My Thoughts and Wonders Followed by Reading about Postmodernism
* I tried to write a rather proper paper on the concept of postmodernism based on the readings for the class and I ended up feeling very lost and empty in my thoughts. After having tried a few times, I decided to only think out loud about what we learned on the topic of postmodernism and to write down my scattered thoughts. In this response paper I am basically intending to share with you an overview of the way I am thinking about some of these fundamental and rather complex topics.
The fist thing that came to my mind after reading Baurillard’s article about the concepts of postmodernism was Internet:
Two nights ago I was sitting at a table with a few of my friends in the Feve(the bar close to where I live). I had brought my friend, Ben, who had come to visit me in Oberlin. While Ben was talking about his experiences and his background, my friend, Dan, whispered in my ear in Spanish, knowing that Ben did not speak Spanish, “Azi, tu amigo es muy extraño. ¿Cómo conoces a él?” (Azi, your friend is very strange. How do you know him?) I told him that he apparently used to read my weblog on a regular basis and that is how we became friend. “Cyber friends”, I said to him. Dan looked at me and whispered again, “Tengo miedo de las amistades que vienen del Internet. Me parece que no son cosas reales y que no existen en la realidad”. (I am scared of those online friendships. They are not real and don’t exist in our reality.) I looked across the table. I saw Ben talking with another friend of mine. He was clearly real to me. He was physically sitting there. His origin for me, however, was I guess a non-existing (physically) world named the Internet. More or less, though, his tone resembled what he used to write in response to the posts on my blog. And his face, too, seemed pretty similar to his picture online. What made him a strange being to me was his actual presence. I was so used to perceiving him through the lens of the internet and cyber media that I could not fully accept his existence outside that world.
Later on that night, when I was surfing the internet aimlessly, I encountered the following video clip on YouTube called Hyperreality by a person whose unsername in the network is Halosixx (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DiiUTv98kOs). This video is on the subject of hyperreality, and how life is becoming more virtual and less real. In this video there is an internet window frame around every individual’s head next to which there their short profile: name, gender, age, location and etc. Watching this video along with the way I was already feeling about having seen a cyber friend in real life and what Dan had told me had all made me paranoid of the reality in which I live.
I listened. Ben was in the lounge of my house talking with my friends. His voice was very strange to me. His words only were familiar if they were in the format of an email. His voice started to turn into the clicking sound of the keys of my keyboard.
My Hyperreal World of Postmodernity
Among the articles I have recently been readings, what I read about the concept of the real has really occupied my thoughts. It is very striking to me how such a simple concept could turn into a very a complex and determining point in terms of the postmodernist movement. While what Baudrillard is describing in his article is very interesting, I still am having a hard time comprehending his concept of the hyeperreal(1).
Some of the examples that I read in Baudriallard’s article made me think more about my own life and the concept of the real in my surroundings. In the process of trying to understand Baudriallard’s definition of the hyperreal and simulacra, I often find myself conscious of the way the real is defined in my surroundings. And such consciousness, of course, leaves me with a series of cyclical thoughts. These thoughts eventually lead me to something that my professor mentioned in class: The more you try to get to real and escape the commodifications, the more you are under their control!
Seriously What Does Baudrillard’s Simulacra Theory Mean?
Buadrillard uses the concept of simulacra to describe the conditions of postmodernism. Simulacra are different from simulations in the sense that even though they imply the reproduction of things, it does not recognize the notion of the origin from which things are being reproduced. In other words, there is no origin and source of the real anymore. By defining the concept of simulacra Baudrillard establishes a different medium for defining what we call the real:
"No more mirror of being and appearances, of the real and its concept; no more imaginary coexistensivity: rather, genetic miniaturization is the dimension of simulation. The real is produced from miniaturized units, from matrices, memory banks and command models- and with these it can be reproduced an indefinite number of time"(2)
What strikes me about this theory is the way it becomes in a way mathematical in defining what we would call the real and the origin in modernism. Interestingly, however, even though it becomes more mathematical-sounding than other theories we have read in our class, it actually denies the rationale behind the concept of simulacra(3).
Since I, like many other individuals my age, spent many hours of my days and nights online and I basically consider myself paralyzed without access to the internet, the first postmodern phenomena that immediately comes to my mind is undoubtedly ‘the Internet’. I find it fascinating that often time it is accepted that Baudrillard’s simulacra theory defines the phenomena of the internet. This is while his theories are mostly presented in the context of literary theory and sociology and not strictly through mathematical models.
An article that I read online from 1995 about Baudriallard’s theory in defining cyberspace of the internet says, “In comparison to the modern conception of the map, and its relation to the unrepresentable totality of the world, Internet as postmodern map becomes the totality itself, superseding the world”(4). Nunes explains further that such conversion is the moment that Baudrillard explains as the “precession of simulacra”(5) which is the disappearance of the differences(6) of the model and the globe(7).
Therefore, if I could understand correctly this model (the internet) in its constant simulacra of the globe has exceeded its globe (which presumably is the real(in a modernist sense) in which we live. In other words, this model loses dependency to its origin (that well in postmodernism is not even acknowledged) and it could repeat indefinite times. So then based on what I am understanding from the postmodern concept, my friend’s(Ben) presence in the virtual world of Internet and now his presence in my house do not contradict one another and they could exist independent of each other and they lose meaning as the model and the origin….
1- “Simulation is no longer that of a territory, a referential being or a substance. It is the generation by models fo a real without origin or reality: hyperreal ” (Baudriallard, 166). Therefore it seems to me that hyppreal is a phenomena in which one cannot tell the difference between the real and reproduction of the real.
2- Baudriallard, 167
3- “It is no longer has to be rational, since it is no longer measured against some ideal or negative instances. It is nothing more than operational”(Bauriallard, 167)
4- Nunes, Mark. Baudrillard in Cyberspace: Internet, Virtuality, and Postmodernity. < http://www.gpc.edu/~mnunes/jbnet.html>
5- “ Simulation is characterized by a precession of the model, of all models around the merest fact-the models come first, and their orbital(like the bomb) circulation constitutes the genuine magnetic field of events. Facts no longer have any trajectory of their own…This anticipation, this precession, this short-circuit, this confusion of the fact with its model(no more divergence of meaning, no more dialectical polarity….) is what each time allows for all the possible interpretations, even the most contradictory-all are true in the sense that their truth is exchangeable…” (Baudrillard, 175)
7-I used the terms globe/model from the article by Nunes, Marks