There is an area of land in upstate New York that has existed for millions of years, and will, most likely, exist for millions more. Sometime in the Earth’s last couple hundreds of revolutions around the sun, human beings came to this land and decided to start putting titles on certain plots of land. They then came up with cartography so they could put these titles on a piece of paper to map out the land, so other people could easily navigate from one place to another. In the 1930’s map-makers decided to give name to a place that previously had no name. They called this area in upstate New York, Agloe.
The humans who live on or near this piece of land must have seen the map and figured they must be living in Agloe so they gave the new town’s name validation by creating a general store called the Agloe General Store. With this general store the piece of land that had arbitrarily been named became a real town.
Agloe is known as a paper town, because it exists on the map, but it is not really a town on the actual planet. The scam that spawned its creation on the map made it real. In Baudrillard’s terms, the simulation – the word on the map – precedes the real – the town of Agloe. Therefore it is simulacrum.
What I found interesting is the superiority of the social construction of towns over the natural land when considering reality. That piece of land has been there and will continue to be there (barring any bizarre natural disaster). The place is no more real because some cartographers made up a fake name for it for a period of time. That plot of land just had a nick-name for a few years.