Jean Baudrillard
By: Joshua Glenn | Categories: HiLo Heroes

A master of the rhetorical device known as prolepsis, the French philosopher and sci-fi fan JEAN BAUDRILLARD (1929-2007) gained notoriety by referring to future phenomena as though they’d already occurred. Scorning the efforts of journalists and second-rate philosophers to prop up the same old binary hierarchical oppositions — body/mind, real/artificial, original/copy — that had exercised thinkers, writers, and artists ever since the Renaissance, Baudrillard argued that we’d entered into a paralyzing era of simulation, cloned duplication, the digitized and multiplied, the “hyperreal.” (We hadn’t, quite, but his prediction looks more and more accurate every day.) Expressed via thorny essays and elliptical aphorisms, Baudrillard’s normative values are themselves a binary hierarchical opposition: charming vs. creepy. Faked, imperfect, all-too-human “second-order simulacra” like vinyl LPs or robots from 1950s sci-fi movies are charming, he insisted. But present and future technologies like CDs and androids, which flawlessly simulate/replicate their originals, are creepy. Though the Wachowski Brothers’ The Matrix ham-fistedly paid tribute to his 1981 essay Simulacra and Simulation, Baudrillard regarded its pioneering use of CGI as further evidence that we were already living in a dystopian future.

ALSO BORN THIS DATE: Don Marquis.

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Joshua Glenn is an author, publisher, and semiotic analyst. He is co-author (with Mark Kingwell and the cartoonist Seth) of THE IDLER'S GLOSSARY and THE WAGE SLAVE'S GLOSSARY, co-editor of the object-oriented story collections TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY and (with Rob Walker) SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS, and co-author (with Elizabeth Foy Larsen) of the family activities guide UNBORED and three forthcoming spinoffs, including UNBORED Games. He is editor of HILOBROW and publisher of the Radium Age science fiction imprint HiLoBooks. Also: Glenn manages a secretive online community known as the Hermenautic Circle; he is founding editor of the e-book club Save the Adventure; and he's a frequent co-host of Boing Boing's podcast GWEEK. In the ’00s, Glenn was an editor, columnist, and blogger for the Boston Globe's IDEAS section, he co-founded the international semiotics website SEMIONAUT, and contributed to CABINET, SLATE, and elsewhere. In the ’90s, he published the high-lowbrow zine/journal HERMENAUT, worked as a dotcom and magazine editor, and contributed to THE BAFFLER, FEED, and elsewhere. His publishing company is King Mixer, LLC; and his semiotic analysis consultancy is Semiovox LLC. He lives in Boston with his wife and children.