Jean Baudrillard: Simulations

[Readings] (08.17.08, 4:15 pm)


Baudrillard addresses the semiotic nature of simulation as a system that blurs and dissolves the real. The danger of simulation to Baudrillard is capacity to make the difference between the real and simulation indistinguishable and irrelevant. This sort of simulation is naturally different from software simulation, but still important in the way that we think about ideas and their representations.


First example: Borges’ map. Accurate and 1:1, so that the map covers the Empire, and frays at the territory’s borders, then becomes tattered in the Empire’s decline, fragments still visible to represent that which was. This is the charm of simulation. The real is produced from miniaturized units, metricized. Reality is made operational- can compare operational with empirical. In simulation, signs replace the real.

“Even military psychology retreats from Cartesian clarities and hesitates to draw the distinction between true and false, between the ‘produced’ symptom and the authentic symptom. ‘If he acts crazy so well, then he must be mad.’” (p. 7) Indefinity of simulation erodes the difference between real and unreal. Baudrillard describes the predicament of iconoclasts who fear the existence of icons which suggest that God is and always has been a simulacrum.

Representation is tied to the idea of exchange. Simulation is exchange between its own space of ideas, an “uninterrupted circuit” (p. 11). Progression of simulation: Reflection, Perversion, Negation, Pure simulacrum.

Attempts to catalogue and preserve reduces subjects to simulacra, inherently destroys them as real. (p. 16) Compare with preservation as narrative, telling the story of what happened so it will be remembered and not forgotten. Narrative does not simulate?

Baudrillard discusses Watergate, no difference between facts and denoument. Claim of Watergate is that it was a scandal, events involved become of little importance. Compare with notion of cultural drama.

“We are in a logic of simulation which has nothing to do with a logic of facts and an order of reasons. Simulation is characterized by a precession of the model, of all models around the merest fact–the models come first, and their obital (like the bomb) circulation constitutes the genuine magnetic field of events. Facts no longer have any trajectory of their own, they arise at the single intersection of the models; a single fact may even be engendered by all the models at once.” (pp. 31-32)

In society, the real is determined from the image. Simulation makes it impossible to isolate or prove the real. Acts are indistinguishable from simulations, example of a holdup, these are dramas, performances, rituals, archetypes. Archetypical holdup, what a holdup is. *this is not a new phenomenon. Rather, difference between image relates to experience, phenomenon, subjectivity vs objectivity. (p. 41)

Challenge to chorus of simulation is visceral- Freudian, the discourse of desire. Desire is a defense against confusion, is reality/power. (p. 42) Power is indicated only by resemblance, signs and figures of power: “Power, too, for some time now produces nothing but signs of its resemblance. And at the same time, another figure of power comes into play: that of a collective demand for signs of power–a holy union which forms around the disappearance of power.” (p. 45)

Real is transformed into hyperreal, there is vaguery between truth and falsehood even within an image, consider the falsehood and perversion of reality TV. (p. 50)

Foucault connection: Disciplinary society, surveillance -> deterrence. Real punishment confused with model, forms pressure to conform to model. (p. 53)

Simulation arises in non-distinction of active and passive. This is the effective difference between code and its execution (p. 58). Pinnacle of hyperreality, atomic simulation. Our lives are unknown values within this system, our existences are dependent on the non-outcome of this event. Cannot plan, accept its inherent reality.

The second of Baudrillard’s essays is on the orders of simulacra. These are divided into: The counterfeit (renaissance), the productive (industrial), the simulation (modern). This relates to Levy’s orders of society and history. The dominant theme here is value. (p. 83)

Seduction of sim is to remake the world as a simulation. Redefine the world in terms of simulation. (Connect here w feminist theory, who defines the simulation? What does the simulation value?) Simulation, like concrete, is deathless, synthetic. May only be determined from the real by subtlety and nuance. “There once lived in the Ardennes an old cook, to whom the molding of buildings out of cakes and the science of plastic patisserie had given the ambition to take up the creation of the world where God had left it, in its natural phase, so as to eliminate its organic spontaneity and substitute for it a single, unique and polymorphous matter: Reinforced Concrete: concrete furniture, chairs, drawers, concrete sewing machines, and outside in the courtyard, an entire orchestra, including violins, of concrete–all concrete! Concrete trees with real leaves printed into them, a hog made out of reinforced concrete, but with a real hog’s skull inside, concrete sheep covered with real wool. Camille Renault had finally found the original substance from which different things can only be distinguished by ‘realistic’ nuance: the hog’s skull, leaves of the tree–but this was doubtless only a concession of the demiurge to his visitors … for it was with an adorable smile that this 80-year-old god received visitors to his creation. He sought no argument with divine creation; he was remaking it only to render it more intelligible.” (pp. 90-91)

The equivalence of produced objects, in function and value is an underpinning of simulation (p. 97). DNA is the underpinning of the mathematical future of simulation, blurring the line between operation and definition, doing and being, subject and model (p. 109)

Orders of sim in summary: 1) Deconstruction of real into details. 2) Endlessly reflected vision; duplication in detail. 3) Properly serialized form, syntagmatic dimension abolished, bodies erased via resemblance. 4) Digitization, hyperreal, compulsive repitition. “The very definition of the real becomes that of which it is possible to give an equivalent reproduction” In key with rationalistic justification that everything is formally reproducible, already reproduced. (pp. 144-146)

Reading Info:
Author/EditorBaudrillard, Jean
ContextBaudrillard defines a perspective on simulation as a cultural and philosophical concept. Baudrillard\'s simulation is important in understanding computational simulation.
Tagsspecials, media theory, simulation, semiotics
LookupGoogle Scholar, Google Books, Amazon

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