Simulacra and Simulation by Jean Baudrillard
Chapter 1: The precession of simulacra: pp. 1-42
What has happened in postmodern culture is that our society has
become so reliant on models and maps that we have lost all contact
with the real world that preceded the map. Reality itself has begun
merely to imitate the model, which now precedes and determines the
real world: "The territory no longer precedes the map, nor does it
survive it. It is nevertheless the map that precedes the territory—
precession of simulacra—that engenders the territory" According to
Baudrillard, when it comes to postmodern simulation and simulacra,
“It is no longer a question of imitation, nor duplication, nor even
parody. It is a question of substituting the signs of the real for the
According to Baudrillard the world, as we know it now, is
constructed on the representation of representations. These
simulations exist to fool us into thinking that an identifiable reality
exists. Baudrillard is not merely suggesting that postmodern culture
is artificial, because the concept of artificiality still requires some
sense of reality against which to recognize the artifice. His point,
rather, is that we have lost all ability to make sense of the
distinction between nature and artifice. To clarify his point, he argues
that there are three "orders of simulacra":
(1) The first order of simulacra focuses on counterfeits and false
images. In this instance the sign no longer refers to that which it is
obligated to refer to, but rather to produce signifiers. In this level,
signs cease to have obligatory meanings. Instead the sign becomes
more important than the physical. That is to say that the focus is
placed on the sign rather than on what it is intended to represent.
Thus what becomes crucial for the furthering of simulation is the
reproduction of the sign itself not the physical or the signified. This
is the realm of the automaton, the obvious fake that plays with
(2) The second order of simulacra is dominated by production of
these false images. In this order signs become repetitive and begin to
make individuals the same. Signs refer to the differentiation between
the represented signified, not to reality. This is the level of the robot,
more real than the automaton, but not quite human. The robot con
exist independent of human control in reality, but at the same time
(3) The third order of simulacra rests on ultimate simulation. What is
present in this order is the ultimate collapse between reality and the
imaginary. It is no longer possible to tell the difference between what
is real and it's simulation. This is the level of the clone, not equivalent
to man, but rather a hyperreal variant.
There is no longer any distinction between reality and its
representation; there is only the simulacrum. In these ways simulacra
become that which conceals the truth and makes simulation, in the
everyday sense, impossible (like war, Disneyland, Watergate..). In
other words, what is created is used to mark or coverup social, moral,
and cultural issues. If we are kept in the imaginary, then we never
know what is true. Simulacra engenders myths of reality. Such
notions of concealment extend to sexuality, advertising and the
media. These simulations mediate the truth.
Baudrillard points to a number of phenomena to explain this loss of
distinctions between "reality" and the simulacrum:
1) Media culture. Contemporary media (television, film, magazines,
billboards, the Internet) are concerned not just with relaying
information or stories but with interpreting our most private selves
for us, making us approach each other and the world through the
lens of these media images. We therefore no longer acquire goods
because of real needs but because of desires that are increasingly
defined by commercials and commercialized images, which keep us at
one step removed from the reality of our bodies or of the world
around us. The media itself is therefore responsible for this
breakdown of reality since it only provides us with simulated events
and communications. As long as there is media, there will exist a
simulation and reproduction of signs that constitute reality. The
relation of media to simulation is an investigation into the idea of
2) Exchange-Value. According to Karl Marx, the entrance into
capitalist culture meant that we ceased to think of purchased goods in
put. Instead, everything began to be translated into how much it is
worth, into what it can be exchanged for (its exchange-value). Once
money became a “universal equivalent,” against which everything in
our lives is measured, things lost their material reality (real-world
uses, the sweat and tears of the laborer). We began even to think of
our own lives in terms of money rather than in terms of the real
things we hold in our hands: how much is my time worth? How does
my conspicuous consumption define me as a person? According to
Baudrillard, in the postmodern age, we have lost all sense of use-
value: "It is all capital"
3) Multinational capitalism. As the things we use are increasingly
the product of complex industrial processes, we lose touch with the
underlying reality of the goods we consume. Not even national
identity functions in a world of multinational corporations.
According to Baudrillard, it is capital that now defines our identities.
We thus continue to lose touch with the material fact of the laborer,
who is increasingly invisible to a consumer oriented towards retail
outlets or the even more impersonal Internet. A common example of
this is the fact that most consumers do not know how the products
they consume are related to real-life things. How many people could
identify the actual plant from which is derived the coffee bean?
