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Augmenting The Doors of Perception : The Simulacrum

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True perceived reality is a nonsense.

In this mass produced, mass perceived world we inhabit one is often brought to the deceptive conclusion that we live on the brink of some progressive, maybe final understanding; a wave of truth about to sweep our modern shores. With mass communication systems we have closed in the seemingly infinite world of human experience. Radio, television and even more so the internet have each in their own way brought solace to those who use them, that the world they perceive is one shared by others, by millions, billions of souls. No one is a lost entity anymore, the key to reality is about to be written in one inch long formula which everyone will be able to understand. The truth is broadcast 25 hours a day, 366 days a year, and soon, we believe, it will be available to everyone, at a knock down price.

So now we come to my point for all this...

I read with interest an article about a semi-virtual sightseeing device being put through its paces in the Swiss city of Basel. The BBC website outlines its purpose:

"One step on from virtual reality, augmented reality takes the real world and digitally distorts and transforms what we see around us...
LifeClipper, a project created by new media organisation Plug. In, gives artists the digital tools to prise open the doors of perception.

The augmented reality system is entirely put together with off-the-shelf components.

A head-mounted camera, for instance, acts as the eyes.

As the subject makes his or her way around the tour [of Basel], global positioning satellites help trigger visual high-jinks in the rucksack computer according to whichever zone the subject has wandered into."

The birth city of LSD is once again blurring the lines between perceived realities. Augmented reality wins over completely virtual equivalents because the user transforms many of their perceptions themselves. The 'real world' is the canvas on which the psychedelic digital art is painted, thus intensifying the sense that perception is truth.

I was struck by the implications of such a device in no small part because I have recently been reading Jean Baudrillard's post-modern classic Simulacra and Simulation. In the book Baudrillard tells us that:

"Our world has been launched into hyperspace in a kind of postmodern apocalypse. The airless atmosphere has asphyxiated the referent, leaving us satellites in aimless orbit around an empty center. We breathe an ether of floating images that no longer bear a relation to any reality whatsoever..."

That is simulation: the substitution of signs of the real for the real. The Simulacrum is a copy of a copy that has so moved away from its relation to the original as to become something entirely separate from its representation of the original. The Simulacrum is therefore a copy without an original model:

"Meaning is out of reach and out of sight, but not because it has receded into the distance. It is because the code has been miniaturized. Objects are images, images are signs, signs are information, and information fits on a chip. Everything reduces to a molecular binarism. The generalized digitality of the computerized society."

The photo-realistic painting is a copy not of reality, but of a photograph, which is already a copy of the original. In the same way augmented reality, as created by The LifeClipper Project, is in some sense bringing a copied reality to the perceptions of the user. A Simulacrum of a digital matrix overlays the separately existing world, a modern world which in itself is heading towards becoming a full Simulacrum as time weaves its path into our perceived future.

A new, stronger perception of reality is just a hairs breadth away. In the same way that the first campfire, the first light bulb, and the enormous impact of the internet has intensified our world experience so the future of augmenting, virtualising, our post-Simulacrum perceptions will bring into being a new dimension of truth for humanity. A dimension which is copy of a copy which bears no relation to the original. Our reality will become a Simulacrum of itself.

Huge Question: Is God the ultimate Simulacrum?

BBC article on The LifeClipper Project (includes a video of the tour)
Jean Baudrillard's Simulacra and Simulation
Definition of Simulacrum
Further reading on The Simulacrum

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Blogger terseword said...

question: if one believes that further steps in this virtual direction are at hand, that a new word will be needed to describe the copy of some hyper-advanced simulacrum built by our children, is it accurate to assume that the coming (re)creations of this increasingly questionable existence- with our current simulacrum breeding impotent protoplasm with no chance of survival in many previous realities- will produce and nurture husks built only to manage in alien and as yet unimagined realms? yikes if that happens, right?
(shoulda posted as "runon")

February 09, 2008 11:06 AM    

Blogger dudivie said...

ai guess god and everyone is simulacrum

September 21, 2008 2:40 PM    

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