Volume 10, Number 1 (January 2013)
Baudrillard and the Malaise in the Global Villiage: Can There Be a Global Community in an Era of Hyper-Communication Without Communion?
Daryl Y. Mendoza
(Philosophy and Religious Studies Department, University of San Carlos, Cebu City, Philippines)
Marshall McLuhan presented an optimistic prophecy for the bridging of diverse people and cultures together around the world to form what he calls the “Global Village.” For McLuhan, the “Global Village” is possible through the advances made in communication technology that achieves an almost instantaneous communication between communicants across distant space in this world. However, this instantaneous communication harbors a malaise.
The endeavor of this paper is to show a malaise inherent in the global village dominated and structured by advance forms of communication technologies. To do this, it is necessary first to lay down the premise that informs the globalized present. This premise involves the articulation of the connection between communion, communication and community. This paper wagers that these three terms are intimately, if not necessarily, connected in such a way that a community is founded by forms of communication, and communication is founded upon presence, or communion. After establishing this premise, this paper is now able to insert a theoretical critique into the heart of McLuhan’s conception of the global village. This critique is extrapolated from the thoughts of Jean Baudrillard1, particularly from his theory of simulation which was first explicitly enunciated in his 1976 work, Symbolic Exchange and Death, and was followed in his 1981 essay entitled, Precession of Simulacra.
II. Communication and Community: An Etymology
Communication and community are two related terms. Etymologically, communication in its Latin origin is communicatio, whichmeans “making common”, “sharing” or “imparting.” [“Commūnĭcātĭo, ōnis, f. [communico] (several times in Cic., elsewh. Rare), a making common, imparting, communicating” (Lewis and Short 1958: 383)]. This may have come from another Latin word, communis,which means “common”. [“Com-mūnis, e, adj., that is common to several or to all, common, general, universal, public” (ibid.:384)]. Communication, one may say, is a sharing, an imparting, thus making something common. For instance, a speaker presents his views on a certain topic, making what is communicated common for both the utterer and the listener.
Community on the other hand could trace its Latin origin to the word communitas, which means “fellowship”. [“Commūnĭtas, atis, f. [communis] (very freq. in Cicero.; elsewhere rare). Community, society, fellowship” (ibid.:383)]. If one refers to it as “a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government, and often have a common cultural and historical heritage”, [http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/community] then it implies a bond, something shared or common to the group, hence a fellowship. Even the eminent anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss recognizes the important relationship between communication and community. He writes, “[a] society consists of individuals and groups communicating with one another” (Levi-Strauss, 1963: 296). Here we see, on the level of etymology, that community and communication are linked and share something in common; because of this commonality, there is fellowship. Both closely refer to each other’s meaning: sharing and commonality. Even in their original cases in Latin, community and communicationare materially similar.
III. Communication structures Community
What then is the connection between communication and community? This connection is seen more clearly in the contemporary phenomenon of globalization, an important thinker of which is Manuel Castells. His monumental trilogy entitled The Information Age claims that the organization of the world into a global system is made possible by the influence of new forms of information and communication technology that allow for individual elements to connect and form networks. He argues that “Networks are the fundamental stuff of which new organizations are and will be made” (Castells, 2010: 180). It is because of the interconnection of things brought about by communication technology that the world is organized into a global system, a society which he describes as “eternally ephemeral” in that technology has made space proximate and time simultaneous – the world is thus connected into a globalized system which he calls “the Network Society.” Castells gives great emphasis on the organization of the world into a global order that reinforces a “culturally dominant social network” (Castells, 2010: 393) owing to communication technology.
Castells’ work, although very important in the understanding of the contemporary society and the concept we call globalization, is not the first to show how forms of communication can structure the community. According to Marshall McLuhan, it was Harold Innis’ Empire and Communication in 1950 that was the first to present this idea, that the “process of change [is] implicit in the forms of media technology” (McLuhan, 1962: 65). But it was McLuhan, who, despite his insistence that his work is merely a “footnote of explanation” to Innis’, presented its most explicit articulation in a form of a mosaic. McLuhan shows the progression of the community from the “manuscript culture in the ancient and medieval world,” (1962: 65) to Gutenberg’s movable prints, and to the appropriation of electricity and light as forms of communication. This last part is where he prophesied the reconfiguration of society into a global order which he calls, the “Global Village”. [McLuhan speaks of the “Global Village” as that which is made possible by the transformation of media technology from writing to the electric age: “The new electronic interdependence recreates the world in the image of a global village” (1962: 43)].
