hyperreality


hyperreality
   Made famous by Umberto Eco’s book Travels in Hyperreality, this term refers to the condition of modern living as theorized by the French postmodernist philosopher Jean Baudrillard. In brief, the hyperreal exists when imitations or representations become more ‘real’ than their originals, as when we prefer a sound recording to the original, or would rather see a film of the Grand Canyon than the Canyon itself. Disneyland is the most-discussed example of the hyperreal as it represents a perfect America (or jungle cruise, haunted house, or waterboat tour through scenes of Caribbean piracy) which is ‘better’ than the real life it supposedly copies. In Britain, the simulation environments of theme parks such as Camelot, or indeed the whole representation and marketing of Shakespeare in the tourist industry at Stratford, represents this production, acceleration and circulation of idealized signs and kitsch products for consumers to purchase in mock-real but distinctly authentic surroundings.
   Increasingly, Euroamericans live in a world suffused with copies: simulations, recordings, prints, videos and so on. This is to the extent that we sometimes confuse the ‘live’ with the ‘prerecorded’ (and so try to rewind a television programme we mistakenly think we are watching on video) or prefer the artificial to the natural (phone someone in the hope that their answerphone will take the call). Ultimately, the hyperreal will have triumphed when we all prefer artificial human beings to real people (remember that Disneyland attractions use automatons and not actors).
   See also: postmodernist theory
   PETER CHILDS

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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