Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Bin Laden and the Word of the Day: Simulacrum

It struck me today that part of what troubles me about the proliferation of multiple social media (see my previous post) is what the French postmodern theorist Jean Baudrillard described as the free play of simulacra (the plural of simulacrum, which can be defined as "something that replaces reality with its representation").

In other words, as Baudrillard feared, we are so busy looking at representations of reality--representations that are separated by several degrees from reality--that we lose sight of reality itself. In other words, we are trapped in Plato's cave, watching images dance on a wall.

Case in point: you can watch on your computer screen a video of Osama bin Laden watching himself on television--a video snatched by the Navy SEAL teams last week but now being broadcast all over the world. So what's real here?

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