Elaborating on Innis, McLuhan showed “a theory of cultural change is impossible without knowledge of the changing sense ratios effected by various externalizations of our senses” (1962: 56), i.e., society and culture are determined by the present forms of media technology. He writes: “. . . when technology extends one of our senses, a new translation of culture occurs as swiftly as the new technology is interiorized” (1962: 54). This is the proper context of his famous phrase “the Medium is the Message.” It is not the content of the message which transforms society; rather it is its form, its medium. It is through this theoretical framework that McLuhan’s “Global Village” becomes possible. His first explicit mention of “Global Village” occurs in the early part of The Gutenberg Galaxy. [McLuhan later presents ten stages of these communication revolutions in history which he takes from the Ten Thunders in James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake (McLuhan and Fiore, 1968: 46-48)]. According to him, the change of media technology or forms of communication effects a corresponding change in the socio-cultural environment of society, which can be categorized into four stages: 1) The oral-aural society, 2) the manuscript society, 3) the print society or the Gutenberg Galaxy, 4) and the Electric society.
He argues that, in the beginning, non-literate societies revolved around an oral-aural culture in which there was an immediate unity between thought and action. In an oral-aural culture, there is an “immediacy” and “magic” to words that provide an “instant interplay of cause and effect in the total structure” (1962: 31) of that society. In a way, an oral-aural culture possesses that purity of language which extends from the speaking subject to the hearing subject. This purity of language, its simultaneity, is what creates a tribe.
With the invention of writing, everything changes. “Civilization” is born. By “Civilization”, McLuhan technically refers to “detribalized man for whom the visual values have priority in the organization of thought and action” (1962: 38). Civilization has given man an “eye for an ear”, i.e., with the invention of writing, the emphasis now slowly shifts from the simultaneity of the oral-aural culture to the visual culture. The first paradigm affected by the invention of writing is what McLuhan calls the “manuscript culture,” which was situated at the beginning of the invention of writing and before the invention of the printing press, serving as the transition from an oral-aural to a visual society. As a transitory phase, the manuscript culture shows how scribal man is still trying to interiorize phonetic writing. According to A. Lloyd James, in Our Spoken Language, “the history of the progress from script to print is a history of the gradual substitution of visual for auditory methods of communicating and receiving ideas” (James, 1938: 4, cited inMcLuhan, 1962: 109). Such is why in ancient and medieval times reading meant reading aloud,” (McLuhan, 1962: 105) for reading during this time was still importantly oral rather than visual. [Thus, according to McLuhan, it might not even be far from the truth to say that the medieval monks’ carrels were also singing booths as “the act of reading was oral and even dramatic” (McLuhan 1962: 115)].
The invention of the printing press is an important revolution in human history. This time the “manuscript culture” paved the way for the “print culture” – this is the rise of the machine. The “print culture” completed the shift of the sense ratio of man from the oral-aural to the visual. According to Walter Ong, the change in human sensibility is a result of the “rise of typography,” which shows “how the use of printing has moved the word away from its original association with sound and treated it more as a ‘thing’ in space” (Ong, 1969, cited in McLuhan, 1962: 129). This is the era of the Typographic man, the modern man, whose perspective of the world is no longer oral-aural but already visual. McLuhan writes: “The invention of typography confirmed and extended the new visual stress of applied knowledge, providing the first uniformly repeatable commodity, the first assembly-line, and the first mass-production” (McLuhan, 1962: 153). Many changes in the culture and social structures of this period were brought about by this new form of communication technology.
For instance, this was the time of mass production – media itself was mass produced, in the form of print. The period also saw the creation of the Public. This was impossible in the “manuscript culture” because media “was slow to read, slow to move or be circulated” (1962: 162). Manuscripts were often relegated to those who could read and write, and only a few were literate at that time. The notion of the Public, according to McLuhan, could have only arisen at this point because the written text - whether news, business or purely entertainment – had just now become available to a large population and was disseminated and circulated in a faster pace. It endowed media with the capability of fostering a populist sentiment on certain things.
The print culture however did not remain long. The experiments of Benjamin Franklin did not only pave the way for Edison’s light bulb as an object of illumination. More importantly, Edison’s invention, viewed as a vehicle for communication, paved the way also for a new form of media that made possible the obsolescence of “print culture.” This was the beginning of the Electric Age. Like the changes that ensued in society and culture at the shift of media form, the Electric Age signaled new disturbances to the sense ratios of man that once again altered his perception and behavior in the world. There was again a new way of doing things.
