Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Hyperreality is used in semiotics and postmodern philosophy to describe a hypothetical inability of consciousness to distinguish reality from fantasy, especially in technologically advanced postmodern cultures. Hyperreality is a means to characterize the way consciousness defines what is actually "real" in a world where a multitude of media can radically shape and filter an original event or experience. Some famous theorists of hyperreality include Jean Baudrillard, Albert Borgmann, Daniel Boorstin, and Umberto Eco.
Most aspects of hyperreality can be thought of as "reality by proxy." Some examples are simpler: the McDonald's "M" arches create a world with the promise of endless amounts of identical food, when in "reality" the "M" represents nothing, and the food produced is neither identical nor infinite.
Baudrillard in particular suggests that the world we live in has been replaced by a copy world, where we seek simulated stimuli and nothing more. Baudrillard borrows, from Jorge Luis Borges (who already borrowed from Lewis Carroll), the example of a society whose cartographers create a map so detailed that it covers the very things it was designed to represent. When the empire declines, the map fades into the landscape and there is neither the representation nor the real remaining – just the hyperreal. Baudrillard's idea of hyperreality was heavily influenced by phenomenology, semiotics, and Marshall McLuhan.