Starbucks, by contrast, increasingly defines our urban realities
4) Urbanization. As we continue to develop available geographical
locations, we lose touch with any sense of the natural world. Even
natural spaces are now understood as “protected,” which is to say
that they are defined in contradistinction to an urban “reality,” often
with signs to point out just how “real” they are. Increasingly, we
expect the sign (behold nature!) to precede access to nature.
5) Language and Ideology. Baudrillard illustrates how in such
subtle ways language keeps us from accessing “reality.” The earlier
understanding of ideology was that it hid the truth, that it represented
a “false consciousness,” as Marxists phrase it, keeping us from seeing
the real workings of the state, of economic forces, or of the dominant
groups in power. Postmodernism, on the other hand, understands
ideology as the support for our very perception of reality. There is no
outside of ideology, according to this view, at least no outside that
can be articulated in language. Because we are so reliant on language
to structure our perceptions, any representation of reality is always
already ideological, always already constructed by simulacra.
How does Baudrillard purport to make his claims? He conceptualizes
A. What is simulation? How is Baudrillard’s definition different
from what we know about other definitions of simulation?
- it engenders/embodies a territory/space
- it imitates the “real”
- opposed to representation: sign has no value- representation
attempts to absorb simulation by interpreting it as false
- simulation envelops the whole edifice or representation as a
- properties of the image: (a) it reflects reality, (b) masks reality,
(c) masks the absence of reality, (d) has no relation to any
reality- it is pure
- give an example
B. What is simulacra?
- a copy without an original that no longer measures itself against
something else and because it doesn’t measure itself against
anything else or imaginary, it ceases to be real and can vanish
into simulation: known as the hyperreal
- no longer has binary oppositions- entirely its own
- it is a matter of substituting images/signs of the real for the real
but because it has nothing against which it can be measured, it
must vanish into simulation
- images/signs are remnants of the copy and become
placeholders that situate and co-construct new contexts
- but how can there be a copy without an original?
- do we need an original in order to produce a copy?
- give an example
In this book, we rethink cultural materialism, which redefines how
identities are co-constructed. The images/signs we see that inhabit a
space, are markers and people negotiate their identities toward and
against these markers. Identities can stabilize, destabilize and even
restabilize when images/signs change. Images/signs are markers of
time and exhume the past/recycle into different forms. Baudrillard
claims that our society has replaced all reality and meaning with
symbols and images/signs, and that in fact all that we know as real is
actually a simulation of reality. The simulacra that Baudrillard refers
to are signs of culture and media that create the reality that we
Baudrillard describes a world saturated by imagery, infused with
media, sound, and advertising. This simulacra of the real surpasses
the real world and thus becomes hyperreal, a world that is more real
than real and must vanish into simulation. It presupposes and
precedes the real.
A specific analogy that Baudrillard uses is a fable derived from the
work of Jorge Luis Borges. In it, a great Empire created a map that
was so detailed it was as large as the Empire itself. The actual map
grew and decayed as the Empire itself conquered or lost territory.
When the Empire crumbled, all that was left was the map. In
Baudrillard's rendition, it is the map that we are living in, the
simulation of reality, and it is reality that is crumbling away from
The hyperreal and the imaginary
Disneyland: how does he describe it? Aloud, Rd. p 12
•Disneyland as simulacra exists in order to hide the real country- the
US- it is presented as imaginary in order to make us believe that the
rest is real
•Becomes a rationale for behavior on the outside
•We reinvent the original but whose to say there was ever an original?
•So what is real? We reinvent everything from bodies to plastic
surgery from walking to jogging- things do not stay in its original
form- because there was never an original form
What properties make Disneyland a simulacra?
How is Disneyland like religion?
What kinds of things are simulacra for the “real”? How are they a
Food for thought: How can the imaginary be made real and
• needs an “anti” to validate the real.
For example: art and antiart, money and antimony, pedagogy and
•he suggests that it is impossible to isolate the real because it is
surrounded by the antireal, thereby it is impossible to simulate
•For example, the media tells us that holdups, hijacking, etc are real
because they are inscribed in the media’s representation of signs and
Pose: So how do we know something really happened when its
media generated and the real does not exist?
What else does the media tell us is real? What kinds of implications
do these images and sings have for people?
Baudrillard says that we fight over what isn’t even real, over signifiers
for what we think is real: through war, money, etc. They all point
back to that which can never be real. We live in a world of
simulation where it is next to impossible to trace something back to
Take out your wallets
1. take out anything that is a sign or image for something else
2. now consider how that item represents your own cultural
materialism- i.e., what does it symbolize, what does it give you access
3. is what you are looking at real? Do you agree/disagree with
Baudrillard, why or why not?
History: A Retro Scenario
On a sheet of paper, please answer:
What is history?
