Hyperreality

Hyperreality

In semiotics and postmodern philosophy, the term hyperreality characterizes the inability of consciousness to distinguish reality from fantasy, especially in technologically advanced postmodern cultures. Hyperreality is a means to characterise the way consciousness defines what is actually "real" in a world where a multitude of media can radically shape and filter the original event or experience being depicted. Some famous theorists of hyperreality include Jean Baudrillard, Albert Borgmann, Daniel Boorstin, and Umberto Eco.

Most aspects of hyperreality can be thought of as "reality by proxy." For example, a viewer watching pornography begins to live in the non-existent world of the pornography, and even though pornography is not an accurate depiction of sex, for the viewer, the reality of "sex" becomes something non-existent. Some examples are simpler: the McDonald's "M" arches create a world with the promise of endless amounts of identical food, when in "reality" the "M" represents nothing, and the food produced is neither identical nor infinite.

Baudrillard in particular suggests that the world we live in has been replaced by a copy world, where we seek simulated stimuli and nothing more. Baudrillard borrows, from Jorge Luis Borges (who already borrowed from Lewis Carroll), the example of a society whose cartographers create a map so detailed that it covers the very things it was designed to represent. When the empire declines, the map fades into the landscape and there is neither the representation nor the real remaining – just the hyperreal.

Baudrillard's idea of hyperreality was heavily influenced by phenomenology, semiotics, and Marshall McLuhan.

Significance

Hyperreality is significant as a paradigm to explain current cultural conditions. Consumerism, because of its reliance on sign exchange value (e.g. brand X shows that one is fashionable, car Y indicates one's wealth), could be seen as a contributing factor in the creation of hyperreality or the hyperreal condition. Hyperreality tricks consciousness into detaching from any real emotional engagement, instead opting for artificial simulation, and endless reproductions of fundamentally empty appearance. Essentially, (although Baudrillard himself may balk at the use of this word) fulfillment or happiness is found through simulation and imitation of a transient simulacrum of reality, rather than any interaction with any "real" reality.

Interacting in a hyperreal place like a casino gives the subject the impression that one is walking through a fantasy world where everyone is playing along. The decor isn't authentic, everything is a copy, and the whole thing feels like a dream. What isn't a dream, of course, is that the casino takes your money, which you are more apt to give them when your consciousness doesn't really understand what's going on. In other words, although you may intellectually understand what happens at a casino, your consciousness thinks that gambling money in the casino is part of the "not real" world. It is in the interest of the decorators to emphasize that everything is fake, to make the entire experience seem fake. The casino succeeds in turning money itself to an object with no inherent value or inherent reality.

Hyperreality vs. Virtual Reality

In his essay "The Hyperreality Paradigm," John Tiffin states that hyperreality differs from a virtual environment.

Virtual reality is “a technology that provides computer-generated realities that are an alternative to physical reality.” With HMDU (Head-mounted display units) one can travel in a three dimensional virtual world that has been provided with the information in the computer’s database. The information creates images that are excluded from the “real” world and created in the virtual world. Sound and images are addressed to the ears and eyes. With using the data gloves one can sense the feeling of touch in a virtual world as well.

Hyperreality, however, is different. It includes virtual reality, yet it is not virtual reality per se. Hyperreality, creates virtual reality to be an experience in the physical reality, so that virtual reality and physical reality interact with one another. Virtual reality provides virtual worlds that seem more “convincing” to those who experience it. However, hyperreality, provides “HyperWorlds” that blurs the line between what is “real” and what is “virtual” and make it appear “natural.”

Tiffin explains that the difference between virtual reality and hyperreality is like the difference between cinema and telephone. Cinema is an early attempt to create virtual reality. When people enter the cinema, the lights go out, and then everyone becomes quiet and lets the projector “take over their perceptual system”. Hyperreality, however, can be compared to a telephone. When two people interact with each other via telephone, they each feel that they are convinced that they are real themselves, and the other person virtual. Though trapped in a virtual reality AND physical reality, their action, the conversation on the phone, seems natural. The presence of voice in the real and virtual world creates a natural mode. The listener easily distinguishes the telephone voice and the real voice. In the same way, it is easy to recognize the virtual from real in hyperreality.

“A HyperWorld is not only where what is real and what is virtual interact, it is where human intelligence meets artificial intelligence.”

