Academia Media Politics/Government

On Hyperreality

He will be unable to see the realities of which in his former state he had seen the shadows; and then conceive someone saying to him, that what he saw before was an illusion, but that now, when he is approaching nearer to being and his eye is turned towards more real existence, he has a clearer vision – what will be his reply? – Plato

In Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, dancing shadows on stone walls became reality for prisoners chained and forced to watch. They could not see the figures that created the flickering images, and so understood reality only through distorted shadows created by fire light. Upon their release, the prisoners found the shadows, which they had named, were more ‘real’ than the reality to which they had now been exposed.

Jean Baudrillard’s concept of hyperreality adapts Plato’s allegory and applies it to mass media. It accounts for the signs and symbols employed in books, film, television and on the internet as tools used to construct a hyperreality and then present it as reality to the audience. Belk succintly describes hyperreality as “a santized version of reality, cleansed of strife, world problems, dirt, prejudice [and] exploitation”. [1] This new reality is created by the semiotics of the modern era. King adds that hyperreality is when the symbols become devoid of any connection to reality: “in hyperreality, our knowledge of the world floats free from any verifying reference.” [2] Hyperreality is a concept that is surreptitiously woven through mass and popular media in many forms. My project On Hypperreality interrogates the presence of hyperreality – both overt and covert – within a variety of popular media. It aims to locate sites of hyperreality in media such as film, television, books, and the internet and expose them.

1.Russell W Belk, ‘Hyperreality and Globalization: Culture in the age of Ronald McDonald’, Journal of International Consumer Marketing, 1999, ProQuest, pp23-27: p29
2.Anthony King, ‘A Critique of Baudrillard’s Hyperreality: Towards a Sociology of Postmodernism’, Philosophy Social Criticism, 1998, Vol.24, No.47, pp46-66:p48.

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