Who defines history? How is history defined? How is history
dangerous? Can we restore history? Can we defend history? Is
history a simulacra- do we even know true history?
When Baudrillard says that history is a myth, a lost referential,
what does he mean?
How were referentials lost over time? Do people, groups
attempt to exterminate referentials?
What impact does history have on identity construction?
Cinema is also a simulacra in that it plagiarizes itself, recopies itself,
Name a film that has remade itself or morphed into a different
How does film contribute to the disappearance of history?
When the Holocaust was going to be aired it was controversial
as it would forever change people’s political and pedagogical
beliefs and have consequences on the human psyche. But to
not show is to perpetuate the extermination that had already
happened. Some people believe that we should forget it
happened altogether. What do you think? Should some things
QuickTime™ and a
TIF F (Uncompressed) decompressor
are needed to see this picture.
The Beaubourg Effect: Implosion and Deterence, p. 61
The Beaubourg is an ultra-modern museum ( a hyper simulation) in
the Latin Quarter of Paris, and is also known as the Centre Pompido-
opened in 1977.
-industrial style, with bold architectural elements such as its steel
superstructure, clear plastic escalator tunnels, and brightly colored
elevators and utility pipes exposed on the outside of the building,
generated furious controversy during its construction and for some
-the six-story building contains a modern art museum, a public
library, and music and industrial design centers.
-by the early 1990s rust and peeling paint on the building's exterior
made restoration necessary. Begun in 1995 and completed in 2000,
the renovation included an updated library, basement theaters, a
restaurant, and other expanded facilities.
•What does Baudrillard say about monuments?
•Who decides what goes into a monument? How does that
affect historical, cultural, gender and political identity?
•How does a monument capture history? Can monuments be
falsifications? Imitations? Narrow in scope? Anachronistic?
•Do you have an experiences with any particular monuments
that have impacted you? In what way?
•How is the Beaubourg a hypermarket?
The Implosion of Meaning in the Media, 79-95
QuickTime™ and a
TIF F (U nc ompr es sed) dec ompr es sor
are needed to see this pictur e.
We live in a world where there is more and more information and
less and less meaning (p.79)
Three groups; each groups explains either hypothesis one, two, three
As a whole raise your hand if…you agree/disagree with any of the
three hypotheses on p.79? Explain and take note.
FCC and Media discussion
Independent media stations:
VIEW: Watch Independent Media in the Time of War: Amy
Do you agree/disagree with the three hypotheses on p.79? Explain
Does the media destroy reality? Does is seek to alter it? Is the media
dangerous? Does the media neutralize meaning and produce
uninformed identities or do the masses neutralize meaning? How
does this sustain the status quo? What are the dangers of
international media? Who disseminates knowledge? Who owns
Clone Story pp. 95-103
The body double is imaginary-
What clone stories do you know?
What are some of the ethical implications of cloning?
What becomes reduced about cloning?
Advantages? Disadvantages to cloning?
Divide room in half
Holograms, pp. 105-110
To see the self reflected as one passes through his/her own body and
be transported into different times and spaces. What is the
significance of this? Is it possible? Does the possibility matter? Why
do we need to know about holograms? Why are people intrigued by
Qu ic kTime ™ a nd a
TI FF (Un comp ress ed ) de co mpres sor
are n eed ed t o se e t his pict ure .
Do not read pp. 121-127
Crash pp. 111-119
Qu i ckTi me ™ an d a
TIFF (Un co mp r s se d) de co mp r s so r
a r ne ed ed to se e thi s p i ctu r .
What do you think of when you think of a crash?
Have you ever stopped to watch an accident?
How are people preoccupied with death?
How are they popularized?
How are they humanized?
An extension of death and our mortality
WATCH clips from JACKASS
The Animals: Territories and Metamorphoses: pp 129-142
View- The Earthlings
Ask: Why does Baudrillard include this chapter in this book?
How does it relate to this course?
What did you take away from the chapter and the viewing?
The end of the book: 143-end
-Discuss the concept of binary and how the mirror/order/regulation survives and
sustains itself on binaries.
-Discuss social construction or order, relationships, etc.
-Do we need the binary? Is it essential to our existence? What
happens when it does not work? Is the binary destructive- for when it
is not met, people are incarcerated, relationships crumble, fights
Full group discussion
Oy! What does Baudrillard mean when he says???
•What is your : raison d’être- reason to exist?
•Rd; opening of p. 149
•Seduction begins when there is no hope for meaning—and why is
he a nihlist?
•What does it prey itself on?
•Why did we study Baudrillard?
•What did you gain from reading Baudrillard?