---- by Andrew Wernick
  Simulation is a key Baudrillardian concept, and for many the one by which he is best known. In Latin, simulare (from the same Indo-European root as 'same' in English) means to copy. In modern English, simulation came to have the connotation of falseness and pretence. More recently it came to mean creating an analogue or mathematical model of something in order to study how it operates via artificially or abstractly producing its effects. With the advent of 'realistic' media (photography, film, sound recording, TV, digital media) it has also come to refer to an audio-visual experience that artfully mimics but otherwise has no connection with the reality it presents, as in a flight simulator used in pilot training and video games. Such an experience may at the same time heighten the senses and be more real than real: hyper-real.
  All these meanings are present in Baudrillard's use of the term. But what ties them together is the notion of a kind of copy which is not merely indistinguishable from what it copies but in which the very distinction between copy and original disappears. The simulacrum, as the type of representation produced by simulation, is a copy without an original. In a world in which there are only simulations, or in which the form of the simulacrum predominates, the world itself is a copy of a copy and the very notions of authenticity and truth lose their reference point.
  There is a crucial distinction in this respect between dissimulation and simulation. The latter is beyond truth and lies. As Baudrillard (SS, 3) puts it: 'to dissimulate is to pretend not to have what one has. To simulate is to feign to have what one doesn't have'. However, to simulate is not just to engage in pretence.
  'Whoever simulates an illness produces in himself some of the symptoms' (Littré). Therefore, pretending, or dissimulating, leaves the principle of reality intact: the difference is always clear, it is simply masked, whereas simulation threatens the difference between the 'true' and the 'false', the 'real' and the 'imaginary'. (SS, 3)
  Baudrillard's guiding hypothesis, first elaborated in Symbolic Exchange and Death (1993a [1976]) and further developed in Simulacra and Simulation (1994a [1981]), is that with the rise of post-industrial consumer capitalism (which he had earlier characterised as an order of 'general exchange' (CPS)) we have entered 'the age of simulation'.
  One aspect of the change bringing this about has to do with media technology; Baudrillard's genealogy of simulation (he presents several) builds, in part, on Walter Benjamin's (2008) account of the transformation of art by visual media involving 'mechanical reproduction'. A first stage in the history of the simulacrum is as an individual artefact, for example a handmade copy of a painting. A second, with photography and sound recording, is the mechanically reproduced copy in which all copies are identical with one another, but still retain a trace-connection with an original (light on silver oxide, soundwaves in wax). A third, the case of movies, is the production of a mechanically reproducible copy which has no original outside the composite process of its studio production. The shift from the production of serial copies to that of what is immediately (and only) mechanically reproducible takes us, in Baudrillard's language, from the second to the third order of simulation. He also came to speak of a fourth order of simulation, 'the fractal stage' (TE, 5), in which the mechanically reproducible product is not a unique series but an infinite array of possibilities generated by models. Here, simulacra become viral, they metastasise, and even the sense that referentiality is something lost disappears. It is sometimes thought that Baudrillard's concept of simulation is confined to the world of media, particularly digital, where such a condition is fully realised. However, his application of the term is much wider, so that it becomes an enveloping metaphor for what has happened to the human-made world as a whole. Third-order simulation begins with serial (or mass) production, which became a generalised feature of industrial capitalism. With the 'design revolution' (CPS) and the rise of advertising, signs and commodities merged, which not only generated a vast media image factory, but extended simulation to the realm of objects as well as images. If a preliminary stage was captured in Debord's (1983) 'society of the spectacle' for Baudrillard the process of de-referentialism (in which images refer only to themselves and the line between image and reality is dissolved) that accompanied these developments has gone beyond the point of alienation, or even alienation from alienation. A critique in terms of disalienated labour and 'real needs' is itself based only on a simulacrum that mirrors a capitalist reality that belongs to a now obsolete phase in its development. Freudian psychoanalysis with its simulacral 'unconscious' and Saussure's semiology (which reproduces the late capitalist collapse of the symbolic into coded semiosis) are other instances of simulation in the realm of theory.
  Entry into the age of simulation amounts, in fact, to a paradigm shift, and one so profound that it has made critical theory and practice as previously understood toothless, challenging us to mount an entirely different kind of response ('a move to the symbolic', 'seduction', 'theoretical terrorism', 'fatal strategies' and so on). Baudrillard's 'simulation', it should be noted, is also linked to a philosophical idea. The arrival of simulation corresponds, in Baudrillard's conceptual theatre, to the final stage in Nietzsche's (1987) 'How the "Real World" at Last Became a Myth'. Not only has the 'real world' (that is, the reality underlying or beyond appearances) been 'abolished', and with it the entire epoch of God and metaphysics, so too has the apparent world, itself the last in the succession of what are taken to be ultimate realities. However, whereas for Nietzsche this betokened the completion of nihilism and marked a liberating turning point, for Baudrillard the destruction of the difference between real and apparent by simulation betokens, for better or worse, the end of illusions about any redeeming end, including Nietzsche's. Nor, for Baudrillard, is the rise and predominance of simulation a primarily cultural process. It pertains not to any dialectic of the subject, which becomes a node in the network and an absorbent screen, but to the transformation of the object world which itself commits the perfect crime of making reality and its problem disappear.
   § hyper-reality
   § image
   § media
   § model
   § perfect crime
   § real

The Baudrillard dictionary. . 2015.


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