Is there a word for such an anti-simulacra?
February 21, 2006 9:40 PM   Subscribe

What is the label for an entity or idea which began as nothing and came to have identity through its own fictionalisation? That is, notions diametrically opposed to 'simulacra' - in that the entity has no referent to begin with...

Prime examples of this can be found battered amongst many internet communities. For instance:

Suicide Squid is the name of a fictional comic book superhero. He is in fact so fictional that not only does he not exist, but neither does any comic book about him. He was accidentally created in April 1991 when Mitsuhiro Sakai, upon being asked in the internet newsgroup rec.arts.comics (r.a.c.) for his opinion on developments in the series Suicide Squad, asked what those developments were but typed "i" instead of "a" in "Squad".

(there are many more examples here)

These 'anti-simulacra' are therefore self refering ideas or events which have no source referents. Like a simulacrum these entities are so dissipated in relation to their originisation that they take on individual identity - in a sense realising themselves outside the group/community which gave birth to them.

These entities can not be labelled fiction as such because the creative process which spawned them was in many instances an unconscious, group consciousness lead event. In this way these anti-simulacra memes show many features inherent in the viral-like social memes which evolve towards religious doctrine (over many generations of accumulative change)

Is there a word for such an anti-simulacra?
posted by 0bvious to Writing & Language (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't really think this would be the opposite of a simulacra. In fact, reading the wiki page, it seems like it would fit Baudrillard's definition pretty well: something that that is a reference to nothing.

Except, in the case of Suicide Squid, it's not a reference to nothing, it's a reference a typo people found funny, No different then making Todd Lokken, or Mushroom jokes around here. "In Joke" would describe the suicide squid, from your definition.

People see a reference too it, and if you remember it you think "hey, I remember that" and it's more funny.
posted by delmoi at 9:54 PM on February 21, 2006

Also if people forgot the original typo, then it would be come a Baudrillardian simulacra (or Simulacrum, I should say), IMO.
posted by delmoi at 9:57 PM on February 21, 2006

Also I think you're thinking too hard.
posted by delmoi at 9:58 PM on February 21, 2006

Aw crud, beat by delmoi on the preview.
here's what I had anyways.

While there may be a distinction to be made between the phenomena you're talking about and "true" simulacra, I don't think anti-simulacra is appropriate at all.

1) These anti-simulacra do have source referents even if those referents are the product of chance.

2) There's no requirement that fiction (or simulacra for that matter) has to be spawned by conscious, individual-led events.
posted by juv3nal at 9:59 PM on February 21, 2006

It is the self-realising nature of these entities which makes them interesting for me. They differ from simulacrum in that nothing is destroyed in a copied form. Using Plato's realm of ideal forms as a model the entities outlined above have no original form.

A simulacrum transcends its original form and becomes a separate entity - the anti-simulacra I outlined above transcend their non-existence and become existent. After this occurs the idea has an identity, one which can go on to be further simulacrised - BUT what is the referent for these forms in the early stages?

I grant that much of this is semantic, but what isn't?

Here's another (less internet related) example:

Unobtainium is a colloquial term, used to describe any material with properties that are unlikely or impossible for any real material to possess and is hence unobtainable.
posted by 0bvious at 11:06 PM on February 21, 2006

What is the label for an entity or idea which began as nothing and came to have identity through its own fictionalisation?

So, are you saying that this thing is famous for being famous?

Paris Hilton?

No, seriously. Is that a legit example of the thing you're trying to describe?
posted by frogan at 11:10 PM on February 21, 2006

Nice twist...

Paris Hilton may be hyper-real, but she ain't quite what I am getting at.

She definitely existed before her simulacrisation
posted by 0bvious at 11:22 PM on February 21, 2006

You need to first explain what it means for something to be a referent of another thing. This post at David Chalmers's blog may help.
posted by Gyan at 11:55 PM on February 21, 2006

In general, a reference is something that refers or points to something else, or acts as a connection or a link between two things. The objects it links may be concrete, such as books or locations, or abstract, such as data, thoughts, or memories. The object which is named by a reference, or to which the reference points, is the referent. - link

So here's the problem. In my examples above there is no ORIGINAL referent which is later referenced. These references becomes simulacra of the original non-existent referent. Since the referent did not exist and since a simulacrum is a copy which obliterates its referent, becoming something new, these entities are not quite simulacra.

It would be correct to say that they are a sub-set of entities within the category of simulacra, but it seems something is missing to just label them simulacra with no original referents and then move on.

