Simulation/Simulacrum: Media Keywords Glossary.

As W. J. T. Mitchell explains in the home page of the Glossary of Keywords of Media Theory of the University of Chicago, “the terms are organised within the structure of the interface like tiles”, and by clicking into them you can dive into the essays written, and very well argumented and referenced by the students of the University of Chicago. What it draws the most my attention of this lay out is the clarity and the easy navegation of the site, in which, as Mitchell remarks the “keywords are hotlinked within the body of the essay as well as by a quicklinks menu. These hotlinked terms lead the reader from one essay to the next in a crawling network of terms”. Also, the terms are activated as tags and, therefore, can be easily found through the use of engine searchers as Google.

The website constitutes an interactive matrix of key terms in Media, researched by the students of Chicago University, which can be used like a first step to fully understand contemporary concepts of Media practice, and from which following the links of the chain you can find the bibliography, and therefore gain access to the original sources in which the arguments of the essays are based on. Therefore, this site is a good point of reference for researchers and learners in general that aim to understand Media theories, and to develop a personal point of view.

D.Sandoz and J. Topor in their definitions of Simulation/simulacrum, draw an historical journey of the evolution of these concepts, starting from the Greek Classics, Plato and Aristotle,until the Contemporary thinkers and authors, such as, Gilles Deleuze and Jean Baudrillard.

Devin Sandoz starts his argument giving to us the offcial definitions of these terms from the Oxford English On-line Dicitionary:

Simulation is defined as “the action or practice for simulating, with an intent to deceive”, whereas Simulacrum is defined as “ something having merely the appearance of a certain thing, without possessing its substance or proper qualities” and as a mere image, a specious imitation or likeness, of something”.

D.Sandoz carries on defining theses terms analysing the article written by Michael Camille
“Simulacrum” in the “Critical terms of the Simulacrum” depicting Plato’s theories. In this paper, M. Camille exposes Plato’s ideas regarding simulacrum, through the analysis of the “Allegory of the Cave” (The Republic: Book VII. 360 BC), from which Sandoz concludes that, “The simulacrum uses our experience of reality against us, creating a false likeness that reproduces so exactly our visual experience with the real that we cannot discern the falseness of the imitation.”.

D. Sandoz also overviews Michael Camille’s text analysing Gilles Deleuze’s essay “Plato and the Simulacrum” in which he focuses the simulacrum as something positive within the art context”

“the simulacrum is not a degraded copy. It arbors a positive power which denies the original and the copy, the model and the reproduction” (Camille: 33).

Furthermore, Deleuze by the deniying this relationship of original and copy, highlights the identity of the simulacrum as an original in its own ends.

“The artwork, then, is neither an original, nor a copy nor a representation. It is a simulacrum a work that forms part of a series that cannot referred to be an original beginning”.

(Kelly, D Ed. (1998). Encyclopedia of the Aesthetics. Oxford:UP)

This point of view was already proposed by Plato in the “Cratylus Dialogue “
(360, BC) in which the philosopher starts developing a theory of the Semiotics exploring the nature of language and the arbitrary relationship whithin the signs between signifier and signified, as Ferdinand de Saussure theorises two millenniums after “in Course in General Linguistics” (1915).

“SOCRATES: Let us suppose the existence of two objects: one of them shall be Cratylus, and the other the image of Cratylus; and we will suppose, further, that some God makes not only a representation such as a painter would make of your outward form and colour, but also creates an inward organization like yours, having the same warmth and softness; and into this infuses motion, and soul, and mind, such as you have, in a wordcopies all your qualities, and places them by you in another form; would you say that this was Cratylus and the image of Cratylus, or that there were two Cratyluses?

CRATYLUS: I should say that there were two Cratyluses.”

In this text, Plato denies the existence and the relationship between an “original” and a “copy” admitting the existence of “two originals”. This point taken by Deleuze as something positive within the art context, has been critisized by the Simulationists, such as , Baudrillard, Humberto Eco and Jorge Luis Borges that denounce, in the social context, the lost of the contact with the reality, that has been replaced by its representation, by its hyperriality.

For Baudrillard, according to Sandoz “the signs are not exchanged for meaning, but merely for another sign”. Or, as Joanna Topor highlights regarding this author’s point, “the world, as we know it now, is constructed on the representation of the representations”.

Jorge Luis Borges in 1960 writes the short story “Rigor in Science” in which establishes a metaphor of this hyperreality in which the cartographers of one Empire draw a map of it in scale 1:1, in a way that the map, the representation, ends up substituting the real territory of the Empire.

“… In that Empire, the Art of Cartography reached such Perfection that the map of one Province alone took up the whole of a City, and the map of the empire, the whole of a Province. In time, those Unconscionable Maps did not satisfy, and the Colleges of Cartographers set up a Map of the Empire which had the size of the Empire itself and coincided with it point by point. Less Addicted to the Study of Cartography, Succeeding Generations understood that this Widespread Map was Useless and not without Impiety they abandoned it to the Inclemencies of the Sun and of the Winters. In the deserts of the West some mangled Ruins of the Map lasted on, inhabited by animals and Beggars; in the whole Country there are no other relics of the Disciplines of Geography.”

Therefore, for Baudrillard our experience of this hyperreal world is mediated by the media, and simulation becomes the essence of mediation. As J. Topor points out:

“Films attempt to depict reality, thereby dictation what reality should look like. In the end it becomes impossible to know what came first, the filmic depiction of reality of reality itself.”

Or as D. Sandoz exposes quoting Bautdrillard, “the dissolution of the tv into life, the dissolution of life into media.”

As matter of fact, the other day I went with my friends to a concert in central London, and I had the pleasure of finding on my way five Madonnas, three David Bowies and seven Blondies.

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