In Understanding Media, McLuhan writes that “In the electric age, when our central nervous system is technologically extended to involve us in the whole of mankind and to incorporate the whole mankind in us, we necessarily participate in depth, in the consequences of our every action” (McLuhan, 1994: 4). This “alters the position of the Negro, the teen-ager, and some other groups. They can no longer be contained, in the political sense of limited association. They are now involved in our lives, as we in theirs, thanks to the electric media” (1994: 5). The electric age, at its humble beginnings with the telegraph and now with computer technology and the Internet, has allowed for the shrinking of the world, which McLuhan calls “implosion.” For instance, with the advent of electronic mail, messages across the globe can be sent and received in an instant. Through social networking sites and internet fora, one is also able to create personal relationships with persons from any part of the globe, without even having the chance of meeting outside cyberspace. Howard Rheingold describes this as a “virtual community” which he defines as: “social aggregations that emerge from the Net when enough people carry on those public discussions long enough, with sufficient human feeling, to form webs of personal relationships in cyberspace”, where people, as he states: “…use words on screens to exchange pleasantries and argue, engage in intellectual discourse, conduct commerce, exchange knowledge, share emotional support, make plans, brainstorm, gossip, feud, and a lot of idle talk. People in virtual communities do just about everything people do in real life, but we leave our bodies behind” (Rheingold, 1993: 3, 5).
Live News Coverage is another instance of this event. A Live News event is capable of projecting events from remote parts of the globe to the comfort of one’s home, exporting public opinions and creating spectacles for general viewing. This period of interconnectedness is also called by Paul Virilio as “teletopia”, a paradoxical society of “meeting at a distance” (Virilio,  2003: 10). All these descriptions of the contemporary global society can be traced back to McLuhan’s optimism which was first made explicit in The Gutenberg Galaxy and extended to his Understanding Media. The world is now interconnected together through communication technology. This is McLuhan’s “Global Village.” Here we see the intimate link between community and communication.
IV. Communion necessitates Presence
Although communion and community share an etymological link, that is “fellowship,” there is something more radical in community than mere fellowship, and that is, presence or communion. Communion also shares an etymological link with communication and community.
The Latin word for communion is communio, which means a “mutual participation” (Lewis and Short 1958: 384)]. It is closely related, if not synonymous, with the etymology of both communication and community. Mutual participation is possible only when there is something common, hence, fellowship. The possibility of this mutual participation is grounded upon “being there” to initiate it. Such is why in the earlier stages of human history the growth of a community’s territory is necessarily bound up by its form of communication. This is so since the form of communication determines the range of presence that allows for fellowships. In a pre-literate society, the community is limited to the reaches of the spoken word, hence the tribe. It would be difficult to form fellowships with other people across the seas using only the spoken word. As writing was invented, it became possible to secure a community, an empire, across the seas, because this Presence could already be made virtual in script. This fixation of Presence in script has allowed it to be extended, albeit artificially, to further places. The glory that was Rome would not have been possible without the manuscript. It is precisely because of the Romans’ invention and use of papyrus as a form of communication technology that it became the “means of creating their huge networks of straight roads which gave a special character to their military activities. Papyrus meant control and direction of armies at a distance from a central bureaucracy” (McLuhan and Fiore: 1986, 26). The invention of the papyrus made possible the impressive logistics of the Roman Empire. It was able to project and extend its might throughout the known world through the quick transportation and communication provided by their road system. As forms of communication progressed, so did the “explosion” of the community. With the coming of Electric media, presence has not only conquered space, but it has also conquered time. The global community is possible because there is already a global fellowship, i.e., McLuhan’s “Global Village,” what Castells calls “the Network Society” and what Virilio calls “teletopia.” Presence is no longer inscribed merely in manuscript or print, but already in light. And light, unlike paper, slices through the horizon with uncanny speed. It has extended presence and fellowship further than what may have once been imagined. Communion as presence plays an important role in the communication process which in turn plays an important role in the formation of the community.
Although McLuhan elucidated the intimate link of communication and community by presenting to us a theory of transformational process that could explain the progress of society from its pre-literate beginnings to the current globalized society, this discussion, however, was not radical enough to delve into the Presence in the communication chain. What is this presence? If Presence is the origin of the communication process, then following Roman Jakobson who sees it as a process that involves six factors: the address, the context, medium, message, code and addressee, could this presence then be considered as the address? At some point, it is the address or the sender, but it cannot be contextualized purely in a formalistic sense because formalism is properly a communication process. If presence informs communication, that is, if communion precedes communication, then it is necessary to go further back to the point in which this presence is not yet contained within the framework itself. This historical stage that antedates communication is located in the “magic and simultaneity” of the pre-literate society, in the spoken word. For Jean Baudrillard, “it isn’t true that men have always communicated since they first spoke to each other and lived in society;” communication is in fact due to the “failure of speech and symbolic exchange” (Baudrillard, 2009: 16). This assertion of communication as both a failure of exchange and bound to technical mediation is not that different from hermeneutics which sees its beginning in both the end of dialogue and the semantic autonomy initiated by writing (Ricoeur, 1976: 32).
