[iDC] Jean Baudrillard

winfried at marotzki.de winfried at marotzki.de
Tue Mar 20 08:40:35 EDT 2007

Hello everybody,

being new to this list, we're impressed by the controversial 
discussions (still) going on about Baudrillard here. Positions 
towards Baudrillards writings seem to be pretty clear: some follow 
him, either a) making sense of his opaque writings or b) continuing 
his style of writing, others read B either a) as a kind of intriguing 
prophet (but not a scientist) oder b) as the worst case of pomo 
lingo. Odds are those groups won't get together for several, and 
supposedly rather principal, reasons.

We ourselves appreciated Baudrillard as someone who had an impressive 
ability to detect and extrapolate social and esp. media related 
trends. Alas, we never took his theses that serious. B's simplistic 
approach to epistemic problems (in the ligth of  discussions about 
radical relativism, radical constructisism ot anti-
representationalism) completely fail to make sense beyond a kind of 
realistic ontology (where you still can claim something "real" as 
opposed to signs).

We don't want to discuss this here - principle discussions on 
ontologies are surely rather unfruitful and easily too complex for 
the means of a mailing list. We'd rather like to pose the question if 
it would be more productive to try to bridge the gap between 
Baudrillard connoisseurs and critics by asking if his observations 
still contain valuable ideas for media theorists and researchers 
beyond B's theoreticist approach to media.

If we don't (want to) rely on an idea that there is a "real" as 
opposed to a symbolic sphere (take that POV for a moment, even if you 
don't go with it), is B's simulacra-thesis (for example) worthless? 
Or is it possible to re-read Baudrillard on the basis of alternative 
ontologies resp. epistemologies?

Looking at media practices, we guess it would be possible to 
distinguish between patterns of pure immediate imitation (of images, 
for e.g. body images like in the MTV series "I want a famous face") 
on the one side and patterns of active reception on the other. So, a 
simulacrum would not be defined as a mere effect caused by media in 
itself. Instead, the concept could serve as a means for identifying 
certain ways to use media in our visual cultures. Of course, you lose 
that grand tale of the "real" becoming a simulacrum that way (so 
what). On the other hand, could it be that many of Baudrillard's 
observations, despite his notion of proper conceptional and 
scientific work, could become valuable to more people than they are 

Winfried Marotzki
Benjamin Joerissen

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