Linking Baudrillard Back to New Media Course

And this is the page where we make all of the connections. Well, not all, but certainly many.

I'll do a good job. Promise. Maybe. Image hosted on the site ReplyGif.

I’ll do a good job. Promise. Maybe. Image hosted on the site ReplyGif.

But, first, a definition to send us on our way: digital media. Digital media are, according to the Centre for Digital Media, defined as media underlaid with computer binary code, but has elements of “interactivity and group forming” that “have been made possible by the combination of computers, software, and networks,” as 1) “Interactivity is made possible because most computer networks are bi-directional and addressable” and 2) “because it is based on software– the people participating in the network can organize themselves into ad-hoc and arbitrary groups.” This plays into Baudrillard’s discourse about simulation, simulacra, and the hyperreal because digital media allows for global mass reproduction and instant distribution that build into the emergence of simulacrum. While mass reproduction occurred before computers, digital technologies make this process easier and often faster. According to the blog Hyperreal Simulation, “Digital images don’t deteriorate and can be replicated precisely. Furthermore digital images are inherently mutable and allow for manipulation… digital images being inherently mutable Manovich calls into question our ontological distinction between the imaginary and the real. Digital technology has also allowed us to create images through computer graphics simulating the real.” With software like Photoshop, what is real becomes more and more blurred with what can be imagined, limited by what can be done with the picture on the screen, emerging as a simulacra and an artifact of the hyperreal.

A tip of the metaphorical hat to the scarring film eXistenZ. Image hosted on the blog Byronic.

A tip of the metaphorical hat to the scarring film eXistenZ. Image hosted on the blog Byronic.

Towards Connections We Roam

Collin Gifford Brooke’s Lingua Fracta: Towards a Rhetoric of New Media

One of the major connections I made between Baudrillard and Brooke while working through this project was that of Brooke’s concept of invention as proairesis to Baudrillard’s use of pataphysics in The Illusion of the End as both deal with possibilities rather than concrete solutions. In this way, The Illusion of the End could be seen as operating within a proairetic model of invention, as Baudrillard threads through what could potentially be the vanishing points of history and the possible causes, rather than declaring that history vanished because of this. Brooke’s concept of delivery as performance was the next connection I made as the ideas of simulacrum puts into question the credibility of images/representations. The Dove Beauty Campaign video is an example of simulacrum that I see the most often, and it brings forth questions of our cultural acceptance of simulacrum rather than wanting the “real.”

Brooke’s concept of memory as persistence lends itself to hyperreality as the simulacrum starts to take over the “real,” erasing the referentials from memory. For me, it seems like the longer a representation is circulating through the interwebs, the more it seems to gain credibility and is taken at face value. The simulacrum becomes the sole representation that people connect to when they think of a concept. In a video lecture, Dr Rick Roderick gives the example of an Italian restaurant in England where there is a mural of Marlon Brando, as Marlon Brando comes to represent what is to be Italian despite him being an American playing an American-Italian character. In this example, Marlon Brando is the simulacrum of Italian pride, produced by and persisting through the Godfather films.

Here lies the face of Italian-ness. Image hosted on the shopping website Ali Express.

Here lies the face of Italian-ness. Image hosted on the website Ali Express.

 Brooke’s other concepts of arrangement as pattern and style as perspective  are a little harder for me to work through with regards to Baudrillard’s texts. Style as perspective deals with the ways in which readers look at and through texts, with the screen as an interface.  To work through this, I think of the way the computer screen as an interface allows users a way to access the hyperreality created within digital spaces, like those in video games. Let’s work through this (however wrong this ends up) by taking Second Life as an example. The virtual space becomes a hyperreality, with players seeing their relationships with other users as more real than with those they can see physically, and their creations built in the virtual space sell for real world money and have meaning for their “owners.” The virtual space of the game has affordances, though, that allow users to shape their own experiences within the hyperreal, making them conscious that they are operating within a digital space while also drawing them in to continue populating the space with their avatars. There is a neat article on Second Life and hyperreality on the blog Simulacrum: Technology, Economics, and Anthropology.

Brooke’s concept of arrangement as pattern emphasizes sets of associations that create relevancy, allowing a hierarchy of those patterns being chosen over ones that are being excluded through users’ choices. Exclusion is just as important as inclusion. To make the connection between this term and Baudrillard’s concepts,I have to think of this on a broader cultural scale than as one individual’s collection to understand the process of how simulacrum is created/emerges/becomes. Disneyland could not have become a hyperreality without the popularity of the brand taking off first. Disney had to create and distribute Mickey Mouse as a cartoon, along with the other films, before he could have the capital and hype to go about creating the physical park of Disneyland. How many other animators found that their work failed to enter into our cultural consciousness? How many fans of Disney’s works had to choose to visit Disneyland before Baudrillard’s concept of hyperreality could be applied to the theme park? I know that is a messy process to think through, especially with how vague Baudrillard is, but it seems like people’s inclusion of Disney fandom into their lives and the lives of their loved ones is where Brooke’s arrangement as pattern fits into the process of how simulacrum and hyperreality come into being.

