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Describe Jean Baudrillard's concept of the orders of simulacra in relation to design in a modern / post modern age. Assess the influence of Baudrillard's ideas on the film The Matrix (or a film of your choice).

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Describe Jean Baudrillard's concept of the orders of simulacra in relation to design in a modern / post modern age. Assess the influence of Baudrillard's ideas on the film The Matrix (or a film of your choice). Adam Coward Bachelor of Arts degree (Hons) Design Goldsmiths, University of London, Department of Design 29/04/2004 'A commodity appears at first sight, a very trivial thing, and easily understood. Its analysis shows that it is in reality, a very queer thing, abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties' (Marx). It has long been a condition of western culture to act for the accumulation of material objects. This is in part due to the capitalist nature of the world within which we live. Marx identifies in 'The Critique of Capitalism' the emergence of two new classes of people, namely 'capitalists' and 'labourers'. The term 'capitalist' describes any person who has personal ownership of capital, which 'consists of raw materials, instruments of labour and means of subsistence' (Marx). In contrast a 'labourer' has only the value of his labour (life activity), which he exchanges with the capitalist for a wage and as such 'the worker sinks to the level of commodity' (Marx). Because the labourer produces for the capitalist a commodity of greater value than that of his wages and in addition those wages are paid ...read more.


In this instance the link between reality and the signifying systems is almost impossible to ascertain, thus creating a 'hyper-reality'. It is the use of one simulacra as a basis for the formation of another simulacra that shows the first signs of relevance to post modernity. Consequently, in post modernism, everything is understood in relation to everything that has come before, which in design manifests itself in referencing. Post modernism is also concerned with the fact that there is no right or wrong and essentially that no real truth exists. It is of course possible for a sign to make a transition through all four of the orders of simulation, constantly abstracting meaning and widening the gap between simulation and reality. However due to the complexity of repeated abstraction and signification it becomes necessary for an amount of speculation and simplification to occur when examining transitional examples. If we take, for example, the now famous emblem of automotive company Rolls Royce, it becomes apparent the extent to which a symbolic object can be re-simulated, each time loosing a part of it's original meaning. 'Spirit of Ecstasy', designed by sculptor Charles Sykes and mass produced in 1911, is a cast metal emblem representing the figurine of a girl with arms outstretched to hold the folds of her gown blowing in the breeze. ...read more.


increasingly exert themselves with every new generation. Interestingly The Matrix seems to offer a solution to simulation and social control by the system, which is one of enlightenment. Once Neo understands the systems and can see the signs (computer code) of the matrix for what they really are, then he can choose to follow a different set of rules thus gaining control of his environment. As well as a theological basis on Baudrillard, The Matrix tends to convey the story via symbolic references and thus is post modern by nature. For example the 'follow the white rabbit scene' employs a tattoo of a white rabbit, which is referenced from 'Alice in Wonderland' in order to convey the uncertainty in discovering the truth of an alternate reality. In the same scene Neo also opens a copy Baudrillard's 'Simulacra and Simulation' in effect reinforcing links to that element of the film. In conclusion, I have identified the main themes surrounding Baudrillard's orders of simulacra and simulation, shown how they relate to modern and post modern design and have given contemporary examples of their use in product design and film making. I believe that such an understanding of simulation has served well to better understanding referencing in post modernity. ...read more.

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