Monday, February 8, 2010

TV Fantasies

by Alex Goldman

Jean Baudrillard's philosophy centers on the twin concepts of 'hyperreality' and 'simulation'. These terms refer to the virtual or unreal nature of contemporary culture in an age of mass communication and mass consumption. We live in a world dominated by simulated experiences and feelings, Jean Baudrillard believes, and have lost the capacity to comprehend reality as it actually exists. We experience only prepared realities – edited war footage, meaningless acts of terrorism, the destruction of cultural values and the substitution of 'referendum'. In Jean Baudrillard's words, The very definition of the real has become: that of which it is possible to give an equivalent reproduction… The real is not only what can be reproduced, but that which is always already reproduced: that is the hyperreal… which is entirely in simulation.

In TV Fantasies,” Baudrillard creates an anti-television manifesto, claiming that television has become a narcissistic and disappointing medium that is heading toward becoming obsolete in relaying any useful information. Television, says Baudrillard, “is supposed to exist to speak to us about the world….to put events first and its own concerns second. But for some time now, it seems either to have lost this respect for itself or to have come to regard itself as the event” (186). In other words, Baudrillard is calling television out as wrongly considering itself a newsworthy event. He uses reality shows as an example to illustrate his point that audiences now care more about images than information.

Baudrillard also claims that Television, a medium which was originally intended as a vessel for carrying important news information across to an eager audience, now disregards its audience except for the fact that they are “an audience;” a needed component for their medium’s success: “…it is talking only to itself or to an unidentified audience whose role is merely to provide viewing figures – which amounts to the same thing. It is consequently losing its credibility with the public, and losing all credit in its own eyes” (187-88). In Baudrillard’s opinion, the audience and medium are becoming equally apathetic enablers of one another’s lax attitudes toward the decline of television as a credible news source that lacks “imagination” and is a general disappointment in the media world.

Baudrillard reminds us that we must keep in mind the constantly changing and advancing media technologies, and remember that like Television for example, a once useful, exciting technology may become destructive or obsolete.

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