Nicholas Gane and David Beer’s New Media: The Key Concepts

With the key concepts defined by Gane and Beer, a lot of these terms seem to have to do with the production and distribution of simulacrum and hyperreality, especially in digital spaces. The easiest of Gane and Beer’s terms to link with Baudrillard is that of simulation as the authors draw directly from Baudrillard as “Baudrillard is taken to be the key theorist of this concept” (103). They build their definition of simulation using Baudrillard’s three key features of the “culture of simulation” as a foundation:

  • “The first is that computer modelling can be used to design and ‘crash-test’ objects or ideas by running them through imaginary scenarios that predict and perhaps shape events before they take place.
  • The second is that reality gives way to hyperreality – that which is more real than the real. Baudrillard talks, for example, of the ‘hyperrealism of simulation’, and suggests that technologies, in particular digital media, increasingly shape our capacity to know the world (including key events such as the Gulf War, see Baudrillard 2004), and as a consequence blur the boundaries between what is ‘real’ and what is virtual or ‘appearance’.
  • Finally, the order of simulation is founded on a world of code which, for Baudrillard, takes us beyond physical reality as it had previously been known. This world of code includes the surface codes of local or global signifiers, brands or logos (see Klein Beer, 2000) that characterize consumer society, as well as the deeper binary codes that both underpin and are produced by computational machines.” (Beer and Gane 105-106).

However, they also call in other scholars, such as Friedrich Kittler, who take issue with Baudrillard’s comment that simulation has no substance or referential because there is physical hardware there that allows the simulation to exist: “For Kittler, such a separation is not possible, especially in an age in which power structures are embedded within the hardware of media technologies, and which elude the control of the user while at the same time structuring communication from within,” concluding that, despite what Baudrillard may say, “Software, and by extension simulation, does exist, but only as the effect of an underlying hardware, and this hardware, as Kittler observes, conceals itself through the course of its own operation” (Beer and Gane 107 and 108). With simulation, interactivity is useful for hyperreal citizens, but (I know this is probably getting old) I think about users in the digital space of Second Life as they interact with other users and the software where there is a two-way communication. In the simulation, the Second Life users create avatars and build objects in the virtual space, and the virtual space responds by allowing those objects to appear.

Information and archive are interesting in relation to Baudrillard because, again I turn to video games to help me think through this, information is what underlies simulation, the ones and zeroes of digital spaces, being produced by and consumed by computer users. Even representations, stripped from the “real,” are systems of information that are encased in new contexts. Archives seem to be important to the creation of simulacrum and hyperreality because the mass reproduction of the digital age hinges on those representations being stored somewhere, and those representations come in different media forms (images, videos, sound bytes, etc) that consumers and producers can access. Beer and Gane mention that, “In these user-generated archives the everyday takes on a new significance, for users post their own content and connect to others through a hyperlinked system of keywords or meta-tags, thereby enabling search and retrieval as well as browsing between connected content” (77). While they talk about the everyday content, I think that these archives helps those users maintain their roles as hyperreal citizens, allowing them to participate in creating simulacrum that builds into the hyperreal

The Disney Archives help to maintain the foundation for Disneyland as hyperreal.

The Disney Archives help to maintain the foundation for Disneyland as hyperreal. Image hosted on the site DisUnplugged.

These interactions with the digital spaces are made possible through the interfaces — creating a a relationship (of sorts) between users and the hardware in front of them– and networks — users relationships between users and users and electronic devices and electronic devices. With networks, they seem to compose a digital cultural consciousness in which simulacrum and the hyperreal can also take root (physical simulacrum like theme parks and murals are still as relevant in the digital age, but also have a farther reach).

Image hosted on the site Kill the Hydra.

Image hosted on the site Kill the Hydra.

Citations

Baudrillard, Jean. The Illusion of the End. Trans. Chris Turner. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1994. Print.

Baudrillard, Jean. Simulacra and Simulation. Trans. Sheila Faria Glaser. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2006. Print.

Brooke, Collin Gifford. Lingua Fracta: Towards a Rhetoric of New Media. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Pres, 2009. Print.

Gane, Nicholas and David Beer. New Media: The Key Concepts. Oxford, UK: Berg, 2008. Kindle.

Hyperreal Simulation. “Lecture: Digital Media as Simulation Culture: Hyper-Reality & the ‘Crisis of the Real.’” WordPress. WordPress, 16 May 2014. Web. 17 Oct. 2014.

The Partially Examined Life. “Rick Roderick on Baudrillard. Fatal Strategies [full length].” YouTube. YouTube, 25 Jan. 2012. Web. 17 Oct. 2014.

Smith, Richard. “What is Digital Media?” Centre for Digital Media. A Global Way, 15 oct. 2013. Web. 17 Oct. 2014.

 

And so it all winds to an end

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