Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Testing Ourselves on Baudrillard

1)   Describe the three orders of simulacra as Baudrillard understands them.

2)   Baudrillard writes on page 3, “Pretending, or dissimulating, leaves the principle of reality intact: the difference is always clear, it is simply masked, whereas simulation threatens the difference between the ‘true’ and the ‘false,’ the ‘real’ and the ‘imaginary.”  Explain this quote, referring to the idea of faking or simulating an illness in your response.

3)   Explain the idea of “hyperreality” using Disney’s Main Street USA as an example.

4)   Choose a tourist site that you have visited or that you know of that you think functions like The Most Photographed Barn in America.  Explain how that site interacts with Baudrillard’s ideas about reality and simulacra.

5)   On pages 29-30, Baudrillard talks about how Reality TV (which was just emerging when he wrote this essay in the early 1980’s) has shifted culture from a panopticon with a central policing authority and a bunch of disciplined subjects who are under surveillance into more of a diffused culture where we can no longer tell the difference between who is looking and who is being looked at (“Big Brother” is no longer the police, but is instead all of us, looking at ourselves). 

a.     How does this shift relate to the idea of the simulacra? 
b.     Think about a Reality TV program that you know.  What might Baudrillard say about how “real” it is?  What might he say about the roles of viewers and stars and how they relate to each other?  What new ideas does the Baudrillardian theory give you about this program?


  1. 1) The first order of simulacra is when the representation of the real is clearly artificial. For example, the Robert Frost statue on the PSU campus is obviously just that - a statue, a representation of the real Robert Frost. No one confuses it to be him. The second order of simulacra is when there is a blurred line. The representation and the real may be confused for one another, but there is still a distinction between the two. An example of this is a fake or knock-off Coach purse bought online. It may be a perfect representation, but it is not the real thing. Lastly, the third order of simulacra is when the roles reverse. The representation "precedes and produces" the real, creating a hyperreality. In other words, the representation becomes more real than the thing it is representing. Good examples of the third order of simulacra are tourist sites or places like Disney's Main Street USA, which will be described and explained in questions 3 and 4.

  2. 5a) This shift from this panopticon or "Big Brother" system to all of us (society) looking at ourselves relates to the idea of simulacra because there is no longer a distinction between the two. There was once a difference between who was looking and who was being watched (the policing authority and the rest of society, respectively). Now, the two have blurred. There has been a role reversal; we are now looking at ourselves, where once we were being watched. We have created this culture, simulated this culture, in which we behave and exist according to the rules or societal guidelines that we've constructed. These ideas of how to live, how to walk, how to dress, and how to behave precede and produce what were once considered "real" - simply how we lived, how we walked, how we dressed, etc.

  3. 5a) This shift relates to all orders of the simulacra. Television had first become the mapping of everyday life (First Order). Then once reality television arrived, it began to mix the ideas of what is "real" and "unreal" (Second Order). Eventually, making us our own personal entertainment and our own "Big Brother" (as Baudrillard says). Those in the show, become constantly watched and judged by the viewing audience (Third Order). They model the hyper reality of our world and how it is viewed.

  4. 5B) One of the Reality shows that comes to mind is "The Real World" in which seven people are selected to live in a destination house together for three months. Baudrillard would say that despite the fact that reality shows are somewhat scripted, it simulates reality in a way that makes it hyperreal to the viewers. After watching a show like this, people begin to believe that real people are just as catty as those on the show who are always fighting. They may also think that the extreme amount of alcohol they consume on the show and the stupid drunken shit they do is "normal". The audience may then model their behavior after the people on the show because they think it's "reality". Viewers may become confused enough into thinking the characters and events on Reality TV are real that the shows no longer need to be scripted or pushed in a certain direction - that people will actually just act that way on their own (now that's terrifying for society and mankind!).

    Also, the audience who views this show, and others like it, will think of their own lives as a Reality Show and model their behavior in the real world after these shows. The stars on the show probably experience a similar thing with reality and their roles on the show blending together so much that they think how they act on the show is real and that's how they'd normally behave.

    Baudrillard's theory presents a grim outlook for society if Reality TV programs continue to be popular. Our more childish and immature natures will present themselves more frequently, rather than be covered up with the current social nor of "being an adult". Eventually, acting like the people on Reality TV will seem normal and surpass our current notions of how to behave in society towards other people.

