Jean Baudrillard died yesterday in Paris, at the age of 77. One of the earliest to be labeled a ‘media theorist,’ and also one of the most prolific. He pioneered the notion of ‘hyperreality,’ where people lose the ability to distinguish between reality and fantasy, engaging the fantasy as if it were real. (Think about the ‘reality’ of reality TV.) Baudrillard’s theorizing on the simulacra, the copy of a copy, became another key component of postmodern criticism. In art, film, and literature, it often refers to the copy of something idealized, that doesn’t exist. The Replicants in the movie Blade Runner were copies of ‘perfect’ humans, where none existed. The simulacra loses its connection to the original item, and becomes an independent thing. Hearing of his death reminds me of how passionately we debated his theories, and their implications while a doctoral student at UCSD.
His bio page is at the European Graduate School, http://www.egs.edu/faculty/baudrillard.html.