Thus, to understand Presence, it is necessary to learn from the experiences that made hermeneutics possible, since as a discipline it has dealt with this issue with far greater attention. We therefore need to borrow from the hermeneutic discoveries in order to elucidate the meaning of presence in communication which serves as its origin and is in turn responsible for the structuration of the community.
V. Presence in Discourse and Dialogue
Paul Ricoeur’s attempt in Interpretation Theory to “rescue discourse from its marginal and precarious exile” (Ricoeur1976: 2) due to the objectification of language by “formalism” and “structuralism” as famously initiated by the Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure serves as the impetus for him to revisit the primordial state of language. This primordial, antedating any form of technical mediation and structuralist imposition, is the purity of the spoken word, parole, which Ricoeur coming from the French Sanskritist Emile Benveniste prefers to call Discourse. Ricoeur’s consideration of language as discourse is an echo of Plato’s Cratylus and Theaetetus and of Aristotle’s On Interpretation, but with modern undertones. Coming from Plato, Ricoeur states that the elementary “unit of language and thought” is the intertwining of noun and verb. He similarly cites Aristotle in the On Interpretation, claiming that “a noun has a meaning and a verb has, in addition to its meaning, and indication of time. Only their conjunction brings forth a predicative link, which can be called logos, discourse” (Ricoeur1976: 1-2).
Discourse, therefore, is an intertwining of verb and noun which accounts for its being a dialectic of event and meaning. Discourse is an event because of its actuality in time, the subject, and the world. It is meaning, because to “actualize (it) as event, all discourse is understood as meaning” (Ricoeur1976: 12). That is, a speaking subject who speaks in the present to someone about the world necessarily implies intention and that intention is the meaning of the utterance. Most importantly to this paper’s context, discourse entails presence, that there is someone, the speaking subject, intending meaning through speaking about the world to someone else in the present. In regards to time, which is embedded in the verb in a discourse, the present is accentuated because it is the only time that is actual. Following Augustine’s monologue in the Confessions (Bk. xi, 22), time cannot exist beyond the present since the past is no longer there and the future is not yet. Hence, Augustine formulates the threefold present in which time’s existence is actual, i.e., the present-past which is memory, the present-present which is sight, and the present-future which is expectation. [Augustine writes: “There are three times – a present of things past, a present of things present, and a present of things future. For these three do exist in the mind, and I do not see them anywhere else: the present time of things past is memory; the present time of things present is sight; the present time of things future is expectation” (Bk. xi, 22)].
Discourse does not only accentuate the present time, but also implies the speaking subject in the world. An instance of this is J.L Austin’s “performatives” in which speaking is simultaneous with the action that the speaker is speaking about. These “performatives” or speech-acts result in three things: the locutionary act which is “beside(s) saying something”, the illocutionary act which is to “do something in saying”, and the perlocutionary act that “yields effects by saying” (Ricoeur, 1976: 14). In here, the speaking subject intends, commits, and creates effects. There are other instances, in which discourse refers back to the speaker; suffice it to say that I have only showed here, using Ricoeur, that in the act of speaking lies presence. Discourse being the speech-event entails a speaker that is present in the here and now.
Communication does not immediately follow from this. A discourse remains in a doldrum if it is not recognized and reciprocated. It is an event that will remain in its own self. However, the recognition of this event by a listener and its eventual reciprocation would emancipate it from its own monologue. This reciprocation of the listener, now turned the speaker, signals not only a single event but already two events, two discourses that recognize the other’s intention and reciprocate with his own. This is properly the event of dialogue. Here lies the possibility of fellowship, of communion.
Only after the distantiation effected by the first form of technological mediation between the speaker and the listener does dialogue end and hermeneutics begin. Only as language becomes mediated by technology does this become properly communication. With the end of dialogue through writing, the utterer’s meaning begins to be distantiated from the utterance’s meaning. This is why there is a need for interpretation. Though there is mediation, the mediation nonetheless still reflects the event of its beginning that is its Presence. Even with the virtualization of the message, its fixation still references itself back to the actual event which allowed it to be. Such is also why the very first movement of hermeneutics is made by Friedrich Schleiermacher who de-regionalized the rules of interpretation. He “raise[d] exegesis and philology to the level of a Kunstlehre, that is, a ‘technology’” and this can be seen as having two marks: critical, since it is raised to a universal level of the understanding; and romantic, because it intends to understand the author more than the author understands himself (Ricoeur  1981: 45-46).
