Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A Procession of Simulacra

I've been thinking a bit about how the line dividing the real and the unreal is eroding. I guess reading Baudrillard's "Simulacra and Simulation" will do that to a guy.

An important excerpt:
Such would be the successive phases of the image:
  • it is the reflection of a profound reality;
  • it masks and denatures a profound reality;
  • it masks the absence of a profound reality;
  • it has not relation to any reality whatsoever: it is its own pure simulacrum

Baudrillard believes that we're in that fourth stage, where things are meant to evoke a past or a present that never, in fact, existed.

The point, in my mind, is that it's not so clear that there is such a thing as fiction/fantasy anymore, because it's all, in a sense, real.

I really like Don DeLillo's White Noise, especially the part about the SIMUVAC (short for "simulated evacuation") technicians dealing with a real life evacuation treat the unexpected event as practice for their simulations: "Are you saying you saw a chance to use the real event in order to rehearse the simulation?" (The answer to this question is: Yes. Yes, they did see that chance.)

A few other, non-literary, examples are in order. Here's one. Here's another. Both are posts from, which seems to have developed an interest in the last coupla days in products that started out as fictional but soon became "real." Adam Lisagor, guest editor of for the week, calls this phenomenon defictionalization, which has a nice ring to it.

Here's another one, about the dilemma facing fantasy sports owners who are torn between rooting for their fake team or their real team.

The desert of the real itself.

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