality. From birth, humanity communicates and understands this way.
Importantly, the simulacra are never that which conceals the truth. The truth which is concealed is that there is no truth. The simulacra, or untrue, is the truth.
To better understand what this means, let’s look at important concepts found in studies describing the nature of symbols, simulacra, and interactions with collective perceptions of reality.
PSYCHOLOGY OF ILLUSION
Not only does simulacra refer to ‘copies without an original’, but it can be used to explain the lack of depth, meaning or ‘realness’ behind signs which penetrate our technological lives.
Walter Benjamin, as early as 1936, argued that “the presence of the original is the pre-requisite to the concept of authenticity’, and that this was missing from a world of mass-produced commodities.
However, in a modern, technology-driven digital age, this has developed even further, to the point that no original even exists in which to draw the authenticity from.
Frank Webster once gave the example of when a user downloads a song to their phone, in which the notion of an original is meaningless, as the song that has been downloaded has no physical original –it is a copy of a song downloaded from a digital platform.
Baudrillard, in his essay The Ecstasy of Communication, explains that Western technological society revels in the over-exposure to images. He defines this visual overstimulation as “obscene”, which is when “everything is exposed to the harsh and inexorable light of information and communication”.
Researcher Steven Connor summarises Baudrillard’s concepts of simulacra by stating: “All of contemporary life has been dismantled and reproduced in scrupulous facsimile’.
This refers to simulacra; the reproduction of signs of reality that are, in fact, created.
Connor also discusses how simulation of “the real and referential” then “takes the form of manufactured objects and experiences which attempt to be more real than reality itself”.
Violence is disconnected from the ‘real’ world destruction, for example, and is recoded in cyberspace as signs and images to be consumed through mass media, gaming, and digital outlets.
Death as a tragic event has also been eliminated, and any event surrounding this theme is surrendered to the media representations of it.
The event, whatever it may be, is experienced as an ‘image event’ and consumed through symbolic exchange. Put simply, the image precedes the real, is consumed and forms the reality itself.
War images on TV, for example, form the actual perception of warfare, while the real events on-the-ground — whatever they may be — are masked in a sea of digital simulations.
Simulacra is the psychological concept that drives many other vast deceptions.
From 9/11, to shooting events, COVID scamdemic — symbolic images are programmed daily.
Let’s take a deeper delve into just how these messages are transmitted, and what is responsible.
This feature piece continues to cover:
Follow The Signs:
Cultures and Symbols
The Nature of Symbolic Exchange
The Replication and Distortion of Value
Beyond the Postmodern World
Science Fiction Comes to Life:
The Birth of the Hyperreal
The full feature is published in the latest edition of New Dawn Magazine.
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