Without going through the vast history of hermeneutics, ultimately hermeneutics traces itself back to that primordial state of the spoken word, discourse inBenvenisteand parole in de Saussure,as constituting event and meaning. It is this analysis that lends itself as an important tool in tracing the origins of communication and its important link with that of communion or presence.
VI. What then is Communication?
To reiterate, communication, according to Jean Baudrillard, is born out of the “failure of speech and exchange” and is necessarily tied up “to the media and the technology of media” (Baudrillard 2009: 16). Thus, communication, like hermeneutics, begins with the first technical mediation which can be seen in writing. This “technology of media” can be seen not merely as a technical object that mediates exchange but also as a “formal apparatus, a collective artefact, a huge network of information that assumes the circulation of meaning” (Baudrillard 2009: 17). This formal apparatus is best exemplified by Roman Jakobson who sees it as a process that, as already stated, involves six factors: the address, the context, medium, message, code and addressee, so that a message originates from an address, in a situation, passes through a medium, is configured in a certain code and finally reaches its addressee.
Coming from this, the hypothesis earlier presented becomes clearer, that communication is intricately linked with two other terms, communion and community. On the surface, there seems to be an important connection between the Latin root of communication (communicatio and communis) and that of community and communion. In further exploring this clue, however, this article began with a reflection of the contemporary global community and discussed how this is possible using the thesis of McLuhan. It was shown how communication has influenced and structured society and culture throughout history. After doing so, communication was further radicalized by locating its origin in the discussion of communion or presence. At this point, we borrowed Ricoeur’s analysis of a hermeneutics which is located in discourse. It is in discourse, realized as dialectic of event and meaning, that hermeneutics and communication, the latter considered by Baudrillard to be necessarily bound to technological mediation, are possible. And more importantly, discourse being both event and meaning entails presence as found in the speaking subject.
VII. Virtualizing Presence: Baudrillard’s Genealogy of Image and McLuhan’s Historical Stages of Communication
The virtualization of exchange or communication obligates everything within its process to “transit through multiple codes and feedback, which change their sense. Everything becomes a ‘message.’” Hence, “speech was (as) an act” becomes “communication is (as) an operation” (Baudrillard 2009: 17) and, by virtue of its formalization, it is “reduced to a one-dimensional function, according to the one-dimensional process of life” (Baudrillard 2009: 17). This is clearly seen between saying, with locutionary force, “Close the door” and writing on a piece of paper “Close the door.” The difference is profound.
The advancement of communication technology results to two things. One, it changes the meaning of the message since the meaning of the message is parasitic upon its form – “the medium is the message.” Two, the representations or images created by communication technology becomes closer and closer to what it represents. This means that changes in forms of communication also changes the community and the Presence in communication (communion). What then become of both Presence (communion) and community in the contemporary era with its forms of media and communication technology? This is where this paper locates the malaise of the global village. To further elucidate this, McLuhan’s historical stages of communication and Baudrillard’s genealogy of the Image is juxtaposed.
The beginning of literacy or the “manuscript culture,” ushered in by what McLuhan calls the invention of writing, could also be seen as the beginning of Baudrillard’s image “reflect[ing] on a profound reality” (Baudrillard  1994: 6). Although Baudrillard considers Stucco as the exemplification of the Counterfeit (Baudrillard  1993: 51), writing itself may also be considered as one of the earliest forms of an image reflecting an original.2 Plato himself, in Phaedrus,3 speaks of writing as a form of mimesis and describes it as inferior to the immediacy of the spoken word. As mentioned, writing shows the “failure of exchange” and the beginning of the reduction of exchange into technology, referring to something that is there. Writing is thus a reflection of the original spoken word, which is in turn founded upon presence. It is an event frozen in time.
Writing attempts to mimic and reduce the original, the spoken word, into a visual image. This mimicry, like the stucco and its artists, is done in different ways. In one case, “the medieval student had to be paleographer, editor, and publisher of the authors he read” (McLuhan 1962: 118). This is because there were no standard manuals in the university during the medieval period. The students had to record and edit the dictation of the professor and make their own manuals out of it. Different scribes have different ways of representing an object. Hence, even if the object is mimicked by the image, there remains a unique connection between the image and its original. This is because there is a single image that corresponds to an object, i.e., a counterfeit image cannot be exactly the same as the original image.
