Hyper-reality (or hyperreality, depending on your source) is a conecpt associated with philosopher Jean Baudrillard, who argued that, as a result of the spread of electronic communication, there is no longer a separate "reality" to which television programs and other cultural products refer. Instead, what we take to be "reality" is structured by such communication itself.

Jean Baudrillard himself is something of an unusual character. A French intellectual, post-modern critic, and an extreme proponent of post-modernity, Baudrillard looks at how our postmodern world is no longer real, but only a simulation of the real. His general philosophies and writings revolve around the idea that media has altered our perception of the world to such a degree that we actually no longer perceive the world as it really is, but as an artificial shell of reality.

A strong example of hyper-reality, as defined by Baudrillard, is that the items reported on the news are not just about a separate series of events, but that instead these reports actually define and construct what these events are. For example, he argues that the Gulf War in reality never happened; it was instead a fabrication of the media.

Most philosophers believe that the concept of hyper-reality has some limited merit, but that Baudrillard is perhaps stretching things a bit. In the philosophy community, the general belief is that media and communication tend to distort reality, but is incapable of replacing it because reality serves as the foundation of media and communication. In other words, without real feelings, events, or emotions, media could not exist and could not distort it.

A strong example in favor of the hyper-reality argument is the advent of internet-based memes. In the digital age, information can be instantaneously reproduced at the click of a mouse button, and often travels around very quickly. When an email message is forwarded or a meme is communicated via weblog or by instant messaging, a particular piece of information is immediately duplicated for you; I didn't create it or alter it in the least, as the original message or meme remains unchanged. Thus, it can be argued that the information is autonomous, which supports the theory of hyper-reality. A specific example of this is the infamous forwarding of the supposed Kurt Vonnegut MIT address that never happened; this piece of information was entirely false, but the widespread availability of electronic communication made the information able to be distributed so widely that it became true for many people long before it had a chance to be retracted, thus creating a false reality, which is exactly what hyper-reality proposes.

A strong example opposing hyper-reality is the ongoing fighting in the Middle East between Arabs and Israelis, the latest incarnation of a battle that has been waged there for thousands of years. It is very hard for media to distort the core fight here; it has been waged with such emotion and conviction for so long that it is undeniably a part of the real world that we live in; this event is real. One can go there and witness the fighting directly; the media can at most distort the facts. The existence of reality itself that one can witness and media can at most distort is the most convincing counter-argument to hyper-reality that one can find.

Hyper-reality is an interesting philosophical concept developed by an interesting philosophical mind. Whether it is truth is up to thinking minds to decide for themselves.

George Orwell proposed in his book 1984 that a dictatorship can control laws and technology to make its people believe whatever it wants, and thus make them do whatever it wants. A dictatorship could create fictitious people, wars and whole nations on TV and make its people believe that they exist. It could also deny the existance or change the perception of real people, wars or nations. In 1984 the government was already betraying its allies and lying about the past every day, but its antagonist O'Brien said that eventually the government would even be able to deny the existance of the nations it opposed. "Ocenia is the world."

The government could force words and grammar in and out of language to make it impossible to even talk or think about things the government disliked. The character Syme said that by forcing words out of language, people in the future who had never grown up with today's words wouldn't understand today's speeches and documents. They'd even be untranslatable because the ideas in those documents wouldn't exist any more.

Today, comuter animators can create videos of people, places or things that look real, but don't exist. Or they can create video of real people doing things that they never actually did. Today's governments are proposing monitoring all internet traffic for politically incorrect ideas. They can tap all cel phone conversations, they want to outlaw cryptography. And soon there will be enough bandwidth on the internet to support a video camera and microphone in every home. These cameras and microphones will be advertized as videophones, but they might double as spying devices.

The term "hyperreality" was coined by hardcore semiotician Umberto Eco in 1975, in his essay "Travels in Hyperreality". Eco travels across the US on the ultimate postmodern roadtrip from Disneyland to Disneyworld via Las Vegas. In Eco's terms, his tour is a pilgrimage in search of "hyperreality," or the world of "the Absolute Fake," where imitations are not simply faithful reproductions reality, but attempts to improve on it.

His most insightful contribution to the idea of hyperreality is that behind the simulacra is capitalism. Main Street USA at Disney, whilst representing small town America is merely a facade for a shopping mall. Although many critics find Eco's criticisms of American culture unusually scathing, there are seemingly moments of genuine nostalgia for the hyperreal. When travelling along the Mississippi he comments that "you risk feeling homesick for Disneyland...where the wild animals don't have to be coaxed. Disneyland tells us that technology can give us a better reality than nature can."

Jean Baudrillard inspired by Eco's travelogue embarked upon Simulacra et Simulations, and has showed a continual fascination with Eco's ideas of Disney.

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