Simulations are best described as an imitation of something else. Jean Baudrillard describes simulations as something that challenges the difference between what is true and what is false; between reality and imagination (Baudrillard “Simulations”). Simulating is imitating a process and simulations can be an imitation of the real world and how an individual believes their world should be or how they want it to be. Video games are the most common example of simulations. Using video games is a way for the user to create an imitation of the world they are living in or what they want their world to be like. More specifically, video games that are referred to as an online world depict the user’s life as their own, but better, and allows interaction between people that would ideally not be apart of their natural world.
Baudrillard uses the example of God to explain the concept of simulation and how God can become addressed as a simulacrum. Faith is based off the concept of representation, meaning that signs can create a greater concept of depth then what it actually is; that a sign a can create an interaction between God and the individual (Baudrillard “Simulations”). However, Baudrillard asks the question of whether God himself can be simulated and reduced the signs that are evidence of his existence and how if that is possible then the whole system of faith becomes pointless (Baudrillard “Simulations”). Meaning that God himself would become a simulacrum, which is the concept of not an unreal thing, but never exchanging with the reality and only exchanging the concept of itself.
“Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture” uses the example of the game Second Life. Second Life is an online world that eases the introduction of contemporary interactions and normalizes specific social contexts within a simulated space (338). This world is entirely online and allows users to create the identity of themselves they like best and virtually interact with the individuals they like best in that environment and may normally not have the chance to interact with. It includes “virtual societies, economies, cities, buildings, and legal systems” (Sturken and Cartwright 338). Not only does it create another reality of the user, but it can create a new wave of communication between a large group of individuals.
The workings of how Second Life works calls into question the concept of true versus false and real versus imaginary. If an individually creates an avatar that does not appear like themselves at all, almost create another physical appearance entirely different from their own, then they are portraying a false identity that is a physical imagination of themselves. If a user creates a physical appearance as accurately as possible of themselves and portrays themselves in the way in which they truly are, then that individual is portraying themselves as true and creating themselves based off the reality.
A simulation is opposed by the concept of a nonplace, which is a “kind of physical space that demands less presence of people within it” (Sturken and Cartwright 339). A nonplace coincides with the definition of postmodern space being defined as the site in which people go to be somewhere else, a place of distraction and waiting around (Sturken and Cartwright 339). Nonplaces is synonymous with placelessness, meaning that the individual has no unique qualities within the setting. Marc Augé describes this placelessness as the “uniform practice of following predetermined procedures, often communicating with a counterpart which is a machine or a person wearing a uniform and fulfilling a job function – rather than communicating with persons who are perceived as unique fellow human beings” (Gebauer et al. 5).
Augé describes the nonplaces as significantly functional in satisfying the needs of modern life (Gebauer et al. 5). However, the functionality of the places does not allow satisfaction in the importance of human needs (Gebauer et al. 5). A nonplace can be involved with the concepts of simulations because of the virtual aspect in which they can exist. A nonplace can be virtual because when playing a video game or participating in an online world, the individual is never actually “present” within the space, but almost a bystander to the experience (Sturken and Cartwright 339).
Augé describes most nonplaces as transitional places that ease accessibility to other places and participation in social function (Gebauer et al. 10). However, Augé goes further into the explanation saying that a place that is frequently visited or constantly moved through can become a space, or rather a nonplace (Gebauer et al. 10). Basically, he is saying that movement is necessary for function, but how often we are moving through our environment and frequenting different places effects our eventually identity within these places. The individual’s identity becomes scattered and causes dislocation, which can go parallel to the concept of “structure of feeling” (Gebauer et al. 5). This structure of feeling is when the individual is constantly feeling dislocated in any time and space they are in because there is no place that feels structured.
The identity of a place or individual can become scattered between many places causing the dislocated feeling above. As the individual spends more time within nonplaces and moving through the places more quickly, then the places will begin to feel as nonplaces (Gebauer et al. 10). This is what causes the feeling of dislocation and eventually affecting how the individual is reacting to different places, or rather, emerging nonplaces. These simulations and nonplaces allow for the individual to both perceive their lives how they wish them to be and allow people to see how constant movement affects them.