Therefore, the endeavor of communication at this stage - cognizant that the medium is a “reflection” of the source - always traces itself back to its source. An artistic work, such as a hand-written letter, always bears the signature of its subject. A letter, an edict, a manuscript book, is never mistaken for the subject itself because it is merely a reflection. Thus, the medium points back to the author, which is why the first move of scientific interpretation is always to trace the writing back to the source and its intention. McLuhan writes, “St. Thomas, perfecting the tentative efforts of his predecessors, has supplied a theory of the relations between the senses which lays stress on the literal interpretation, now defined as the full meaning of the author” (McLuhan 1962: 137). This would become the precursor to the romantic hermeneutics of Schleiermacher. The Image is still a “reflection” of the original, or of reality. This only shows that the subject in the communication process is noticeably different from the medium or its image.
With the invention of Gutenberg’s movable print, mass production began. McLuhan considers this as the beginning of the “Print Culture,” while Baudrillard describes it as the event that metamorphosed the counterfeit into the Industrial Image. The “Print Culture” has allowed for the first mass production, media itself, and therefore images. It is because of the efficiency and the wholesale reproduction of images through the printing press that these images are easily circulated, thus allowing for the congelation of diverse people into one – the creation of the “public.” Here, we witness the complexification of the image towards a higher form of representation. Writing as the counterfeit of the spoken word transforms itself into a typography distributed all over society. This unique correspondence in communication is shattered by the reduction of the original to images.
This massive proliferation of the image in society has allowed reality to be reduced to appearances. The original, reduced to its image, allows the representation to dominate the represented which is no longer differentiated from the former. This is properly where ideology, in Marx’s terms, becomes appropriate. As images begin to dominate, society is slowly absorbed as determinations of the mode of production; hence, reality is reduced to its appearances. This is where Debord’s analysis of the society of spectacle is seen at its height.
For instance, all books before the invention of the printing press were unique to a specific scribe or writer. Specific scribes have specific ways of inscribing certain works into a book. With mass production, however, all copies of a book are rendered equivalent to its original. This is similar to newspapers and gazettes. The Presence in communication is known through the image that is being circulated en masse. This is why McLuhan, citing E.P Goldschmidt, considers the “Print Culture” to have ushered in the birth of the “author” (McLuhan 1962: 160-161). The author is a reification of presence equivalent to his image. [Goldschmidt argues: “What I have tried to demonstrate is that the Middle Ages for various reasons and from various causes did not possess the concept of ‘authorship’… [B]efore 1500 or thereabouts people did not attach the same importance to ascertaining the precise identity of the author of a book they were reading or quoting as we do now.” (Goldschmidt 1943: 116, 88; cited in McLuhan 1962: 160-161)].
The reification of presence leads him to a variable in the production scheme. Presence is no longer different from the message being reproduced serially. The message is the author. This is why at this stage the image “masks and denatures a profound reality” (Baudrillard  1994: 6). The serial image begins to hide presence and replace it with the author who is equivalent to his image. The author is the image, the image is the author. Such is why Baudrillard argues that this stage follows no longer the law of nature where the image counterfeits the original, but instead the law of the market and exchange. Presence becomes reified and hidden as author. Michel Foucault best describes this as a product of a “complex operation which constructs a certain rational being” that deprives “the subject (or its substitute) of its role as originator, and of analyzing the subject as a variable and complex function of discourse.” He further describes it as “an ideological product… which marks the manner in which we fear the proliferation of meaning” (Foucault  2010: 110, 118-119). The reification of Presence distanciates and hides it from its representation as author. The author being the image of presence becomes the privileged locus of attention in communication. For Baudrillard, this is malificence (Baudrillard  1994: 6). This is the time of illusion and ideology. The last stage of the Image enters when new disturbances of the human senses are introduced by a new form of media technology. This third stage of the Image, which Baudrillard calls the Hyperreality of Simulation, is made possible by the entrance of the Electric Age and the passing away of the Gutenberg Galaxy.