To examine these concepts I coined a phrase for them myself (see linked descriptions):

The Mu of Simulacra = Mu-lacra

This, of course, is a stand-in for a term I am sure must have been in use before (possibly by Baudrillard himself)
posted by 0bvious at 1:31 AM on February 22, 2006

Somehow I doubt that the world outside the internet is random or idiosynchratic enough to create what you're talking about. Maybe you will just have to settle for it being an 0bvious simulacra?
posted by JackarypQQ at 2:54 AM on February 22, 2006

I am not an expert in semiotics in any way, shape or form, but I can't get over the idea that the Mu-lacra that you suggest is just another form of simulacrum.

I see the referent being the original typo for Suicide Squid or the idea for the Sphagetti Monster. The referent is a bit more loose and there is nothing tangible to be a copy of a copy of, but surely that is not the opposite of simulacra, but simply another level of it?

I guess I'm just trying to figure this out for myself. Is it the fictional (or non-existent) history to these events/ideas that makes them mu-lacra instead of simulacra?
posted by slimepuppy at 3:13 AM on February 22, 2006

It would be correct to say that they are a sub-set of entities within the category of simulacra, but it seems something is missing to just label them simulacra with no original referents and then move on.

Guess I should pay more attention, really. So it's not an opposite of simulacra, but a further definition of it. I'm not sure the prefix "Mu" really covers it. Perhaps Meta-lacra would be more appropriate?

I *heart* semantics.
posted by slimepuppy at 3:28 AM on February 22, 2006

My head is burning, and I hate to bring in such trivialities as science-fiction into this, but perhaps the phenomenon of "fanon" is what you're looking for?

"Fanon is a fact or ongoing situation (mostly in fan fiction stories) related to a television program, book, movie, or video game that has been used so much by fan writers or among the fandom that it has been more or less established as having happened in the fictional world, but it has not actually been established as having happened on the show, book or movie itself."

If this doesn't fit at all, I'll get my coat.
posted by badlydubbedboy at 4:54 AM on February 22, 2006

It's still a simulacra. A (Baudrillardian) simulacra doesn't obliterate an original so much as have *no* original, or no relation to the original, or no relation to a concept of an original. Think of it as a copy with no original. That Wikipedia article is misleading in that way - there doesn't have to be an obvious (heh) original referent for a simulacra to be in existence, and I'd go so far to say that Baudrillard's concept of simulacra specifically doesn't have an original referent implied.
posted by fionab at 6:13 AM on February 22, 2006

anti-simulacrum would be something that has no copies, but only the original and no imiatations exist. might be hard finding something like that.. maybe Charles Nelson Reilley?
posted by destro at 6:56 AM on February 22, 2006

Paris Hilton may be hyper-real, but she ain't quite what I am getting at.

Um, what?
posted by Paris Hilton at 7:32 AM on February 22, 2006

Yeah, I dunno: Its like some people seem to think no "origional" can exist. Obviously the opposite of a simulacrum is first an "origional" that refers to nothing, and then a "copy" of something with an obvious reference. If I'm understanding this correctly, then a copy becomes a simulacrum when the original referent is forgotten.

So in a hierarchy, you have

1) Original
2) Reference with remembered original (regular reference)
3) Reference with forgotten original (simulacrum).

I'm not seeing anything here that doesn't fit into 1, 2 or 3.
posted by Paris Hilton at 7:40 AM on February 22, 2006

fionab's got it. By the time images become simulacra they no longer have a referent - it's a self-contained, free-floating sign with no basis in the real. What you're discussing is in no way opposed to simulacra, but most definitly a part of it. Anyway, crazy ol' Baudrillard would probably argue that any sign of postmodernity is a simulacrum and that we no longer have any means by which to divine a real outside of simulation. "It is now impossible to isolate the processes of the real or to prove the real," he noted in Simulations. Our reality is now constructed completely by simulacra - there is no longer a real to which to refer. Therefore, both your "Mu-lacra" and simulacra refer to, essentially, nothing. (IANASemiologist)

Also, you shouldn't self-link within Wikipedia. Not cool.
posted by youarenothere at 9:43 AM on February 22, 2006

A great example of this is Epic Legends of the Hierarchs, the history of which was created from whole cloth by a large group of fans of the penny-arcade comic. eolthtes is completely made-up, but it has somehow become real, sort of.
posted by Four Flavors at 1:10 PM on February 22, 2006

Some great points here though, thanks a lot for your responses. I may just stick with simulacra although I still feel that the 'simulation' part of simulacra is missing from my examples

i.e. nothing has been simulated in the process of mu-lacra's formation
posted by 0bvious at 6:57 PM on February 22, 2006

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