  5. 2.) What Baudrillaud is saying within the quote is that there is a difference between simulating and dissimulating. Dissimulating is pretending. If you pretend to be ill, then you are faking an illness and you are not actually sick. However, if you are simulating an illness and therefore experiencing symptoms then you actually are ill. Simulation when, Baudrillaud says, "threatens" reality. It threatens reality in the sense that one wouldn't be able to distinguish the simulation from the real. Hence, Baudrillaud's third order of simulacra -- the simulation produces the real.

  6. 3. Disneyland Main Street was created to look and feel like the idyllic small town American Main Street. Disney created something that has surpassed "actual" American Main Street. The Disneyland Main Street is so perfect it itself has become the model for American Main Streets. It has become more real than the original Main Street. This is what we would call Hyperreality. Disney's Main Street USA has become the "real" main street.

  7. 3) Disney's main street is a simulation of a "real" or idealized main street in middle America. Using the idea of hyper reality as a guide, we are able to see how this masterful simulation becomes the real. You are able to interact, take a walk, smell the smells--there is no distinction anymore between the simulated and the real. The simulated becomes more "real" than the "real". Most likely in middle America one would have a hard time finding something as "real" as this simulated version of main street. The simulation preceeds the "real" and a hyper reality is born.

  8. 2) Honestly, the quote here seems to be pretty simple. When pretending to have something, you don't actually have it. You are merely putting on a falsehood. In other words, "whoever fakes an illness can simply stay in bed and make everyone believe he is ill. Whoever simulates an illness produces in himself some of the symptoms (Baudrillard, 3). In the end, pretending to have a sickness leads a distinct duality. There are real, but this man is merely putting up the front. Simulating for all intents and purposes, is actually having the cold. You have the symptoms, you have the cold. It blurs the lines because it seems to be real, even though medicine does not treat it.

  9. 5b) I truly hate reality TV so I avoid it at all costs but from snippets and previews I've seen, I think Baudrillard would think none of it is real. Jersey Shore for example, or "The Real World", they cant be 100% real because they are being watched and judged. Their purpose is to get reaction from the audience. BUT although reality TV is a simulation, REAL PEOPLE who are not being filmed begin to act like they are and they simulate a life they think would be interesting for the world to watch. The relation between viewers and the stars is that each are trying to be like each other. The stars are acting and simulating like they are real people doing what real people do, then the audience is trying to to simulate what the stars do because a) they are famous b) they are perceived and advertised as regular people and are paid to PRETEND there are no cameras watching them. Its a false reality that people who are in actual reality get sucked into and begin to act like the false reality also. Reality TV seems to be creating a hyperreal that we are al victims of everyday. Probably most of the time without even realizing it. Society lives and simulates the very thing that is simulating society. Perception is so skewed and I was to say wicked UNRELIABLE.

  10. 1] The three orders of simulacra, according to Baudrillard, begin with the real and the representation of the real. In this first order, the representation, or “copy” of the real is clearly distinguishable as a fake. People are able to differentiate between the real and the copy, and the two remain separate. This would be much like having the “true” Mona Lisa, and having a photograph or printed poster of the Mona Lisa. It is obvious which is the original, and which is the copy.
    The second order of the simulacra is where the lines between the real and the representation blur. The copy is then so similar to the real, such a perfect representation, that it cannot be distinguished from the original. This order, unlike the innocent first order, is considered maleficent, as the copy then parades itself as the real or the original when it is in fact only a representation of it.
    The third order of simulacra is when the copy is no longer decipherable from the real, and it in fact precedes the real. The representation becomes the original, and the real is replaced by the hyprreal; it is a representation of the representation of the real. This is much like Disneyland, as brought up by Baudrillard. With Main Street USA in Disneyland, it copies, and perfects, the concept of main street-y-ness, and outside of Disneyland, “real” towns attempt to make their “real” main streets more like the “more real” Main Street USA, thus becoming hyperreality copies of a perfected representation of the real.

  11. 4. There have been studies that Pack Monadnock, located near Peterborough, NH, is the most climbed mountain in the world. Shocking something like this would be located in New Hampshire, a state entombed in the tourism industry. The fact is used to draw cross in just like the "Most Photographed Barn in the World" draws customers off the highway. Once you get there, the wonder of the most climbed peak in the world turns into just what it actually is, a dirt path and an incline with a view of trees, just like every other New England mountain path. Excitement diminishes, it becomes the simulation of what hiking should be to the inexperienced hikers. The reality of the experience could have been completed on an assortment of other peaks, but tourists choose to go to Pack Monadnock because it is a tourist site. It becomes the symbol, or simulation of ideal hiking, even though it is average and covered in crowds. That one peak becomes the reality of hikers even though they only choose to participate on that one because it was advertised, they "must see what all the hype is about" even though it is like all the rest.


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