With the discovery of electricity as a vehicle of communication, it is now possible to use the speed that electricity brings to the process of communication. From writing to typography, what dominate society are live news coverage and the internet. This is the period which we talked about earlier and which McLuhan describes as “The Global Village.” The speed of the current form of media technology has allowed for what David Harvey calls “time-space compression” (Harvey 1990: 147). [Harvey writes that it (contemporary capitalism) “has also entailed a new round of what I shall call ‘time-space’ compression… in the capitalist word – the time horizons of both private and public decision-making have shrunk, while satellite communication and declining transport costs have made it increasingly possible to spread those decisions immediately over an ever wider and variegated space” (Harvey 1990: 147)]. This made it possible for technology to communicate with almost anyone in the world, giving us “real-time” and proximate perspective. Here, the image is considered as the Hyperreal. It offers itself as presence even when it is not present. Unlike the industrial image which merely hides presence in the façade of the author, at this stage the image, the object, replaces the communion in communication. For Baudrillard, this is the period of sorcery and simulation, because the image “masks the absence of a profound reality” and comes to the point in which it “has no relation to any reality whatsoever: it is its own pure simulacrum” (Baudrillard  1994: 6).
For instance, the Internet and other contemporary forms of telecommunication bring together individuals from different parts of the globe. We have earlier mentioned some of these media forms, like Rheingold’s “Virtual Community”, teleconferencing, Emails, social networking, webcasting, News Live Coverage and etc. However, this bridging is not a meeting of two presences; rather, these presences are absorbed by the “network of communication” and reconstituted as binary codes or mere variables within the system. Baudrillard uses the term, “the Screen,” (Baudrillard  1988: 12) to describe this situation, the juncture of commutation that reduces the poles of exchange to a general code of difference: sender and receiver. This general difference is further transcribed in its radicality as signs, hence reducing the entire communication process as a closed system, ala de Saussure, that exchanges signs with signs in its own self. The Screen, which allows for this to occur, has transfigured communication into an ever increasing complexity of an operation. It is an operation that increasingly expands its reaches, yet never ultimately refers to any determination or beginning.
Only then, as binary codes or signals, can these objects, sieved from their primordial state, conceive each other in an exchange of information. The communion in the communication process disappears. There is no more communion taking place. What is present is this digital double, a doppelgänger, which assumes itself as pseudo-presence within this giant communication and information system. In the Industrial Image, the author is the image. Here, however, there is no more image, only an exact clone that replaces presence that has vanished. In Fatal Strategies, Baudrillard remarks that communion or “Presence does not efface itself before emptiness, but before a redoubling of presence which effaces the opposition between presence and absence” (Baudrillard  2008: 29). This disappearance of opposition between presence and absence is spectrality. It is a haunting of ghosts and specters in which, borrowing from Derrida, “one does not know if it is living or dead” (Derrida 1994: 6) [Derrida describes a Specter as follows: “It is something that one does not know, precisely, and one does not know if precisely It is, if it exists, it if responds to a name and corresponds to an essence. One does not know: not out of ignorance, but because this non-object, this non-present present, this being-there of an absent or departed one no longer belongs to knowledge…One does not know if it is living or it is dead” (Derrida 1994:6)].
Jean Baudrillard’s double proliferates in these networks. One only has to use a search engine to summon his many doubles to the screen. As one logs in the system Presence vanishes into its representation, that is, its re-presence-ing, a superimposition of the appearance of an appearance. By logging in, one gives rise to the spectrality of the digital double that haunts virtual reality. In the Industrial Image, the author is the image, an image that is still constrained by time and space. At this point, it is already our double that exchanges information with other doubles. In this level, the position of communion in communication is already taken by its representation within this digital reality. Baudrillard writes: “It is the same with our mediatized and computerized human relations. We interact without touching each other, interlocute without speaking to each other, interface without seeing each other. Here is something really bizarre (Baudrillard 2009: 17).
This is why Baudrillard comments that, with the reign of the Image and the “murder of the real,” Presence or communion disappears in global communication. He describes this as “the end of metaphysics and the beginning of the era of hyperreality” (Baudrillard  1993: 74), and the point when the “sublime has passed into the subliminal” (Baudrillard  1988: 54).