Definitions

  • "The simulation of something which never really existed." - Jean Baudrillard
  • "The authentic fake." - Umberto Eco
  • "[Hyperreality] is nothing more than the technological capability to intermix virtual reality (VR) with physical reality (PR) and artificial intelligence (AI) with human intelligence (HI) in a way that appears seamless and allows interaction." - Nobuyoshi Terashima

Quotations

"The secret affinity between gambling and the desert: the intensity of gambling reinforced by the presence of the desert surrounding the town. The air-conditioned freshness of the gaming rooms, as opposed to the radiant heat outside. The challenge of all the artificial lights to the violence of the sun rays. Night of gambling sunlit on all sides; the glittering darkness of these rooms in the middle of the desert. Gambling itself is a desert form, inhuman, uncultured, initiatory, a challenge to the natural economy of value, a crazed activity on the fringes of exchange. But it also has a strict limit and stops abruptly; its boundaries are exact, its passion knows no confusion. Neither the desert nor gambling are open areas; their spaces are finite and concentric, increasing in intensity toward the interior, toward a central point, be it the spirit of gambling or the heart of the desert - a privileged, immemorial space, where things lose their shadow, where money loses its value, and where the extreme rarity of traces of what signals to us there leads men to seek the instantaneity of wealth." - Baudrillard on Las Vegas

Examples

Disneyland

Both Umberto Eco and Jean Baudrillard refer to Disneyland as an exemplar of hyperreality. Eco believes that Disneyland with its settings such as Main Street and full sized houses has been created to look "absolutely realistic," taking visitors' imagination to a "fantastic past. This false reality creates an illusion and makes it more desirable for people to buy this reality. Disneyland works in a system that enables visitors to feel that technology and the created atmosphere "can give us more reality that nature can. The fake animals such as alligators and hippopotamus are all available to people in Disneyland and for everyone to see. The "fake nature" of Disneyland satisfies our imagination and daydream fantasies in real life. Therefore, they seem more admirable and attractive. When entering Disneyland, consumers form into lines to gain access to each attraction. Then they are ordered by people with special uniforms to follow the rules, such as where to stand or where to sit. If the consumer follows each rule correctly, they can enjoy "the real thing" and see things that are not available to them outside of Disneyland's doors.

In his work Simulacra and Simulations, Baudrillard argues the "imaginary world" of Disneyland magnetizes people inside and has been presented as "imaginary" to make people believe that all its surroundings are "real". But he believes that the Los Angeles area is not real; thus it is hyperreal. Disneyland is a set of apparatus, which tries to bring imagination and fiction to what is called "real". This concerns the American values and way of life in a sense and "concealing the fact that the real is no longer real, and thus of saving the reality principle.

"The Disneyland imaginary is neither true or false: it is a deterrence machine set up in order to rejuvenate in reverse the fiction of the real. Whence the debility, the infantile degeneration of this imaginary. It's meant to be an infantile world, in order to make us believe that the adults are elsewhere, in the "real" world, and to conceal the fact that real childishness is everywhere, particularly among those adults who go there to act the child in order to foster illusion of their real childishness."

Other examples

  • A sports drink of a flavor that doesn't exist naturally or elsewhere ("wild ice zest berry").
  • Pornography ("sexier than sex itself").
  • A plastic Christmas tree that looks better than a real Christmas tree ever could.
  • A magazine photo of a model that has been touched up with a computer.
  • Films in which characters and settings are either digitally enhanced or created entirely from CGI (e.g.: 300, where the entire film was shot in front of a blue/green screen, with all settings super-imposed).
  • A well manicured garden (nature as hyperreal).
  • Any massively promoted versions of historical or present "facts" (e.g. "General Ignorance" from QI, where the questions have seemingly obvious answers, which are actually wrong).
  • Professional sports athletes as super, invincible versions of the human beings that they actually are.
  • Many world cities and places which did not evolve as functional places with some basis in reality, as if they were creatio ex nihilo (literally 'creation out of nothing'): Disney World; Dubai; Celebration, Florida; and Las Vegas.
  • TV and film in general (especially "reality" TV), due to its creation of a world of fantasy and its dependence that the viewer will engage with these fantasy worlds. The current trend is to glamorize the mundane using histrionics.
  • A retail store that looks completely stocked and perfect due to facing, creating a world of endless identical products.
  • A life which cannot be (e.g. the perfect facsimile of a celebrity's invented persona).
  • A newly made building or item designed to look old, or to recreate or reproduce an older artifact, by simulating the feel of age or aging.
  • Constructed languages or "reconstructed" extinct dialects.
  • Computer chess is an algorithmic simulation of the chess game, but by the beginning of the twenty-first century the simulacrum overtook in performance the original object of simulation.
  • Weak virtual reality which is greater than any possible simulation of physical reality.

See also

References

Bibliography

  • Jean Baudrillard, "The Precession of Simulacra", in Media and Cultural Studies : Keyworks, Durham & Kellner, eds. ISBN 0-631-22096-8
  • D.M. Boje (1995), "Stories of the storytelling organization: a postmodern analysis of Disney as 'Tamara-land'", Academy of Management Journal, 38(4), pp. 997-1035.
  • Daniel Boorstin, The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America (1992). ISBN 978-0-679-74180-0
  • Albert Borgmann, Crossing the Postmodern Divide (1992).
  • George Ritzer, The McDonaldization of Society (2004). ISBN 978-0-7619-8812-0
  • Charles Arthur Willard Liberalism and the Problem of Knowledge: A New Rhetoric for Modern Democracy. University of Chicago Press. 1996.
  • Andreas Martin Lisewski (2006), "The concept of strong and weak virtual reality", Minds and Machines, 16(2), pp. 201-219.

External links

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