Saturday, 24 March 2012

Task 4 - Hyperreality

Write a short analysis (300 words approx) of an aspect of our culture that is in some way Hyperreal. Hyperreality is an awkward and slippery concept. Wikipedia defines it as follows-

Hyperreality is used in semiotics and postmodern philosophy to describe a hypothetical inability of consciousness to distinguish reality from a simulation of reality, especially in technologically advanced post-modern societies. Hyperreality is a way of characterizing what our consciousness defines as "real" in a world where a multitude of media can radically shape and filter an original event or experience.

Wikipedia cites the following examples to get you thinking (but please come up with your own!)
A well manicured garden (nature as hyperreal).
Any massively promoted versions of historical or present "facts" (e.g. "General Ignorance" from QI, where the questions have seemingly obvious answers, which are actually wrong).
Professional sports athletes as super, invincible versions of the human beings.
Many world cities and places which did not evolve as functional places with some basis in reality, as if they were creatio ex nihilo (literally 'creation out of nothing'): Disney World; Dubai; Celebration, Florida; and Las Vegas.
TV and film in general (especially "reality" TV), due to its creation of a world of fantasy and its dependence that the viewer will engage with these fantasy worlds. The current trend is to glamorize the mundane using histrionics.
A retail store that looks completely stocked and perfect due to facing, creating a world of endless identical products.
A life which cannot be (e.g. the perfect facsimile of a celebrity's invented persona).
A high end sex doll used as a simulacrum of an unattainable partner.[7]
A newly made building or item designed to look old, or to recreate or reproduce an older artifact, by simulating the feel of age or aging.
Second Life The distinction becomes blurred when it becomes the platform for RL (Real Life) courses and conferences, Alcoholics Anonymous meetings or leads to real world interactions behind the scenes.
Weak virtual reality which is greater than any possible simulation of physical reality.

A McDonalds Happy Meal

Consider the following list of ingredients in McNugget “chicken”, Chicken (45%), Coating [Vegetable Oil (Rapeseed, Sunflower), Wheat Flour, Water (8%), Maize Flour, Modified Starch, Raising Agents (Disodium Diphosphate, Sodium Bicarbonate), Whey Powder (from Milk), Flavour Enhancer (Potassium Chloride), Egg Albumen (Free Range Egg), Ground Pepper, Breadcrumb (Wheat Flour, Salt), Salt, Dextrose, Ground Celery], Water (7%), Potato Starch, Vegetable Oil (Rapeseed, Sunflower), Natural Flavouring (from Free Range Egg), Flavour Enhancer (Potassium Chloride). Prepared in the restaurants using a non-hydrogenated vegetable oil  (1)

Cooked Chicken Breast (27%), Water, Wheat Flour, Vegetable Oil, Milk, Reformed Ham (5%) [Pork, Water, Salt, Glucose Syrup, Stabilisers (Di, Tri & Poly Phosphates), Preservative (Sodium Nitrite), Antioxidant (Sodium Ascorbate)], Cheddar Cheese (4%), Whipping Cream, Starches (Maize, Modified Maize), Soya Protein Isolate (2%), Semolina, Antioxidant (Potassium Lactate), Sugar, Egg White, Stabiliser (Methyl Cellulose), Salt, Yeast, Red Wine Vinegar, Oat Fibre, Natural Flavouring, Dextrose, Paprika, Rosemary Extract, Pepper, Soya Lecithin.

Chicken Breast (92%),Water ,Butter ,Whey Concentrate ,Maltodextrin ,Salt ,Parsley , Acidity Regulator (Sodium Diacetate) ,

100% Roast Chicken!

Fast food outlets such as McDonalds who supply Chicken McNuggets reinfored with the plethora of processed ready meals available on our Supermarket shelves are providing young people and children with a hyperreality of what chicken is, what it tastes like and how it should be consumed.

Chicken McNuggets and other battered/breaded products are a copy of reality, a simulcra.  Where children are eating only packaged fast food and ready meals these 'copies' provide their perception of 'food'.  Any connection to the reality of food such as the image of a live chicken which has been slaughtered, plucked and then roasted has faded.

Chicken McNuggets, although 45% chicken are reconstituted, flavoured and fried in batter which provide a simulcra of the taste and texture of 'chicken' which has no basis in reality. So the reality of the taste and texture of chicken fades and only the copy remains. Chicken McNuggett has become a 'sign' of chicken so for all intensive purposes it now is chicken.

The reason for eating food, that of sustaining our health, energy and well being, is lost in a world of colourful Happy Meals, with packaging advertising the latest Pixar movie and a free toy.  Children are not only associating food with reward but also expecting it to be perfectly packaged and formed.  McDonald's Restaurants are colourful, bright spaces which along with their advertising campaigns promote signs of fun and happiness, not necessarily food.

'According to Baudrillard, consumption consists of the exchange of signs. Signs and images supersede materiality and use value. This is not to argue that the products that we consume have no functional utility; rather, functionality itself is treated as a sign.' (2)  Thus when a child eats a Happy meal in a McDonalds Restaurant, he or she perceives this more a sign of happiness and reward rather than for its use value of 'food'.  

1. (Accessed March 2012)

2. LaFountain MJ,2008, (Accessed March 2012)

Some interesting Journals and Essays I found about Hyperreality

Specifically about Supersize me and Fast food:

'The self-referential relationship between signs produces “simulations”, which are the basis of “hyperreality”.  In hyperreality, signs do not exchange with nonlinguistic reality, or with the objective world.  They exchange only with each other in an “ecstasy of communication” that does not produce meaning or value.  What it produces is the frenzy of signs pointing to their equivalents.  Because the relationship between the sign and the objective world has been effaced and replaced by simulations, there are no referent points between signs and “the real” by which to establish value or difference.'

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