What has been described may also be seen in Heidegger’s reflection of modern technology in his essay “The Question Concerning Technology.” Here, Heidegger considers that modern technologies have the tendency to order, secure and regulate the energies of nature and reduce them to a “standing-reserve.” Heidegger calls this “Enframing.” This enframing in modern science and technology is seen when it “pursues and entraps nature as a calculable coherence of forces” (Heidegger  2008: 326). This is what happens between communion and communication. As communication technology advances, the Presence in communication is reduced to a code, or to a mere “calculable coherence of forces.” Presence is enframed as a code in the networks of communication. This is especially true in contemporary communication technology in which the Presence of communication is revealed only to be transformed as a “standing-reserve” and as a “mode of ordering” similar to Heidegger’s example of the Rhine Hydroelectric plant. For instance, “Baudrillard” is but a variable in the Internet, a “standing-reserve” waiting to be utilized. Similar to the person at the other end of a teleconference, he is “enframed” with layers and layers of technicality and apparatuses, as a code and an image, as a message, as pure information. The Presence which is “enframed” as a code remains unconcealed. Heidegger writes: “The machines and apparatus are no more cases and kinds of enframing than are the man at the switchboard and the engineer in the drafting room. Each of these in its own way indeed belongs as stock part, available resource, or executor, within enframing…”(Heidegger  2008: 335). What is interesting, however, is that Heidegger repeatedly gives this warning, that modern technology as a “challenging-forth” is not only a danger but the danger (Heidegger  2008: 331). It is the danger to man because “as soon as what is unconcealed no longer concerns man even as object, but exclusively as standing-reserve, and man in the midst of objectless is nothing but the orderer of the standing reserve, then he comes to the brink of a precipitous fall”(Heidegger  2008: 332) With this, Gianni Vatimo is correct with his remark that “metaphysics, as aspired to by the philosophy of Heidegger, only becomes possible under the new conditions of existence, which are determined by the technology of communication”
(Weiss 2011: http://www.ubishops.ca/baudrillardstudies/vol8_2/v8-2-weiss.html).
Perhaps this is what Baudrillard means when he says that with the excess of communication Presence also vanishes. This implies that contemporary community is empty of Presence. For Baudrillard: “The Great Disappearance is not, then, simply that of the virtual transmutation of things, of the mise en abyme of reality, but that of the division of the subject to infinity, of a serial pulverization of consciousness into all the interstices of reality” (Baudrillard  2009: 28). This is indeed the danger that Heidegger has warned before, the danger of “Enframing” which “banishes man into the kind of revealing that is an ordering. Where this ordering holds sway, it drives out every other possibility of revealing” (Heidegger  2008: 332).
Here, the excess of communication becomes pathological in such a way that it replaces Presence with a pseudo-presence, a doppelgänger, a specter. For instance in social networking sites, as one logs in the system, the system transmute Presence into something “present-at-hand”, a binary code waiting to be manipulated, e.g., the customization of avatars, the adding and deletion of friends, the customization of pages to suit out “personality” and etc. By logging in, one gives rise to the spectrality of the digital double that haunts virtual reality. Such is why with the reign of the Image and the “murder of the real,” Presence disappears in global communication. What then becomes of communion, communication and community? With the excess of communication, communion is replaced with something artificial, even spectral. What then becomes of the community, or the Global Village? It has become a village of specters. Thus, we could no longer speak of a Global village, but a Global ghost village. It is an era of a global community, made possible through hyper-communication, without communion. This is the malaise of the globalized present.
In the end, this reminds us of the warning from the scriptures: “For what doth it profit a man, if he gains the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul? Or what exchange shall a man give for his soul?” This warning is reechoed by Virilio ( 2003: 64) who explained that this “soul” in Latin is anima, which is the property of movement. So, what then will we profit if we have the world, all its sophistication, but could not move around and experience it, because we have relegated already all of this to objects, to doppelgängers, that haunts the contemporary society? The advancement of Contemporary Society, this Global Village, indeed, is a Faustian bargain.
Daryl Y. Mendoza is an assistant instructor in Philosophy at the University of San Carlos (Cebu City, Philippines). His general interests include post-structuralism, phenomenology and philosophy of culture. Currently, he is looking at the possible “saving power” of poetry in context to the simulated, image-saturated present.
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1. Although McLuhan may look at the emergence of the “Global Village” with optimism, for Baudrillard this was not the case. He writes: “…McLuhan: his analysis of the new media globalism, the global village was, in its way, quite optimistic. But he was writing at a time when you could still see, if not a glowing future, then at least an open one, because we are still in a heroic period where the new technologies were concerned. This isn’t the case any longer. We’re in a period of saturation, and it’s one thing to be facing a wave and quite another to have your head under the water” (Baudrillard  2004:73).
2. Baudrillard’s Counterfeit Image maybe interpreted as a mimicry of an original, the original which is nature. He writes: “The modern sign then finds its value in the simulacrum of a ‘nature’” (Baudrillard  1993: 51). But although he explicitly mentions that the counterfeit began during the Renaissance period, writing itself, which antedates stucco, is already a form of a “counterfeit” of nature, a mimicry of nature. Hence, I take it as a counterfeit image.
3. Plato writes in regards to writing: “The specific which you have discovered is an aid not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, have the show of wisdom without the reality” (Plato Phaedrus 275a -275b).