Simulacra- “Something that replaces reality with it’s representation”.
When I first came across Guy Debord’s definition of simulacra, the concept seemed foggy and abstract. All the talk of spectacles and the consumption of ‘signs’ made this week’s theory one of the most complicated to date. This was to be expected as the theories we looked at were heavily based on philosophy which is simultaneously incredibly vague and ridiculously complex. Once we had unpacked and discussed the theories, however, I find the ideas raised by Guy Debord and Jean Boudrillard very easy to engage with.
I had somewhat conflicting feelings about the theories, because a large part of me doesn’t want to accept that a large part of my life; the things that I value; the activities I part-take in, all contribute to this synthetic bubble of simulacra that we’ve created around us as a society. The theories of spectacles and simulacra are especially daunting for someone who wants to work in journalism (the chief industry for perpetuating what Boudrillard referred to as ‘hyperreality’). Baudrillard even wrote a book entitled “The Gulf War Did Not Take Place”, in which he uses US media representation of The Gulf War to exemplify his point that the media is a key instrument in creating and maintaining spectacles.
I was on the verge of choosing an entirely new career path until I remembered that this is 2017, the information age, anybody who still lived in the afore mentioned synthetic bubble does so by choice. We all have access to so much information and different viewpoints through online media, that for the majority of us, the bubble had either burst a long time ago. I feel like this is especially true for my generation; having basically only ever known a society as sceptical as the one now .
The foundations for the scepticism and general suspicion that you see amongst communities today were perhaps laid during the Situationist movement that Debord was involved in. Something he had not considered however, was that eventually society would clock on to what he and Boudrillard were trying to warn us. This begs the question: are simulations and representations of reality necessarily bad for us to consume when we are aware of their false nature?
I think the fact that most of us are aware of the magical tips and tricks of the media, and the ever demoralising functions of our capitalist society allows us to use the bubble to our own advantage. My magazine, for example, contains plenty of symbolism, exploitation of spectacles and visual fetishism but because it is created and targeted at an audience that knows how to receive such things (i.e. with a pinch of salt) it is harmless to society. I don’t believe “a man’s life has been reduced to the consumption of signs” because for me the prominence of spectacles and simulacra in our society doesn’t necessarily take away from my ability to distinguish what is real and what isn’t.
In short, if today’s society were The Matrix, everyone would have taken the red pill but entering with The Matrix would be a normal, and for the most part, harmless part of life. (If you don’t understand this metaphor because you haven’t seen The Matrix, watch it).